Great Baseball Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

Uh oh, it’s time my friends. Out of all the Master System titles to pull the console’s popularity down, the so-called “great” series was one of the worst. I don’t need to do any fancy write-in for this, generally, they all suck. Some are better than others while some are simply worthless in almost every way possible. It’s my opinion that this was one of the worst things Sega did back in the 8-Bit era; they released this series of games, which were obvious garbage, in a time when games like RBI Baseball were being released for the NES.

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Lacking a strong sports game library for the SMS, it’s clear to me it was one of the reasons the system failed in the states. During that time you just had to have some sort of sports titles to have a nice, balanced library for fans. Of course, the NES really didn’t have this until 1988 came around, and the “great” games were released one year prior, but Sega should have been a little more honest with themselves before they sent these out on the public. At any rate, here’s the first, alphabetically, in this series of pain. I’d have to say it’s one of the better ones and is probably a close running for second and easily grabs third place, but it still has some problems. Get ready folks, time for Great Baseball.

Graphically, and considering the time period, this really isn’t that bad of a game. It opens with a decent title screen using a wide range of colors, goes to the selection screens (which I wouldn’t expect much from anyway), and then hits the game proper. The pitching/hitting shots are quite nice, the programmers used a wide range of hues and the detail is very good. The field views are lacking, but not entirely bad. The only problem I had is that the view seems to be way back somewhere above home plate and the players look really frumpy and squished. It’s not easy to decide on field view, especially back then, but I feel they could have worked with this more.

The crowd is a mess of colors alternated to suggest movement, but it looks like just a mess of color alternated to suggest movement and doesn’t achieve the effect so desired. In addition, the scoreboard segments are weak. You occasionally get sad cinematics to watch that amount to no more than two frames with such greats as the man jumping up and down on a base for no reason like a monkey (even if no one was on base during a particular inning), the guy drinking a very long can of pop so quickly you’d swear he was diabetic and the lame winning segment just showing two players shaking hands. I really wish they worked more on these because with so much repeitition due to how the game is played, a title like this needs cinematics to give some variety.

Great Baseball is below average in terms of sound. The title screen greets you with the sound of someone sliding and then that god awful, hideous sssssssssssssh sound used to suggest a crowd roaring. Pathetic, it sounds like TV static with the volume turned up and is almost switched on and off like a laugh track during the actual play. The opening theme when you’re selecting teams and such is superb, it’s just too bad it randomly stops in the middle for no reason and then you hear silence. Speaking of silence, that’s one of the worst features in this game, you have to hear absolutely nothing while your playing other than sounds. If you get a home run you’re treated to a decent little tune, but it’s simply not enough to avoid the depression brought on while playing the game proper.

The in-between innning music isn’t the best either, pretty bland and uneventful. And, of course, got to have the Star Spangled Banner played at the opening, which they did a good job on. The sound effects are somewhat good and somewhat bad. The catcher’s calls are excellent, you can clearly make out what he’s saying, but some of the effects, such as the bat hitting the ball, just sound childish or unrealistic. They should have worked with them some to get the right effect since they were going for a realistic feel here. In RBI Baseball you’re given a great theme to fit the cartoony feel of the characters, as well as proper sound effects to boot. Here, they were going for realistic but didn’t really pull it off in the sound department.

Okay, here is where we run into real problems, the gameplay. Now, mind you, Great Baseball actually plays really, really well, there’s just, well I’ll get to that. Of course, this being a baseball game, I don’t need to get into how it’s set up. You play baseball, if you don’t know how to do that go read about it because I’m not going to explain it. The basic run down is that you can play this game with one or two players. In the Level 1 setting, the computer AI controls your fielders, and in the Level 2 setting you control them yourself. There’s also a home run derby you can take part in. So in the game proper you get to select your team, which doesn’t seem to matter in the first place, select your pitcher, adjust their abilities, and then play. So it’s actually set up really well. The interface works good, the controls are easy to learn and very responsive, the AI isn’t too crappy and generally catches all fly balls easily, the ability to change pitch type is nicely done, and so forth. So what’s the problem?

The problem, which you may have had an idea of, is that there is no tournament type play in this game, at all. This means, regardless of what level of play you select, what team and whatever, you only play a single game. What?!!!!! How in the? Who in the? This is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. Not only is there essentially no difference in how the various teams play, you can only play a single game based on who you choose to play and that’s it. Why in the hell would I want to play a game like this only once? You absolutely, positively, without a doubt must have a pennant race on a game like this where you save your progress on the cartridge or with a password, otherwise the game is totally worthless and the basic structure of the gameplay is no better than the Atari 2600.

I know they could have pulled it off too, that’s what gets to me the most about it. Damn it guys, you had something good here and you totally ruined it. Of course, other baseball titles had the same problem during this time, but that’s no excuse to do it. When Bases Loaded came out a year after this it’s obvious it totally blew it out of the water for that reason alone. In addition, this game is pathetically easy to beat. All you have to do is bean ball all left-handed batters and move all the way to left for righties. Pitch like normal and they never hit it, leaving you to simply score some runs to conquer. Had Great Baseball featured a nice tournament mode, ease of play aside, Sega may have made gold with this one in spite of a few flaws.

For its time Great Baseball wasn’t the most creative game, but how creative can you really be with a baseball title unless you make the characters weird creatures like some later games, or adding things like fighting for the bases as in Base Wars. Well, there’s one thing here that, as far as my research shows, the programmers did well and actually had a huge impact on the genre, though most people have an incorrect assumption about it. As far as I’ve found, Great Baseball is the first baseball title in the 8-Bit era to use the behind the pitching mound view when pitching/batting. This innovative feature made for easier pitching and a batting, as well as providing a more realistic approach to the game. Thus, this game predates this feature in Bases Loaded, the game assumed to have started it by the uneducated, by over a year, although it first appeared in the game Hardball for the Commodore 64. Other than this, which is a borrowed idea to begin with, you can’t expect much, so I’m going to bring the score down a bit more because they didn’t do enough with the cinematics and overall feel of the game to really make it shine. It’s just a generally boring baseball title using one of the most groundbreaking features in baseball video game history. Oh well, almost got it.

Aw man, replay value? As if this game had any. I suppose it could be somewhat entertaining to play with a friend now and then or alone if you really wanted to, because just like the NES classic RBI Baseball you can only play a single game. However, RBI distinguished itself with clever graphics and a great usage of sound. Great Baseball is pretty much a void of nothingness in a few very important areas and thus has little replay value to me, plus it’s just way too easy to beat. As far as game length is concerned, if you’re looking to play a single game, here you go. I mean, you can’t really mess with the time too much because there have to be nine innings, but the real bummer here is the lack of an ongoing tournament to come back to. Really shatters the time factor.

In conclusion, there’s a reason the great series wasn’t looked upon as the best of sports titles. Great Baseball is definitely not the worst of them, but considering that fact alone and all I’ve said above should tell you about the others without me commenting on the matter. It has its innovations and a few aspects that I found well done, but it really fails in the areas it needed to excel in, and that’s what drops it down in the end. If you really want a baseball title for the Master System to play, I suppose you may have to check this out since there are only two, but I suggest you do yourself a favor and pick up Reggie Jackson Baseball, you’ll have more fun with that.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 5.5
Gameplay: 2.5
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 4
Final: 4.8
Written by Stan Review Guide

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