Tuesday, 8 September 2015

SNES review 91: Cal Ripken Jr Baseball

Snes game review 91 If I was to say Sports based Video game to you what would you think about? Maybe Football/Soccer or Tennis would be the first to come to mind, or if your American maybe it would be what us Brits like to refer to as American Football. Lots of sports games have a long history in video gaming after all one of the first popular video games was basically a bat and ball simulation.

Today I am going to be talking about baseball. Baseball has had a long virtual history but it was around 1978, when people got there first real baseball video games. Atari came out with Home Run for the Atari 2600 and then on the Philips Videopac G7000 (AKA the Magnavox Odyssey 2) there was the game titled Baseball! Every console going would have some form of primitive baseball game with them slowly evolving title after title until more was included in them and they better represented the actual sport.

 I would argue the 16bit era was where things got really good. There was somewhere around the region of twenty different baseball games released in the USA with even more being released in Japan, we might have only got some of these but considering it was a sport not really played here we didn’t do too bad. A lot of people probably don’t realise how deeply connected Nintendo and the world of Baseball is, a little interesting piece of trivia here but when he died the former president of Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi left behind a 55 percent stake in the Seattle Mariners a stake which Nintendo still fully own to this day as far as I know.


 The game I am going to be reviewing today is Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball. It was both programed and published by Mindscape and released in 1982. For those unfamiliar with Mindscape they were a studio which got running in 1983 but died in 2011, originally they started out making a lot of educational software but branched out in to more entertainment based products as well. For me the real highlight of the company was creating Moonstone: A Hard Day’s Knight an action role-playing video game for the Amiga featuring lots of lovely blood and guts but I am not here to talk about that I am here to say ‘’Lets play Ball’’.

The game features two modes of play. First you have the exhibition mode which is basically where you just play one match for the fun of it either against the computer or against a human player, then there is the main bread and butter of the game the season mode, where you pick a team and then play twenty games against the computer. You are given a password after each game so that you don’t have to do the whole thing in one sitting. There are three different stadiums but they don’t really effect gameplay.

Each team has different players with different stats but in all honesty it doesn’t seem like the stats make that much difference to me, everyone seems to be pretty equal with no visual clues showing me some one is faster or a better catch, they all seem as good as you control them to be. Each player looks exactly the same except the uniform they wear for their team, I guess this is not that surprising given the age of the game and the technology available, after all a few generations or so back and everybody would have been represented by a few squares, or at best a stickman. Cal Ripken Jr. is the only character with the proper name of a real player. All of the characters have names with some of them being either an altered version of a real players name or somebody’s attempt at turning a pun in to a name. This doesn’t tend to bother me as I am a very casual fan of baseball, I will watch some if it comes on but I don’t know players names or really care if the names are real or fake in a video game but it is something to keep in mind if fake names are likely to put you off.

 The Controls are simple. When batting, the B button swings the bat, the A button bunts, and the Y button is used to control runners on base and when pitching the B button throws a pitch, the Y button is used to pick off runners, and the select button can change the position of the infielders and outfielders. The B button plus a direction throws the ball to the corresponding base so right for first base up for second base and so on. The game's graphics are a bit simplistic but can’t really be faulted I would say they are on par with what I would expect for the time of its release. Let’s face it there were two ways you could try and make the graphics on a sports game back then one was as realistic as you could manage and the other was to go for the cartoon fun style, this game picked the more realistic style and did the best it could with it, I am not sure at that time I would have gone down that route but they made it work the best they could. The sound is Ok, the sound effects themselves are all pretty good and there is even some nice speech thrown in at times but there is this sort of annoying repetitive tune playing but they must have known it wasn’t up to much as it is kept very low and in the background with all the other noises being much louder.

The computer plays very well and there are no difficult settings so if you’re not very good at the game you will find yourself getting hammered, In my first game for example the computer hit three home runs in the first inning and then went on to catch my best attempt at a home run with an ease, in fact more or less every time I would get excited thinking I had made a great hit the computer would manage to catch me out with ease which almost made me weep. I would think that you would need to throw some serious hours into this game in order to be able to beat the machine on a regular basis, even then I don’t see it being any walk in the park. Where I really enjoyed this game was in multiplayer. I and my daughter had a bash at it playing each other and it was really fun, which does make me think that if you could turn down the computers difficulty a bit so that it was a little less super human there would be a lot more fun here.

Ok so I can give Cal Ripkin Jr Baseball as semi recommendation. When played with a friend this game can be a great little blast of fun with each game lasting around the 30 minutes mark it makes it a nice slice of fun for a quick go here and there I am going to give this game a 6 out of 10 Mostly for its multiplayer but I do feel like I might need to return and reassess this score when I have played a few of the other Baseball games I own.

Ok so if you’re desperate to own this game how much are you looking at paying for it? Well I kept my eyes open and trawled through various sites and managed to get a Pal cart for around £3 with postage from the looks of things if you were desperate and wanted a cart now then you'd end up paying about £10, I would strongly advise you skulk and wait it out, and who knows I might review a better baseball game soon.

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