R.B.I. Baseball 18 is the second title in the series to be released on the Nintendo Switch. Last year's title was lambasted with negative reviews across the board, and if you’re hoping for better this time around then, unfortunately, we are going to have to let you down gently. There was so much chatter around R.B.I. 18 prior to release. Talk of a graphics overhaul, a new development team, new gameplay modes, new features and so on, but in reality, such talk has sadly proved itself to be cheap.
The problems start almost immediately with the sheer agony of the loading times. Load times, in general, are both plentiful and woeful. And it doesn’t get much better from there. Even while navigating around menus there is an overwhelming sense of lethargy. Menus feel a little sluggish to navigate, cycling teams and uniforms sometimes leads to a delay in players and uniforms appearing. It just doesn’t feel one hundred percent smooth. It’s certainly not enough to make you chuck the game on the fire straight away but first impressions and all that…
So what’s on offer? Well, you can enter a straightforward exhibition game. Quick and easy if you just fancy a no strings game of baseball. A full franchise mode is available with the option of playing a full or partial season roster along with a Post Season mode too. One feature of significance is the ability to draft in pre and post 1990 superstars. There is also a new Home Run Derby mode, a precursor to the annual MLB All-Star Game. Pick from a small roster of top sluggers and proceed to smash as many balls as you can out of the ballpark within four minutes. Alas, online matches and leaderboards are missing in the Switch version, though it is entirely possible an update could arrive once Nintendo’s online service launches.
There is a good deal of mileage to be had out of the Home Run Derby at first. It's not only fun to just sit and slug homers all day, but you could also use it as batting practice seeing as the game lacks such a feature. Smashing comets out of the ballpark quickly becomes tedious, and the longer you play the more it feels as though rounds are rigged. A good 99 times out of 100 you’ll likely knock out between 11 and 14 home runs within the time limit. It always seems to follow a pattern of finding your feet, hitting a rake of balls out of the park and then missing loads of bankers before hitting a slew of jacks before the time runs out. This seems to be the same process over and over again. Maybe it is coincidence or just a lack of skill, try it and judge for yourself.
Lack of online play hurts because there is a lot of fun to be had playing nine innings with a friend or a randomer, but R.B.I. Baseball 18 keeps you locked firmly into the solo experience. Neither has there been any opportunity taken to have some fun with the controls. No motion control means no chance of doing your best pitching stance and firing a Joy-Con straight out the window.
Visually the game is a disappointment. Not just with bland, basic visuals, but with an inexplicable omission. In the PS4 version, crowd animations resemble a shoal of sardines not unlike something you’d see on an episode of Blue Planet. In the Switch version? Nothing. Zilch. Zip. It begs the question why this was left out. Stadiums are left dull and boring, crowds are static and lifeless. Player visuals are also poor and ill-defined. Gameplay adds to the list of negatives. You are limited to two types of pitches and with regards to batting, you can either swing for your life or play a snide bunt. That’s it.
Choosing to field unassisted will lead to a very frustrating experience, with many a dropped ball that you would swear blind you actually caught. Finding the outfielder in your formation is about 97 miles away from where they should be standing quickly become infuriating. Batting isn’t much better and appears to present a steep difficulty curve in your successfully producing a quality hit. Chasing every ball is not how you play baseball, granted, however, very few players will bother to try to master batting we imagine.
R.B.I. Baseball 18 is a game that suffers greatly from not knowing what it wants to be. If you want an all-in-one baseball experience on today’s platforms, go buy a PS4 and a copy of MLB The Show 18 and be happy. This game is an attempt at both a retro arcade slugger and a half-hearted simulation yet the mix is so volatile it borders on imploding entirely. In short, it’s a huge letdown. This is the official MLB licensed video game for crying out loud. Switch owners deserve better. Yes, there’s MLB The Show, but this is a Nintendo console. Give us something proper, something enjoyable, something gamers have longed for and deserve. Powerful Pro Yakyuu made it to the 3DS, what about the Switch?
R.B.I. Baseball 18 is another disappointing baseball 'simulation' on Switch. If you want a solid baseball experience on the Switch, you could do worse than Super Baseball 2020. Failing that, go buy a PS4 and MLB The Show 18 and be happy the rest of your life. On today’s platforms, Sony San Diego has it sewn up and this is not going to change any time soon.