Ranking the Baseball Games of the NES: Part 2

3:12 AM | Comments (2) | by Adam Blank


This is part 2 of a 4 week series ranking the Baseball Games of the NES.  To see part one, click here.

Ugh. Rankings 15 through 11. These are the games that aren't downright awful but aren't that good. Or aren't as good as you remember. Completely playable and probably fun against a human opponent, these five flawed games couldn't crack the top 10.

A couple of things to note:

Again, this is just the opinion of some guy in his mid 30's playing these games by himself on an emulator... My rankings are based solely on my opinions while playing against the computer as an adult who has consumed too much vodka; and are, therefore, 110% correct.

Also, I've included the chronological order of games to give a sense of history of the 7+ years that baseball games were made for the NES.  Unlike my rankings, it almost certainly isn't 100% correct. If the internet says one game came out sometime in 1988 and a different game came out in July of 1988, I usually just guessed at which came first.

So here they are, games 15 through 11...

#15. BASES LOADED 4

Jaleco
Released in April 1993 (20 of 20 NES Baseball Games)


How could they fuck up fielding in a Bases Loaded game any more? By giving you little symbols on the tiny diamond map that represent the location of your fielders. This might sound like an improvement, but you'll quickly realize that they've managed to make the game much worse. You think you’re controlling your short stop but he’s actually being controlled by the computer to cover 3rd base. Your 3rd baseman (who you’re actually controlling) is 20 feet away from the ball and moving in the wrong direction. Why couldn't I control the short stop?  He was RIGHT THERE!  Even when you think you've got a routine pop fly, your player is nowhere near where you thought you positioned him using that awful map. It's like they finally admitted their fielding was awful in previous games, but instead of fixing it, they doubled down on the awfulness out of pure spite.  It's frustrating, since this is pretty much the exact same game as Bases Loaded 3 with a couple of needless tweaks that made everything much worse.
To be fair, this game accurately predicted the 2015 NLCS
There’s the new “star” system. Players who make good plays (or top-quality pitchers who strike out batters) get an extra boost of ability. It also means that players lose stars for making bad plays, so your pitcher (who apparently throws every pitch right down the middle) gets WORSE, and your fielders are even less able to do the fucking thing you want them to do. You’re now less likely to record an out and less likely to get a hit. Seriously, fuck the Bases Loaded series.

Like all Bases Loaded games, you have the ability to swing at high, low or mid-level pitches by pressing up or down or not at all on the control pad. So while you struggle to make contact with a pitch, the computer makes contact on just about every pitch you happen to throw, unless you intentionally try to throw a ball.  Luckily, making contact isn’t terribly difficult in this game. Unfortunately, contact is about all you can make. Reaching base safely is an exercise in futility.

This is the last U.S. baseball game released for the NES (20 months AFTER the release of the SNES).  There’s the somewhat promising prospect of being able to play a 130 game season, but every single game has its own unique password. Lose your password list and you're back to square one. I get that adding a battery to games would probably jack up costs and change how games were made, but who the fuck kept track of all 130+ passwords and never misplaced that sliver of paper?  Four fucking Bases Loaded games for this system and not even the one that came out after the system was dead had a battery pack to save games?  That's ridiculous.  Nowadays, I guess you could look up passwords online and beat this game in a few minutes.  23 years ago we called that kind of shit GAME GENIE.

There’s a mercy rule. If the computer (or, conceivably, you, the player) are outscoring the opponent by 10 or more runs, the game ends. Thank fucking Christ.

I know some of you like the backwards Bases Loaded-style fielding. Probably because you grew up on this horse-shit franchise and didn't have parents who loved you enough to buy you a proper baseball game.

#14. BASES LOADED

Jaleco
Released in July 1988 (4 of 20 NES baseball games)


The first entry in this rotten series seems to be a fan favorite, and I'm not sure why. I played this game quite a bit as a kid and, while I don't recall hating it nearly as much as I do now, I never thought it was great.

Yes, it has the over-the-pitcher's shoulder view that I hate, but (fortunately) fielding switches to the standard (non-backward) view once a ball is put in play. Unfortunately, the fielding is atrocious regardless of which way people are facing. Nearly every other baseball game gives fly balls a slide whistle sound so you can try to position your fielder to catch the ball as it falls towards the ground. Not Bases Loaded. So your clunky outfielder is going to take forever to track down the ball he missed as it slowly rolls to the wall.

