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Bases Loaded Review

Developer: Tose Co., Ltd. Publisher: Jaleco
Release Date: 1988 Also On:

This was the baseball game to play when I was younger, there was nothing else. If you wanted to play baseball on the NES you put this in, otherwise forget it. Now, lots of people out there might be screaming about Baseball Stars, but really, Bases Loaded was the most iconic baseball title for the NES, hands down. Everyone knows what it is. How does it fare after all these years? Pretty damn good.

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Bases Loaded is meant to look more realistic than what came before, namely Baseball. At this time, there was very little to overcome. But boy, did they do it. Though there is still something of a primitive look to Bases Loaded, it’s undeniable they were able to achieve a high level of realism. The animations are extremely close to real life, down to details like the pitcher scanning the bases. Switching to the field is close to Baseball, with a little more detail and more fluid movement. They also threw in some cinematics that are pretty choppy in appearance but manage to get the job done. Bases Loaded is strongest in the main play view with the batter and pitcher, the field screens look aged. Some graphics are just downright silly, like the umpire lacking legs behind the catcher, the fact that black players are suddenly white when you see the field, or the hovering, disembodied catcher’s mitt that moves for balls that are thrown too far to one side.

Some people don’t like the music in Bases Loaded, but I find it fitting. It has this ‘down at the stadium’ appeal, recalling an early 1900s style that fits the sport, but it does have the potential to get annoying since it plays through most of the game. There is some variation, but some may find them tedious after awhile. The volume level is a little low too. The sound effects are fine, some people complain about the ‘metallic’ sound of the ball hitting the bat, but this crushing effect always gave it that extra oomph that defined it during its time, so I don’t find it to be a problem. The bouncing, running, everything is done generally very well in Bases Loaded.

Bases Loaded is, of course, a baseball game. The general controls you’re going to find in most baseball titles applies. Where Bases Loaded changed it up, however, was with the main play view, which takes place behind the picture, instead of the batter. This was not new, but it hadn’t been seen on the NES. You have different teams to select with their own strengths and weaknesses, pinch hitters, relief pitchers, stats, and a massive pennant race. In addition, Bases Loaded has a ton of pitching and batting options. Your batter can swing in a whopping nine different areas, and your pitcher can adjust position on the mound and the angle of the ball using the same areas. This provides lots of opportunity for strategy and timing, and trust me, this makes this game a lot of fun with two human players. Probably the most fun you could have with NES baseball. The computer play, however, is a different story. Here’s a bit before I go on:

Wow, Bases Loaded is hard. Pitching is easy. Once you learn how to adjust, you’ll eventually find ways to get the computer to strike. Batting, however, is maddeningly difficult. I don’t think I’ve been this angered by a game in awhile. It took me at least a week to get the feel, and it’s one of the biggest complaints about Bases Loaded. Though the ‘behind-the-pitcher’ view is realistic, it’s difficult to judge the actual position of the ball. Following the catcher’s glove helps, but until you get it you’ll swing at the wrong moment 75% of the time.

Another problem is fielding. God, Bases Loaded really needed this tweaked. Your fielders move fine, but the problem is you don’t know where the damn ball is going to land, so you have to get really good at judging distance, moving your players offscreen and hoping to God you catch the ball. Unlike Baseball Stars, there’s no room for error when the ball hits the outfield; if you’re not in the right spot, the computer will run all the way home. There are also a number of strange glitches in Bases Loaded. One time, the computer caught a fly ball that first bounced in front of its outfielder. For some reason, the fielder froze, and I was able to run all the way home. Another time, the ball rolled in a spot a little skewed from the first baseman’s position, and the computer player jerked down to the plate, then threw the ball to himself as I gingerly stepped onto first in a play that never should have happened. I noticed a number like this. They’re not common, but proof of poor play testing.

Still there’s no denying it, for the NES, Bases Loaded was the first game to take a realistic, thorough approach to baseball. The graphics were designed to look as real as possible, the gameplay was made to function in a more realistic fashion, it’s just chock full of realism. Would have been nice to see some real players and teams, but that costs money. Plus, since this was the first game to really appear after Baseball, you can see why it blew everyone away. What was done here was pretty groundbreaking for the NES.

Bases Loaded is a great game to play now and then, especially with a friend. One good thing is you can play a single game if you want, using the password feature to keep coming back to win the pennant. And boy, do you have to put in some work for that! You have to go through at least eighty games before the finals, which could take you a good year. I’ve never done it myself, but it’s doubtful you’d want to play it every single day to accomplish this goal. The teams never get any more difficult and once you learn one team’s method of play you’ll pretty much defeat them without much difficulty. But, if you’re looking for a game with a hell of a lot of depth, Bases Loaded delivers.

Bases Loaded has a few features that could have used adjustment, and it’s very difficult to get used to batting, but thankfully if you put in the time you’ll have a lot of fun with it. There’s a reason this was the most popular baseball title for the NES, in spite of what modern fans might tell you about games like Baseball Stars. Bases Loaded has real challenge, real action, and real depth. It’s one of my favorite baseball titles for the NES, and it’s not due to nostalgia.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 7.5
Final: 7.7
Written by Stan Review Guide