NES Baseball

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The worst part of this game, and the main reason is gets such a low mark is the goddamned fielding. The controls are just anarchy. Any fielder you control moves about the speed of a mudslide and the game has no concept of who is closest to the ball whatsoever. ~Mike “Nequester” Wright

Baseball

nes baseball

MLB: The Show, Ken Griffey Presents Major League Baseball, MVP Baseball, and Baseball Mogul. Over the years, there have been a few excellent baseball games that have stood the test of time. These revered titles can be popped in to this day and still retain some of the magic that made them a blast. That being said, the first baseball game released for the NES is clearly not one of them. Today, we take a peek at the initial rendition of the Summer Classic to grace us in 8-bits, the creatively named NES Baseball.

nes baseball
Baseball spelled with it’s namesake is pretty sweet. The title screen music is used for about 5 other games as well. Nintendo must’ve paid their composers per tune and not per usage.

This is normally where I throw some history for the readers to soak in but c’mon folks, it’s baseball! Other than MMA, my personal game of choice. 9 players hit the field, 4 balls is a walk, 3 strikes and you’re out, 3 outs and you switch sides. The rules are well known to almost anyone and in that regard, it’s an easy game to pop in and instantly get going. Did Nintendo faithfully translate “America’s Pastime” into an enjoyable experience for kids to lose themselves in? It saddens me to say, not even close.

nes baseball
“After carefully considering offers from A, M, G, and X, I’ve decided to take my talents to H! I can’t wait to be a major part in the H vs Y feud and plan to play here at least two long years!”

Let’s begin with the team names. Granted, when a publisher doesn’t have the license to use real MLB logos and names, they normally run with the city name and the uniform colors. Usually, from that, we automatically gather that if the team’s name is “Bos” and the colors they sport are red and white, good money is on them being the Boston Red Sox. Baseball said “fuck all that noise” and gave us the legendary squads of A, C, D, P, R, and Y. Further examination will reveal the teams as the Athletics, Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies, Royals, and Yankees judging by the color schemes. Nowadays, we equate the Royals to a team that has had one winning season since 1993 and akin to the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NL, sort of a running gag. Seeing as this was launched October 18, 1985, Baseball was two days removed from George Brett and the Royals defeating Ozzie Smith’s Cardinals in the World Series, justifying their inclusion in this cart. What I don’t understand is if all 6 teams are EXACTLY the same with only uniform swaps, why couldn’t we just have all 28 teams at the time and add even one letter to the teams name so we could tell the Astros from the A’s? Also of note, did all the black and latino players go on strike before they hit the field? In these days and times, little details like that become rather noticable. One could attempt to argue that the game was made in Japan, however the MVP of the Nippon League in 1984, when Baseball debuted in the arcades, was Greg Wells, a black man.. 

nes baseball
Kansas City Royals, falling flat on our asses since 1993!

There is only one mode so anyone wanting a full season and deep stat tracking just had to make use of their noggin and create a custom schedule as well as track their own stats. One problem, you never knew who was up to bat. Every hitter has the same exact appearance and attributes, so it could be your catcher at the plate or your left fielder. There was no indicator as to who was 0-5 so far in the game or who had 4 homers, nor did it even matter.. Same with pitching as it made zero difference if you got rocked for 10 runs in your first inning, there are no substituions, the poor guy just has to deal with life and continue to get slaughterred trying to lower his 77.00 ERA futilely. Really, there should be a “swallow cyanide” menu option, because if there is anyone I feel for in this game, it’s the poor pitcher.

nes baseball
Throw so much as one pitch right down the middle and this will happen 90% of the time.

Other than frustration, the only other emotion this game can seem to conjure up is a deep sympathy for the pitcher. It truly is like Nolan Ryan on the mound with a gang of stoned sumo wrestlers in the background trying to field. Pitching is tolerable as you have 3 speeds to work with and the only complaint is after you hit A, he throws it pretty much whenever the hell he wants to. At times, it is instantly pitched to the batter and other times, he shakes off a sign and stands there mean-mugging the batter a few seconds before the wind-up, adding more time to an already long as hell game. 

nes baseball
That isn’t 3 left fielders, my fucking PITCHER is chasing a ball that far!

The worst part of this game, and the main reason is gets such a low mark is the goddamned fielding. The controls are just anarchy. Any fielder you control moves about the speed of a mudslide and the game has no concept of who is closest to the ball whatsoever. A routine pop-up was missed by my third basemen and instead of the game allowing me to control the left fielder and try to get to the ball, it makes my 3B run (more like freshly twisted ankle hobbling) after the ball all the way to the warning track. As if it could be worse, the fielder and the ball are often moving the same speed meaning you aren’t getting to shit until you make it all the way to the wall and pray the ball ricochets in your direction. Three fucking times a simple play was turned into something really damaging to my chances of a fair game. The routine groundball that rolled through my second baseman’s legs that turned into an inside the park home run almost costed me a controller.

nes baseball
I tried to exact revenge for the ’88 World Series but by the 2nd inning, I was getting spanked. Sorry Oakland, better luck next baseball review.