Hitting is nearly impossible in this game. You can swing normal, high or low. While that added bit of realism may sound like a bonus, all it does is decrease your chance of making contact with the ball by 66%. Remember how you used to have a sort of Gentleman's Agreement with your friends to not throw drop pitches in certain baseball games so as to to keep things on the up & up? This game needs an entire treaty of do's and don'ts just to be playable with two players. In 1p mode, all sportsmanship is out the fucking window and you'll be lucky to make contact 3 or 4 times per game.

If you manage to make contact with a ball and run toward a base, you're probably out. Even though the runner had obviously reached base safely and was no longer moving, he's ruled out on close plays. And there are a lot of close plays. It's absolutely infuriating.

Bases Loaded isn't without its charms. Some hit batters will charge the mound and get ejected. And relief pitchers are brought out of the bullpen on a golf cart, which is cute...but seems pretty damn lazy.
Artist's Rendition of Bartolo Colon in 2017
The Bases Loaded series is like baseball through the eyes of somebody who thinks they like baseball but really only likes baseball video games.  Like the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, the odd numbered entries to the series are the better ones.  Also like the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, that's really not saying much.

#13. BASES LOADED 3

Jaleco
Released in September 1991 (15 of 20 NES baseball games)

I really wanted to break up the Bases Loaded series in my rankings, but they all suck in pretty much the same ways, so I'm forced to lump them together. Bases Loaded 3 is the best of Bases Loaded games. What makes it better than the others? No, it's not the generic Ryne Sandberg cover.  You can actually hit the ball and (more importantly) fielding isn't that atrocious.

Players can select from a dozen or so teams and play in one of three different stadiums with different dimensions. I'm not sure if there's any physical differences while playing. They all look and feel exactly the same, but the Chicago stadium shows an approximation of the Wrigley Field clock & scoreboard between innings.

This here is why Bases Loaded 3 is the best of the series.
Fielding is the same backwards mess as all the Bases Loaded sequels, and it still sucks, but this time it's at least responsive. And, without that stupid "map" that they put in Bases Loaded 4, you can field the ball based on instinct and pure baseball savvy; like knowing where the fuck a center fielder should be.

While they still include the ability to swing at different pitch heights, it's much easier to put the ball in play in this game. Who knows? You might actually get a hit or two. Bases Loaded 3 is as close as this series gets to being fun.

Having said that, there's no season mode in this game. Your goal is to play a "perfect" game. What happens then? The credits roll and you've beaten the game. Since this is the only Bases Loaded game you might actually want to play more than once, the lack of a Season Mode is a huge letdown.
"What is 'No,' Alex?

#12. RBI BASEBALL 2

Tengen
Released in 1991 (13 of 20 NES baseball games)

There have been vast improvements in the 3 years since the first RBI Baseball game was shat upon the populace.

Gone are the days of insultingly cartoon-ish graphics featuring a bunch of corpulent fucks who can't run to save their fat, pathetic lives. Now we have sleek, realistic-looking players...who can't run to save their lives.

This time you have real players & stats from ALL 26 teams at the time (not just the ones who made the playoffs). The stats are from the 1989 season, so you finally get to live out your dreams of playing as the Eastern Division Champion CHICAGO TEAM and play as the likes of Vance Law, Luis Salazar and Dwight Smith.

This game gives the player the ability to move the batter in four directions within the batter's box. I don't know if this means much in the scope of the game, but it's psychologically satisfying to have this ability. This probably isn't the first game to offer this, but it may be the first game on this list so far...which tells you how necessary I find this feature to be in the overall quality of a baseball video game.

Base runners are still slow, but the controls are responsive and easy to figure out. I'm pretty sure they decided to rip off the controls from the popular SNK baseball games because the button functions are nearly identical.  In fact, a lot of this game looks similar to a popular SNK game...
Ok, not enough to convict...but pretty damn close.
Fielding is the one downside of the game. This is one of the many baseball games that has outfielders slow down when they have to back up...like they're running uphill for some reason. Fielders have the ability to dive and leap. so you can at last make attempts to look competent when the ball sails over your head.

Again, this edition of R.B.I. Baseball counts inside-the-park home runs as actual home runs. And R.B.I. Baseball 2 is the only baseball game I can think of with actual cheat codes. They allow you a few chances to hit a home run on the next hit or throw a strike regardless of where the ball is thrown. A bit shady, but kind of cool.  And, since the computer has been pulling this kind of crap against you for years, it doesn't even really feel like cheating.

