Posted by Lee Meyer
Not quite a grand slam
Originally released alongside the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the 1980s, Nintendo's Baseball is one of several simple, lean titles that, while primitive and slow by today's standards, still show a special Nintendo pedigree. Ideally these games would be released as a compilation; the content in Baseball, Pinball and the other single-word-title sports games are too sparse to justify $4.99 USD for each. But for gamers who grew up with the NES or want to experience part of the era that saved the games industry, there are many worse games than Baseball.
Baseball contains six teams to choose from, but the team you choose will not affect gameplay at all. In North America, the team names are designated with letters. "D," for example, represents the Dodgers, while "Y" represents the Yankees. Clearly released before the MLB began licensing games, it's still a clever touch that players can appreciate. In single player, you alternate between batting against the CPU and pitching. Most modern strategies are absent here; hit the ball with the correct timing and hopefully you'll get to the base, and pitch in hopes of getting the batter out. When pitching, the AI-controlled fielders run to get the ball, but it's up to the player to throw the ball to the correct base to get the team out. It's tricky, and there's very little instruction; reading the digital manual is quite useful in this instance. Home runs are accompanied by some flashy fanfare and music, but there's very little animation.
There is some strategy when pitching. Pitchers can use the D-pad to determine if they'd like to throw a fastball, a slow ball or a regular pitch. The game rules are largely accurate for baseball, but every so often the game determines that a hit is fair when it's clearly foul. Not being able to directly control fielders is frustrating, meanwhile, especially when the AI-controlled batter is running all three bases while a fielder slowly jogs to get the ball from the side. In a two-player game, this feels less cheap, considering both players are dealing with the same learning curve and not having to contend with the computer. Still, when hitting a home run or getting the other team out, players will be satisfied and want to keep playing.
The music is as primitive as one would expect from an NES launch game, and the graphics are extremely simple. Playing on the GamePad is satisfying, though, thanks to the compact screen and ability to save at any time. And trust us — after a few frustrating runs thanks to slow AI, you'll definitely wan to consider utilising the Virtual Console restore points.
Even though Baseball is a simple, primitive title, it still feels like a Nintendo title. While, slow, the game is by no means broken; players will likely be satisfied when they finally get the hang of throwing the ball to basemen and gaining points over the other team. It's better as a two-player experience, and the price is a little steep for such a primitive game, but if you absolutely love sports and want to see Nintendo's early take on them, Baseball is hardly the worst way to go.