Hitting is easy enough. A baseball is hurled towards your batter and you try to hit A at the right time. Simple, yet effective, as is hitting in most baseball games. That is, until you actually reach first base. Even if you get the perfect slicer down the third base line for what should be an easy triple, your player grows fucking roots at first. I beat the everloving piss out of my buttons to no avail attempting to light any kind of fire under my players ass, yet all he could muster was to blankly stare at me and remain planted where he was. This game’s rules have no rules. The one time I got my guy to accomplish forward motion, it was by complete accident and I couldn’t get him to turn back around nor know why I even tried. Any semblance of strategy that might be thought up is just an exercise in futility. Your choices are pretty much limited to either knocking it out of the park everytime or having your ass handed to you on a silver platter. Good luck with option A.

nes baseball
When I think baseball, I think of these all-time great teams!

As for the sound, most titles of the “Sports Series” work extremely well without any background tunes, but this is one game that sorely needed it. Seeing as this was the only baseball title at the time, the poor consumer had to endure the rousing sound of nothing while the game was droning on. It’s as slow moving as it gets and I timed a full game at 58 minutes, far too long for the 6 or so sound effects to keep things intresting or me distracted from what a clump of 8-bit shit this is. As a matter of fact, when you are called out, it is the exact same sound that Punch-Out on NES gives when you press start and the boxing glove breaks through the screen. Noone can blame me for nstantly making me want to pop that classic in when I hear it. The tiny ditty when you hit a home run is also the theme when you win a fight in the arcade version of Punch-Out, giving a strange link to both versions of the greatest boxing game ever created on any console. Later for that one though.

nes baseball
If you’re one of those fans who just wish the Yankees lose everytime they hit the field, in this game all you have to do is play as them. Instant gratification!

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

nes baseball
Exactly how I’d have felt if I spent 50 bucks on this title on launch day…

3/10

Only slightly above Donkey Kong Jr. Math as an unplayable piece of NES history that should stay buried never to see the sun or be touched by civilization again. I spent 3 days mulling it over and trying like hell to give it the benefit of the doubt as the first baseball game and still can’t go any higher in good conscience. Nintendo squandered a great opprotunity here as launch day, noone knew what the hell an Ice Climber, a Clu Clu, or a Goomba was. We all knew what baseball was and, sadly, they completely dropped the ball. I’m sure the five superstar outfielders from Team Y is still chasing that bitch to the wall today.

NES Baseball

 nintendo baseball

NES Baseball

The Nintendo sport series on NES was pretty bad, and Baseball is not much different.
nintendo baseball
The game really is not that bad in a technical sense. It’s baseball….and not much else. It’s got different teams and a 2 player mode but that’s about it.
nintendo baseball
The problem with the game are really three things. The first is the speed of the game, it really goes far too slow for it’s own good. The second are the controls which aren’t so hot when you’re trying to throw it to the right base. Lastly is the difficulty when playing against the computer. It’s far too good getting easy home runs while you struggle to get pass any base.
 nintendo baseball
It may be slightly better in some ways compared to some other sport games on NES, but it’s still garbage. Do not buy this game from anywhere.

Score: 3 out of 10

Bad News Baseball

Bad_News_BaseballBad News Baseball

Among those familiar with the Nintendo Entertainment System library of cartridges, if you were to challenge them to name a sports game made by developer-publisher Tecmo, odds are they would name a football title. Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl are the popular choices, and deservedly so, as they are well-crafted, excellent video games. However, Tecmo kept their design chops up their sleeve for others as well, one of them being a quirky fun-filled hardball simulation called Bad News Baseball.

Gameplay

Bad News Baseball covers all the bases (boy, we could really have a field day with the baseball puns here; haha, “field day”) that a basic baseball game needs to hit: One-player mode, two-player mode, continuation into a full season beyond just a single outing, some form of stat-tracking, and an engine more robust than Nintendo’s original, and awful, Baseball.

The NES had a lot of baseball games. Even within the genre of sports, the sub-genre of baseball saw more titles than other well-respected categories, such as the JRPG. Now, most people were likely just to find a favorite or two, or perhaps avoid the baseball games altogether; however, getting to know the full roster lends a lot of enjoyable comparison.

Baseball games were programmed so similarly that some of the differences might be slight, but they are there. For example, compared to the R.B.I. Baseball series, Bad News Baseball is more fielding-oriented: Runners are much more likely to be called “OUT!” at the base, whereas in R.B.I., the A.I. is very forgiving, considering a runner safe even if they are barely just touching the plate pixel-to-pixel.

Bad_News_Baseball

Compared to Base Wars, the over-field camera in Bad News Baseball is tighter, more honed-in; which is great, since Base Wars always had a problem tracking line drives, leading to lost fielders and a screen full of green. Compared to Legends of the Diamond, Bad News Baseball has looser hit detection during batting, making it easier to blast home runs. Yet, of course, because of the emphasis on defense and fielders, there is a delightful balance at work, showing Tecmo’s strength in planning.

