Less a baseball game than a baseball experience.
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
PUBLISHER: Data East
DEVELOPER: Beam Software
RELEASE DATE: October 1991
I learned something while doing research for this review: Bo Jackson, the man, the legend, was the first athlete to be named an All-Star in two major sports, football and baseball. Before he swung for greatness in this, his first baseball game, he was revered as the player “Tecmo Bo” in Tecmo’s cherished classic, Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES. Apparently, he was one of the best players within that game, which is considered the best football game on the NES. Having learned all of this, I thought Bo Jackson’s Baseball might be able to stand apart from the other fifty million baseball titles I reviewed a while back, but it doesn’t. It succeeds only in how much it desires to shock the person playing the game.
What do I mean by “shock”? Well, when Bo Jackson’s head flies onto the screen, you’ll want to run away in fear.
I was so taken aback by the intro screen (nothing personal, Bo, I just was supremely caught off guard), I didn’t have time to register my emotions before the game started itself. Strike one. When I actually started playing, a woman who resembled a “Kroger brand Jessica Rabbit” (my wife’s brilliance, not mine) came on the screen and pretended she was singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” The music was playing, and her lips were moving, but no words were coming out.
Strike two. Once you actually get into the game, before you can make a play whether it be pitching or hitting, a screen will show up detailing how to pitch or hit with the controller. Every. Single. Play. Yes, it’s beyond annoying and confusing. No other baseball game, no matter how horrendous, does this crap. Does Bo Jackson not trust his children enough to know how to play his own baseball game, let alone NES baseball as a whole? Surely, budding little leaguers in 1991 had played other games than Bo’s like Baseball Stars or Bases Loaded – games that, while not perfect, trusted their audience to know how to swing a bat and pitch a ball. You’re out, Bo.
But wait, there’s more! Other than the three offensive attributes listed above, Bo suffers from other crippling problems. The pitching and batting interface are broken – which is hilarious considering the developers go through so much effort to ensure you know how to play. I’ve swung at balls that I could have sworn I hit, and yet, I’ll get a strike. Pitching likewise makes me cry. I’ve struck out batters simply by throwing balls directly across the plate, but when I pull out some mad curveballs, they hit home runs?! The AI is also obscenely good, while my players have no desire to play baseball. Or maybe I’m just channeling my own thoughts onto them… nah, they really weren’t that into it. Baseball players usually run to catch balls. Then there’s the camera problems that almost every baseball game has. I know it’s hard to have a good camera in the outfield, but it would really help me, the player, if I could see where my own players are so they can catch balls accordingly.
Other things that offended me while playing it: the shrill voice that cried “BALL!” and “STRIKE!” while I was trying to relax and play the game quietly; the fact that Bo Jackson Baseball probably sold really well, due to his beloved appearance in Tecmo Bowl, despite the fact that the game actually is dog doo on a stick (how they managed to make dog doo work in a Nintendo, I’m not sure). Yes, Bo messed up bad on this licensed game, but if it’s any consolation, I’m sure he made gobs of money associating himself with it.