What’s up all?! Mancave Kris back with another anatomical look at a classic game.
Sports games get a bad rap in the retro community and rightfully so. There were so many, most of them closer to hot garbage than to an accurate representation of the sport they portrayed. Publishers flooded the market with sports games on the NES, mostly because they were easy to make, easy to play and very marketable. For every great sports game, there were 10-15 pieces of trash on the shelves. Well, today I’m going to take a look back at quite possibly the best overall sports game on the original NES, SNK’s Baseball Stars.
If you want to make the best of something, then you have to take what others have done and one-up them. That’s exactly what SNK did when they released Baseball Stars in 1989. My first introduction to baseball on the NES was probably RBI Baseball; a crisp playing game with the MLB license and simple, easy to use controls. Baseball Stars took what other games did well, refined it, added some revolutionary features for the time and literally blew every other baseball game out of the water. So what made it one of the best sports games of all time? Let me tell you…
Every baseball game used pretty much the same camera angles during the 80’s, except for Bases Loaded being able to replicate the ‘broadcast angle’ with some success. Baseball Stars doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel in any way, but you will quickly notice the amazing looking character sprites when compared to other games of the time. Motions like swinging, diving and jumping look great. the colours of this game pop as well. The different batting stances and pitching motions were captured quite nicely as well.
It’s baseball right? You throw, catch and swing your way to victory, but not all baseball games are created equally. there is something to be said for being able to play a smooth game of baseball with nice, responsive controls. With so many baseball games made on the NES, it’s easy to pick out when one plays better than others and this is the case we have here. Everything just seems to move along seamlessly, resulting in a great game of baseball.
This is where this game cleans up. There isn’t a sports title on the NES that can hold a candle to Baseball Stars when it comes to being innovative. You were able to have seasons ranging from 2 to 125 games which complete standings and stat tracking (such as home runs and wins). The only downside is that the season mode is limited to 6 total teams, but with such a feature being new at the time, who really cares!
Another landmark feature in this game was team customization. You could create a team, pick a logo and enter a team name and decide on a team style, then hire & fire players as you see fit! Money was earned by beating the CPU in games, as you accumulated more money, you could buy better players.
Such an advanced game for the time period that replicated things that actually happened during the course of a baseball season. These features are staples of games nowadays, but back then, Baseball Stars was the originator.
Another aspect of this game that is head and shoulders above the pack was in the fun department. Now, baseball games are all pretty much the same, but Baseball Stars managed to do things just a little better. The teams included in the game are legendary. You had the American Dreams, a team with players named after baseball legends. The Lovely Ladies, a team of girls which could surprise you with their speed and good defense. There was also the NInja Blacksox, the Ghastly Monsters, Brave Warriors, Japan Robins, SNK Crushers and the World Powers, each with their own distinct team style and cool names.
This game rocks! Its easily the best baseball and probably the best sports game on the NES. I would gander to say that its probably one of the best baseball games of all-time given how innovative it was. If you are a retro sports gaming fan, you need this in your collection, no exceptions
Until next time!