Review by Retro
"These bases are loaded with timeless fun!"
Way back when in the glory days when me and my NES were still young, my dad bought me a game for my ninth birthday called Bases Loaded II: Second Season. Before playing it, I scoffed at the game because I hadn't ever been that big of a fan of sports video games at all. Unexpectedly, it would only take a few plays of this engaging baseball title before i would be hooked for the rest of my life.
When you turn the game on and see the impressive title screen and hear a tune that your brain will remember from then on, you'll see that you can choose to start a new game or you can continue a saved game (after every few wins against the computer, you'll be given a password that you can write down). Upon starting a new game, you can opt to play either a one-player game by your lonesome against the decently skilled computer or a two-player game against a friend. Next, you must choose whether to use teams from either the eastern or western division. Last but not least, you get to select your team, and then you can scan through your list of players and change them (by kicking out the stinkers and replacing them with better smelling and better skilled ones) and/or line them up in any order before finally selecting your pitcher.
If you're an avid baseball enthusiast, you'll notice that none of the players on any of the teams are actually real. Hell, some of the teams (Omaha, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, etc.) aren't even real! They're all just nobodies that nobody has ever heard of. For instance, it's pretty humorous to look at the roster for the Washington, D.C. team. Most of that team's players have the last name of a famous past president.
Realism is good!
Though the game might not be realistic at all in emulating the big leagues when it comes to the names of the players or even the places at which the teams are located, the players' attributes, for the time (1989), were as real as you were going to find. The batters have diverse statistics, separate builds, and even different stances. The pitchers also have a good variety in the way they move and the way they look. Some players are short and chubby, some are tall and chubby, a few are beanpole like, and some are of average size and/or height. To keep the variety intact, the pitchers also have differing approaches. There are ones who always throw the ball straight, the ones who appear to throw it from the side, and there are even a few southpaws (left handed pitchers).
Fortunately, the gameplay is just as lifelike. The game is viewed from behind the pitcher instead of behind the hitter or overhead like many other baseball titles. When your team is up to bat, you'll be further away from the camera than the pitcher will be. This might sound like a daunting task, but it actually works. Depending on what combination of buttons you press, you can swing in any direction or in any way you want. By barely pushing the A button, you can bunt in hopes of a sacrifice; pressing the A button and left on the control pad will make your batter swing hard to the left; and so on.
As in real life, you usually can't tell how the ball is going to be hit until you actually hit it. You might hit a classic foul ball, the ball might decide to go hundreds of feet into the air without even getting past the infield, or you may hit the round bastard into the far stands of center field for a lucky fan to catch.
No matter how the ball is struck, as soon as it is hit, it's time for the defense to show what it's worth. The split second a batter's bat comes in contact with the ball, the game automatically switches to an overhead view. If you're on offense, you just have to sit back and let your runner run to first base and then either let the runner(s) stay where they're at if you're scared, or you can brave it out and make them run to the next diamond. If you're playing defense, keeping this next sentence in mind will make you feel better. Unlike an Atari baseball game I own, there's actually a player in every position. You just need to do what it takes to catch the ball before it hits the ground, or run it down as quickly as you can and throw it to the correct base.
Playing defense is definitely my favorite part of Bases Loaded II. As the pitcher, you can throw a wide variety of pitches, sich as fast balls, slow balls, balls that hit the batter as if he were the target, and even winding curve balls. But that's nothing. Fielding is where the fun is at!
While the ball is in the air, you can always look at the ground and see a round, black shadow that tells you the position and speed of the airborne ball. Anticipating where it's going to end up, you use the closest player and try your damndest to catch the thing. If your judgment is a bit off and you think you're about to come up a little short, you can always jump straight up in the air or slide a few feet on the rough ground to make up for lost distance. If you did a good job, you'll hear an umpire yell ''OUT!'' as pride builds up inside you. At any time during a game, if you're not satisfied with a player's performance (pitchers included), you can pause the game and make a substitution.
If the scoring column seems to be too one-sided at the end of the 5th inning or any inning thereafter, the game just might be called. If you're losing by nine or more, you better hurry up and score some runs before it's too late! If you're winning by nine points or more, then you're awesome. When a game comes to an end, a short broadcast will always be shown. This sports update shows a brown-headed broadcaster who can't stop moving his hands around for a few seconds before it displays the attributes of each of the game's players, filled with plusses and minuses, and colorful, squiggly lines on a graph.
This game is loaded!
Bases Loaded II: Second Season is one of those games that never gets old. Me and my brothers have been playing against each other more than often ever since I got the game back in 1989, and it's just as fun today as it was yesterday. Like that song goes, I love the game more today than yesterday, and I'm sure I'll love it even more tomorrow. It's not only one of the games that I play the most with a fellow video gamer, I also play it a lot by myself. The computer players are balanced almost perfectly when it comes to challenge. After several games of practice, you likely won't blow out the computers as if they were little leaguers too often, but you won't get trampled down upon every other game either.
Of course, nothing beats playing the game with a friend, but playing the game against the computer can at least hold a major flame up to playing a multiplayer game. That's because after you play and win so many games, you'll end up in the playoffs. Do well enough, and you just might earn a trip to the crowning glory itself, the World Series!
Unfortunately, some of Bases Loaded II's graphics and sounds are somewhat on the bad side of the fence. The title screen and the broadcasts have good graphics for the time, and the pitchers have nice animation while pitching, but the audience and the almost faceless players need a facelift. The sounds aren't really bad at all. From the repetitive but very catchy music, to the sounds of the bat hitting the ball, to the various umpire calls, the sounds are pretty good. My fuss with the audio comes from the fact that there's just not many sounds included. Instead of just having the umpire call out ''foul'', ''out'', ''ball'', ''home run'', etc., why not have a commentator to call every play?
Bases Loaded II is easily one of the games that I've played the most, for any system. Look past the age of the game and just open your mind up and concentrate on how fun it is to play, and you'll see that the game does ''America's favorite pastime'' good justice. For me to like a realistic sports game, it has to be pretty damn fun. And that, my friend, is exactly what Bases Loaded II: Second Season is. Hard hitting fun.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/04/01, Updated 11/26/02
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