"Swish!"

I can imagine the atmosphere at a ball game. The tension as you watch a member of your hopeful team at the bat with the pitcher ready to throw, the smell of this fat guy's hot dog behind you, the organ music booming in the background and the ultimate showdown, where the pitcher throws the ball and (almost in slow motion) the bat swings, you hear the connection and see your man running like hell while those fielding scramble around in order to foil the plan. Right, I probably got every detail above incorrect but you get my drift.'

ESPN Baseball Tonight ended up in my collection because it was the only game that the second hand game shop had for the Mega CD and I had Five Quid burning in my wallet. Personally, I thought the game would suck but as a collector I just got it but when I got home I was pleasantly surprised. It followed the basic sports game procedure with the usual features. Exhibition, when you pick your teams and just have a quick game for the fun of it. Season mode allows you tp play through a Baseball season, playing games on games throughout a "year" season. You can hone your skills (and believe you me, your going to have to hone like you never honed before) in Practice mode which allows you to play on the bat and as a fielder. Last but not least is Home run Derby where you go up against one of those pitching machines (not a "tosser", thank you Genj!) and try to score as many home runs as you can.

When it is your turn to field then the game runs as smoothly as water off a ducks back. In order to pitch the ball you need to hold down B to charge and release to throw. Obviously the longer you hold the charge button the faster your pitch will be which will also determine on the distance of the ball when it gets hit back by the batter. It's a matter of precision, if you aim your pitch to the left or right it will affect the chances of the opposition scoring. The automatic fielder makes an easy job even easier as the CPU will run for the ball straight away but will give you the control when you approach the ball. With the press of a direction button and B then the ball will leave your hand.and await the wrath of the man behind the bat. The only problem though is the speed at which the ball travels when you pass from base to base, it goes in slow motion and obviously the runners are too damn fast in comparison. Although if you pass it short distances it seems to get there faster.

Batting is a little on the iffy side. mainly because you have to be so accurate, so accurate that it's crazy. You get all worked up when the pitcher gets ready to throw and just when you think the time is right you hit, only to find yourself with two strikes remaining. I spent hours trying to aim my swings tight so I could get the ball off the wall at least but it took me a while to practice and even then I still suck at it and most of my successes are up to chance which is iffy to rely on. However if you do hit the ball well enough the camera angle tends bug you as it follows the ball and not the runner which gets annoying when you want to stop and slide at bases, even the radar at the bottom isn't all that useful.

If you overcome this big obstacle you'll enjoy the games atmosphere, especially if you're a big fan of baseball as the crowd cheering, commentary and organ music really give you the feel of the game. Although the commentary is limited it does a better job than some more modern games with commentary and doesn't flood you with annoying cliches and crappy jokes. It's concise, saying short and clear phrases like "Runner on 2nd" but isn't 100% serious like "swish" when you mess up and "bepbepbepbep" when you hit a home run. The organ music is very frequent but helps contribute to the overall atmosphere and the quality isn't too bad either.

ESPN Baseball Tonight is a mix of fun and frustration but it takes a lot of practice to get used to it. When playing offensively you have to time everything very accurately and then let the dodgy camera angles and crappy radar take over from there which isn't too fun especially when you need to go through the same process a lot of times. However, playing defensively is quite entertaining to say the least but having the offensive part to deal with sure as hell makes the game a slug to play through. The other smaller modes are fun to have a quick five minute play through but it's only worth picking up if you actually have no other Mega CD games to play.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 08/16/04, Updated 08/18/04


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