Monday, July 26, 2010

Bad News Baseball (1990, TECMO, NES)

Sports games really aren't my thing. My mentality is that the sport is a actual game. I mean, jeez, go outside and play it. Another thing is how they basically release the same sports games every year aside from a few very minor changes. But I always had a soft spot for sports on the classic consoles, especially the NES. My favorite sport is Baseball (playing Baseball, not watching or tracking it), so naturally I started to play baseball games on the NES. Most are decent, some are flat-out putrid, but there is one that is probably my favorite sports game: Bad News Baseball.

BNB released in '90 by Tecmo alongside Ninja Gaiden II. At first glance the game wasn't geared toward an American audience, sporting anime-style graphics and several occasions of surreal humor. But this is a good old-fashioned baseball game with simple, arcade-like design, and nice cinematic touches, taking a page from Ninja Gaiden's cinematics. There are several teams, all based off of American cities (New York, L.A, etc.)
but unfortunately the game isn't licensed by MLB, so the teams and players are fake. But it doesn't seem to detract from anything, so it's a minor quibble. There is also supposedly a option to play girls teams, but I don't know how to access it.

The graphics I can already tell will be a turnoff to some retro players. The players are quite cartoony, with goofy expressions and exaggerated motions. Also I discovered that the umpires are.........bunny rabbits?
Yep. Rabbits. BNB was clearly geared to a younger audience, but I find the graphics and surreal touches to be quite charming. The music is the same way, being nothing worth listening to on a MP3, but enjoyable for what atmosphere it's trying to convey. There's also alot of stuff to do in the game, you can play by yourself , with a friend (best way to play), play a harder "All-Star" mode, play 2-player with the All-Star teams, or just relax and watch a game.

However it does have issues.  The main problem is the computer. If you hit the ball into the air, almost every single time the outfielders will catch it. Almost every time. It's as frustrating and cheap as it sounds, but it does add a dash of challenge to the game. But BNB is most enjoyable being played with two players, making quick and intense matches that are based on skill. Another issue is the speed on the outfield: if you miss catching the ball after a hit, the batter will already be at the 3rd base by the time you get the ball to the catchers.

While imperfect, BNB is one of the most enjoyable sports games in the market. It's charming animated graphics, cute music and sound, surreal humorous touches(What the hell is Mr. T doing in there?), and amazing two-player action. It's on the cheap, too. I found a copy for about three bucks at a local game store.
If you want arcade-style baseball with a funny twist, you could do far, far worse than Bad News Baseball.

Bad News? Anything but.

+ Charming Anime-style graphics
+ Amusing cinematic shots and music themes that convey a good atmosphere.
+ Best two player sports action on the NES.
+ Surreal Humor adds a funny feel to the action.

- CPU outfielders are quite cheap and unfair.
- Slow action where the outfield is involved.
- Cute appearance may be a turn-off to some.

?: Why is MR.T in the dugout?

Ranking: 8 freaky Mr. T's out of 10

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