What happens when you take baseball, America’s favorite pastime, and mix it with Japan’s favorite pastime, the turn-based RPG? You get Tasuke’s newest DSiWare game, the Frankenstein-esque genre crosser titled Absolute Baseball. While the idea here is nothing less than genius, does an RPG in which you take control of a baseball team contain the right ingredients to make it a hit, or is this just another strikeout?
When you begin a new game you will first be asked to choose which team you would like to manage. You have the choice between 12 different teams, six from the “A” League and six from the “B” League, and your choice of league will determine which other teams you play against once the season starts. After you have selected your team, you will be immediately taken to a remarkably overwhelming screen featuring the statistics and positions of each player on your team. You can feel free to examine your team, but you won’t be able to make any major changes at first aside from line-up changes. The next screen that you will be taken to is the season schedule, essentially a calendar displaying which teams you will be playing and when. If you haven’t caught on yet, the entirety of the game thus far has been menus.
When you finally get to a game, that’s when you’ll notice just how many more menus they’ve managed to pack into this baby. While the top screen displays the baseball game you're actually managing, the bottom screen is all that really matters, as it displays the current pitcher and batters’ stats, along with the score of the game. From here you can bring up a menu to instruct your players to perform specific pitching or batting commands, such as throwing a grounder or bunting, depending on whether your team is at bat or not.
Depending on the outcome of the game, you'll be rewarded with growth points that can be distributed among your players between games. Whether you win, tie or lose you will still be awarded with some points, but in varying amounts, and these points are simply used to increase the statistics of the players of your choosing. After you’ve finished allotting growth points you'll be taken back to the season calendar where you can choose to look at your team again, or simply to move on to the next game in the season. For some unknown reason you are not given the option to go back to the title screen or main menu, but because Absolute Baseball only allows for one save slot, there’s no real reason to go back anyway.
Amazingly enough, there are over 160 games in the season, each lasting a full nine innings and taking a long time to play if you choose to go at it with technique. It is possible, however, to set the game to “automatic” which essentially allows the players to make all of the decisions for themselves. When this mode is activated, you can basically just leave your DSi on, leave the room for 10 minutes and pray for a win, or just do other things that are better suited for your valuable time. One suggestion is to cry in a darkened room for 10 minutes, or play catch on your own, both better alternatives to this game.
From an aesthetic point of view, the game fails to impress. The screens depicting the actual baseball games look nice enough, but the other 95% of the game consists entirely of boring and poorly designed menus. There is a lot of text all crammed into the two screens, making it all a bit overwhelming to look at and even more difficult to comprehend. Also, while it’s not a huge problem, it would have been nice if touch screen controls had been implemented at all. In a game where all you do is sort through menus, it would have been incredibly convenient to be able to control things with a quick tap. As it is, you will spend a lot of time pressing A to select things, B to go back, X to open more menus and the L and R buttons to cycle other menu options.
In essence, Absolute Baseball is a turn-based RPG in which there is no storyline and an absurd amount of games that take forever to play. There is little to no pay-off for winning any of the games, taking even more away from the potential fun that could be had with this title. As stated before, the idea for this game is original and interesting and could make for an innovative experience, but it fails to impress on almost every level.
If you absolutely love baseball and have always dreamed about managing a team, then by all means get this game. If you’re not a die-hard fan, however, then this is definitely a title to skip because you will end up having no fun at all. Absolute Baseball manages to take a great sport and turn it into a really long and uninteresting turn-based RPG.