Baseball Stars In My Eyes

In my mania for old games I’ve been playing Baseball Stars for the NES. It’s an incredibly simple baseball game that is somehow also one of the best sports games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Unlike something like Tecmo Superbowl (which I also adore), Baseball Stars is weirdly “realistic” to play.

So when you’re batting you just have your little dude at the plate and a button held down makes him swing his bat. They pitch, you try and hit it. When you’re fielding, you throw different pitches (off speed, normal, and a fastball) and control the movement on the pitch. Then there’s the actual fielding, which is a living nightmare.

When you’re actually trying to catch the ball or track down a grounder, you very frequently can’t see the fielder you’re controlling (and have no other indicator of where they are). So you have to control them by just knowing where they are. It’s one of the more frustrating things about the game, but it also feels pretty authentic – you should know where your fielders are, after all, otherwise why are you playing baseball?

Which is all to say that Baseball Stars is one of those more unforgiving kinds of games that were prevalent in the “old days” and are a bit of a dying breed now other than in the Indie scene. Thanks to this, it’s led to some of the more intense sport gaming moments for me, where I might be holding a slim 2-0 lead and then utterly blow it on a fielding error and have to fight with myself not to “rage quite” the game there and then.

In all its brutal glory, it accurately captures that important aspect of baseball which is that errors really, really count. Screw up badly enough, just once, and you’re probably toast.

21 September 2010
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