To put is simply: Bad News Baseball is not only a great baseball game on NES, but a great 8-bit video game altogether. Every baseball game had some sort of celebratory animation for home runs, but Bad News Baseball has several that it can cycle through. Most baseball games, even then, had on-screen umpires – but in Bad News Baseball, they are bright pink rabbits.

Okay, that is a little strange, but it does add distinctive character to what would otherwise be “just” a well-made sports title. Those rabbit umps, along with the Eastern influence seen in the very cartoon-like characters and interstitials, give Bad News Baseball a very distinct identity.

But if silliness is not the player’s thing, the baseball is more than in-depth enough to satisfy even a serious player. Bad News Baseball tracks the statistics for every player , even down to attributes for how well a pitcher’s ball breaks to right and left (yes, each has a separate value), every batter-fielder’s arm strength and running speed, even the stamina of pitchers that not only necessitate in-game substitutions but affect game-to-game readiness as well. Furthermore, every batter-fielder is graded on which positions they should field, with every roster having far more than a simple line-up of nine available, thus granting the player full managerial sway to customize their batting order, fielding positions, and pitching rotation. Good stuff.

Bad_News_Baseball

This is all not to say that Bad News Baseball is without its share of faults, though. Missing out on the MLB license to use real players is a little unfortunate, as fine as made-up players are. Although the graphics are great, all the players look exactly the same: There is never any difference in height, weight, race, etc., only some differing pitching styles, which is a bit bland and unfortunate.

The ability to jump up or slide to the side to catch batted balls is nice, but not executed as well as it could be. Thinking three-dimensionally, if the ball is behind a player in a midair, it can still be “caught” by jumping into its pixel-drawn flight patch. This effect, while exploitable, causes some cognitive dissonance. Worse, though, is the slightly-too-long pause to get down to earth with the jump, as though gravity has been lessened for such mighty leap.

Speaking of physics, every at-bat feels a little “off” upon close examination. It really seems like hitting the “sweet spot” on the bat, dead center of the wood in the middle of a perfect swing, never results in as good of a hit as strange tip shots off the edge of the bat when swinging too late, or a way-inside too-early shot. Also, seeing fastballs up to 111mph can be disorienting, but at least fatigue sets in quickly. Also, does anyone else feel like it is strangely, slightly difficult to move a fielder diagonally?

Bad_News_Baseball

The All Star Mode is a welcome addition for those in need of a harder challenge, but even the basic game is pretty stiff for newcomers or those inexperienced with baseball games. The A.I. is not exactly a deity, but does a computer batter ever, ever swing at a widely pitched ball? Pitching can be tricky, relying on the player to discover exploitable little un-hittable nooks and crannies, rather than truly outduel a batter at the corners of the plate. Trying to take on the mindset of a real baseball pitcher will leave the count full of balls and fastballs crushed out of the stadium.

Making a perfect 8-bit baseball game might be impossible, or at least extremely difficult within the constraints of both time and resources of the period. But if we do not rate on the scale of a high standard, to what purpose do we review through a critical lens? More simply: Bad News Baseball is great, but falls short of being flawless.

Graphics

If you can overlook the just-about-literal white supremacy in the game, the visuals are fantastic. Gorgeous interstitial animations highlight close plays on the bases, while a handful of different animated home run celebrations add more whimsy to an already-whimsical playthrough. Even the details look just fine: The players at the plate, on the field, the field itself, the menus, etc. This is a professional-looking 8-bit video game, oozing with flair and flourish.

Sound

The usual 8-bit baseball-game sound effects are in full gear: The rise-and-fall pitch of the ball in flight, the satisfying smack of a the digital sphere into pixelated leather, and the clap of the bat, among others. The background music is well-composed, and dives into technical exploits of the NES hardware sound channels that few dare to tread (dig that drumline), but – and this might just be reviewer opinion – does not really match the on-screen action. It is oddly disconcerting. Strange.

But the speech effects are fantastic, and part of this title’s appeal; the energetic, confident calls of the umpires truly add to the tension and impact of game-as-sport. Hearing the ump cry “SAFE!” for a close call at home plate brings a real, visceral pleasure.

Originality

The NES had about 20 baseball video games in its library. Some of them tried to gain sales through a weird hook: Base Wars had robot athletes. A Little League game featured children. R.B.I. Baseball 3 not only had the real Major League Baseball teams, but multiple years’ worth of period-accurate rosters to choose from for each.

In the case the Bad News Baseball, the catch is rabbit umpires and goofy cartoon visuals? Maybe, but so is the tight design, in-depth password system (although with an insane range of special characters in its alphabet), and the appreciated option to press Start whenever the player wants to skip a cutscene. All in all, this is simply a great game. Be sure to take advantage of the computer’s bizarre tendency to sprint a baserunner back to first following a tag-out there.

Overall rating: 4.0/5 stars.