Review by Psycho Penguin
"Everybody's got a price..."
I have never understood the relative dislike of the sequel to the awesome Baseball Stars. Even EGM got in on the action, calling Baseball Stars one of the best 100 games of all time, then dissing on the sequel a little. I loved the original Baseball Stars, but this game is simply just as good. The only complaint I really have is that it's not too much different than the original. The integral gameplay has stayed the same, as the game basically looks the same. The game got some statistical and other upgrades, like a selection of stadiums to choose from, but otherwise, it's mostly the same.
That's pretty much the thing that annoyed most people, I assume. Sure, the game isn't too much different from the original. But why fix what wasn't broken to begin with? The original game was such a great concept, and an absolutely incredible baseball experience. Why would the developers be stupid enough to toy with the entire gameplay experience? They added domes, they added a few new wrinkles to the season mode, added new teams, and boom, sequel. Did it work? A little bit. I'm not going to lie and say it's better than the original, but it's not a bad game at all.
The developers did opt to include most of the features the original game included. However, one concept that the developers removed for the sequel was the awesome team builder feature of the original. While you can still create a team, you no longer get the option to pick their name. You have to choose from a pre-made name, which is a little disappointing. It's not really a big deal to me, however, as I never really worried about the create-a-team mode in the original to begin with. I prefer to worry about the actual gameplay instead, in terms of on-the-field action.
And boy, does this game deliver or what? The camera is one of the better ones out there, as the field is huge and allows for lots of player movement and view. The pop-ups take time to come down, which gives you ample time to get underneath the ball to catch it. This makes playing defense much easier, as outs are easier to record. It's definitely easier to record outs in this game than in other baseball games, thanks to the excellent camera, field view, and overall gameplay mechanics.
There's a season mode here, but it's a little weird. You can only play up to a 26-game season, which is a little bit disappointing. The season mode is definitely something I would have reworked a little before releasing this game, but it's still not terrible. The other problem with this game is the removal of the teams that made the original so fun to play. No more ladies team, no more team composed of aliens and monsters, and no more team of ninja warriors. Instead, you get a bunch of boring everyday baseball teams. Oh well.
A cool concept that the game offered in terms of season mode was the fact that after each game, your team got a certain amount of money depending on whether you won or lost. You can then use this money to buy players, or upgrade existing ones. You could also release players. This was definitely awesome, as it's a pre-Madden franchise builder that never got the proper credit it deserved. Added props for the screens that show a player leaving town crying, and the screen where a player is signed at a press conference. It's the little things that really count sometimes.
The game definitely will remind you of the original when you first play it. The game has a same feel to it, especially graphically. The only major differences are the fact that the little square is not around the batter, and is now a long rectangle, splitting the screen down the middle. The scoreboards and other things found on the batter screen also look pretty neat, and definitely different than the original. The batters are decently sized, and definitely detailed pretty nicely. The crowd also is animated a little bit nicer this time out. I also like how the different fields look differently, but the blue field of the dome may prove to be a little glaring to the eyes quickly.
And all of this controls absolutely excellent, as well. Despite the fact it's still kind of shaky to aim balls to bases (I have an extreme amount of trouble throwing the ball from 2nd to 1st, and I don't think it's my controller), the controls are overall top notch. I especially like how easier it is to run the bases. Just push A and the direction to run forward, or B and the direction to run backwards. Definitely a cool concept, but I wish players didn't automatically run during foul balls. It gets frustrating when a foul ball turns into a double play because your player kept running.
The music is definitely top notch, as well, and I love how it changes when you get a man in scoring position. It sadly doesn't change when you get bases loaded (Baseball Simulator 1.000 remains the only game I've played that does this), but that is really no big deal. The music featured is outstanding, and will never prove to be annoying. I definitely enjoyed listening to this music. The sound effects are pretty good, there's no digitized voices (thank god), so you only get to hear the sounds of crowd cheering, balls flying off bats, etc.
While this game doesn't quite have the replay value of the original, thanks to the lack of special teams, and the disappointing team builder option, I still found myself playing this game a lot just because of the fun on-the-field gameplay this game offers. Few baseball games on NES can touch the gameplay experience that this game provides. It's easier to pitch, defense is a breeze, and hitting and running the bases has never been easier. It's a ton of fun to play, and in multiple replays, too.
The game is not terribly challenging, as I find myself winning games fairly frequently. There's no option to increase or decrease the challenge level, so what you see is what you get. As long as you know how to play defense (it takes a while to really learn), throw a variety of pitches, and take pitches (only hitting the good ones), then you should have no problem winning ball games. Just like real life.
So, there you have it. While this is not the greatest baseball game of all time, Baseball Stars II is a satisfying experience overall that sadly didn't provide too much new, except for removing features that were cool to begin with. Do I recommend playing this one and avoiding the original? No. I do recommend picking up both of them, however, as they're two of the finer baseball games released for any console. The fun factor of the game just cannot be beat, and therefore this should be a definite purchase for the sports nut.
Take that, EGM.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/06/03
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