Controller: Default NES controller.
Japan, country where baseball is incredibly popular. Also where the most dominating videogame console of the 80s was created: The Famicom, known in North America as NES. So, baseball videogames were popular as well, if a company can develop a good one, it has a sure hit.
But, in the case of SNK, they hit a true homerun with the videogame Baseball Stars, one of my favorite trinity of baseball videogames for the NES. We had talked of another one previously.
As already mentioned, the fact that in Japan baseball is really popular, does the competition for videogames of baseball insanely hard. The developers in SNK gambled for a baseball videogame with a traditional control schema:
- Indicating with the controller to which base throw, or running if you are batting.
- One of the controller’s button is used to swing, throw to base or run.
- The other button is used to return to previous base, or run to base with the ball while fielding.
- Also, the skill to climb the homerun fence to catch a ball, or diving to catch a groundball.
But the most noticeable feature is creating your own team from the ground-up, like an expansion team. The idea that the teams had differences beyond team colors was not new, but the idea of expanding it, yes. That includes changing player’s names, or even gender, because there can be femenine players at the field at any time.
In this videogame, every virtual baseball player has a certain amount of points to improve their skills. I really like this, because not every one can be a superstar. At the same time, you have to distribute these points in skills like hitting, power, speed and defense. Also, the pitchers have other skills like stamina, speed and curveballs.
Even if you can play against a human, or the A.I. using one of the prefabricated teams, IMO it’s better if you build your team and slowly improving it playing it in leagues. A league tournament can go from 1 to 25 games per rival, and contain from 2 to 6 teams. You can select two teams and make them play each other, which can be quite didactic to see strengths and weaknesses of each team, or to look how well can perform your own team.
The matches, have the standard feature at the time, of applying the called knockout, meaning that if any team is winning during the bottom of a inning with a 10-run advantage, the game is over. If the local team is winning, is not necessary to end the inning.
The game provides prefabricated teams useful for quick matches between two human videoplayers, or getting familiarized with the game.
|SNK Crushers||The worst of the prefabricated teams. The players’ names are taken from developers or programmers of the videogame. Its purpose is letting the videoplayer to win some games.|
|Lovely Ladies||In an interesting move for the time, this is an all-female team (there are other two female players in the other teams) playing in a male torunament. It’s possible to win games against them with an all-new team, but it’s hard to do it. On the other side, if you win, you can get a lot of useful money.|
|Ghastly Monsters||OK, have you heard the phrase “monster of defense”? well, it really applies to this team. All of their players have names of monsters, and have an outstanding defense. The only sure antidote is pummeling them with homeruns.|
|World Powers||Basically the opposite of the previous team. Even the 7th at bat can give homerun. Fortunately they are slow, and bad at defense, but that won’t avoid a possible knockout.|
|Japan Robins||A sorta kind team of all-time greats (at the time) from Japan including the famous Sadaharu Oh. Really balanced, but inferior to the following teams.|
|Brave Warriors||Even more balanced than the Japan Robins, with tremendous luck to pull out outstanding plays. The pitching is weak, and they tire easily, which open the gate to a defeat.|
|Ninja Blacksox||Really fast players, with a more awesome defense than the Monsters and, IMHO, the best pitchers of the game. If you want to build a Billy Ball style team, you can use this one as a template.|
|American Dreams||A really good selection (at the time) of the all-time greats of MLB players. The team to beat to be champions. Even them, must have a weaknesses, and you can consider it their speed, even if they are not slow. The pitching is second only to the Blacksox.|
SNK created some videogame home consoles, where their games could be played. One, more oriented to arcade (Multi Video System, MVS), while the other more oriented to the homes (Advanced Entertainment Staten, AES) most of the time, the games were identical.
The port of this title was in the initial lineup of Neogeo consoles with the name of Baseball Stars Professional. But with variations, aside from a notorious improvement in the graphics to get advantage of the superior hardware. Also, a way to minimize the time used per game was to be applied due to being used as an arcade game.
So, my favourite feature, building your own team from scratch, was removed. Which IMO was really important to the videogame’s popularity. It was compensated adding more teams to a total of 16. The original ones (sans Ghastly Monsters) received minor changes, and in the one-player mode, there is a mode to play a sudden-death tournament to win (or lose) one game, so a videoplayer cound only play 4 matches at most. Or the classic of one match only against any team, or a human rival.
Particularly, I found the AI to be too cheap, and the controls not as responsive as I would hope. Frankly I found it inferior to the original NES game.
Even if the control schema is practically the same, the port has enough differences to the NES original it has its own entry.
There were sequels for NES and NeoGeo versions, called Baseball Stars 2. But both versions are really different.
For the NES the sequel had improved graphics, and a faster pace of game, but removing the team customizations of changing name team or players. It’s believed that the rush to release the game forced these changes. I’m still undecided to do or not its own entry.
On the side of Neogeo consoles, they released a much improved sequel, returning to a more cartoonish mode in the graphics. And yes, that sequel was (at least, in my hometown) incredibly popular, so it will get its own entry in the future.
No doubt, this is one of my all-time all-console favorite videogames. The feature of creating your own team and experimenting with different styles of play, is what makes this title really special. It’s a shame that some sequels lack precisely that feature.
Even so, it’s a highly recommended videogame for every fan of both baseball and videogames.
Coming soon will be entries on how to build your own team, or probably some modified roms of this game.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.