Unlike the Bases Loaded series that kept trying disastrous new shit in the hopes of improving their games without any forethought at all, R.B.I. Baseball 2 feels like it evolved by taking heed of the natural progression of better games being made for the system.  It's a perfectly cromulent baseball game for the NES, even though the good parts were obviously ripped-off from better games.

#11. CYBER STADIUM SERIES: BASE WARS

Konami/Ultra Games
Released in June 1991 (14 of 20 NES baseball games)

We're just going to call it Base Wars...A robot baseball game made by Konami (but released under Ultra Games to get around Nintendo's arbitrary limit on 3rd party releases), I thought this one would fare better. I like quirky baseball video games and I love robots. Why didn't this place higher?

For starters, the damn thing cheats. The pitcher will either curve a pitch at the last moment or smoke one down the middle with their special Rocket Pitch that you can’t even dream of hitting. You'll end up swinging at everything because every pitch is a potential strike. Sure, you can crowd the box to the point where half of your robot is hanging over home plate, but all that means is that the pitcher will just throw farther outside on the next pitch.

Base running is difficult and there’s no way to steal without screwing up your batter’s position (which is important when trying to hit something fired from a robot cannon arm), so a hit & run is out of the question. On close plays at a base, the runner and the fielder fight it out. Yes, the game turns into a quick round of Mortal Kombat. The winner gets the call. Sounds awesome, right? Nope. While my runner has a literal rifle for an arm and easily takes out ¾ of the fielder’s life within a matter of seconds, the fielder somehow "Hulks up" and beats me. There’s no way to defend yourself. It’s just a button mashing extravaganza of unfairness.
Where are your precious laws now, Isaac Asimov?
After so many Hit Points are drained, a losing player explodes and the game continues on without them. That's kind of cool. However, if you lose three robots in a game, your team has to forfeit.

On the plus side, fielding is fast and generally easy. Even if you don’t know where your fielder is on a line drive, he’s at least in position to make a play. The robots move quickly, so you don’t feel like you’re getting screwed into giving up extra bases, even when you probably should have caught the ball in the first place. However, the ball moves faster than the screen, so you're unlikely to be able to position the robot to catch anything hit hard to the outfield.   Let me reiterate: Your robot can't catch up to a ball simply because the ball moves faster than the screen.  That's some 8-bit glitchy bullshit right there, and another reason this game didn't place higher.

You'd think that the AI in a game played exclusively by robots would be better, but the computer is downright awful. The concept of "tagging up" does not compute with the AI, so you’re bound to record a few double or triple plays per game while on defense. Also, the computer will not send runners after the ball is put in play. So that throwing error that takes you 20 seconds to retrieve because you can't figure out where the hell your fielders are? No big deal. The computer is satisfied with itself and won't capitalize on your pathetic human errors.

Another bonus...you don’t have to watch the entire (rather lengthy) home run sequence. Since home runs account for about a quarter of every ball hit into play, you'll be glad they included the option to skip past it. Home runs are seriously a dime a dozen in this game. It gets old fast and takes a lot of strategy out of a game that seems to have been built around strategy in every other regard.

Players have the ability to edit two teams, creating one with laser swords and one with laser guns. You can power up or fix your damaged robots with money earned from wins. This is also one of 4 NES baseball games with a battery pack to save games, so you don't have to worry about pissing away hours on a game and then losing a list of stupid passwords (or writing it down incorrectly). God damn it. This game sounds so awesome.
Base Wars has happened before...and will happen again
Because of the cool robot gimmick, the ability to upgrade your own robot team, and the ability to save games to the cartridge, Base Wars actually has more replay value than many games ranked much higher on this list. This game would have made the top 5 if they had toned down the pitching a bit, if the AI was remotely competent, and if the fighting mode was better. If you happen to have another human to play Base Wars with, track this game down and build awesome robot teams to fight each other.  If you're playing alone, skip this one.  The amazing robot gimmick wears out quickly and will leave you disappointed.

Check back next Friday, when the rankings get slightly more interesting and you won't have to read about another Bases Loaded game ever again.

2 comments:

Shooter Muldoon @ 8:56 AM, February 26, 2016

Did you name your murder-bot Manson?

Adam Blank @ 4:11 PM, February 26, 2016

No, that was just a happy coincidence.