#502 – R.B.I. Baseball

                                                      

                                                                                                       They came to win.

 

                         

                                                                 The boys are back in town. One night only. No refunds.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Namco

DEVELOPER: Tengen

GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 1988

 

I’m stunned that there are close to twenty baseball games for the NES. While the NES was around for nine years (1985-1994), one could argue that the system’s peak years were between 1986/7-1992/3, depending on who you ask. That’s still a solid two-to-three baseball games a year! What surprises me even more than that random statistic is that a lot of them are pretty good. Baseball Simulator 3,000, Bad News Baseball, Baseball Stars: three homers in a row right there (to counter that, I’d be more than happy to excise the entire Bases Loaded tetralogy from my memory). R.B.I. Baseball doesn’t “knock one” out of the park nor does it “swing and miss.” It bunts, gets to first, and is pleased by said accomplishment.

 

R.B.I Baseball feels like an unofficial sequel to Nintendo’s own Baseball. From the font on the score board to the cartoony look of the players to each team’s leisurely pace in catching balls, I wondered if Tengen knew what they were doing (my guess: probably). What distinguishes R.B.I. from other contenders – Baseball included – is the licensing. The rosters and stats are licensed from the MLB Players Association, which was a huge deal for 1988. Do the stats really make a difference between hitters/pitchers? Die-hard R.B.I.fanatics might say yes, but I didn’t feel any. What does make a difference are good fundamentals. The controls are fantastic, as are the field camera angles; two crucial elements for a successful baseball game. Batting is solid, as is pitching, but your outfielders are either baseball savants who make stunning plays or complete morons who can’t run. Several times, I was about to catch a ball for an easy out, but my right fielder didn’t have the hustle. Defense, Minnesota, defense!

 

R.B.I Baseball doesn’t distinguish itself from the hall-of-famers on the NES, but it doesn’t shame itself into oblivion like Michael Jordan’s short-lived baseball career. It has its heart in the right place and it has a foundation for potential greatness to come. And what do you know! There are two sequels.

 

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