Baseball (Game Boy) retrospective: Crying foul ball | Game Boy Works #002


I’m Jeremy Parish, and this is Game Boy World. Alleyway may have been the most unremarkable title in the Japanese launch lineup for Nintendo’s Game Boy, but that doesn’t mean it was the worst… on the contrary that dishonor goes to Nintendo’s own Baseball. Baseball is remarkable mainly because it’s so frustratingly terrible. Well, that’s not entirely fair. Baseball is a complicated game. I mean, the game itself is actually very simple. In fact, it’s one of the most simplistic baseball games you can find on the market. It’s barely a step above, you know, something you’d find on Game & Watch or one of those LED handhelds. It’s a simple back-and-forth nine innings game. No tournament mode, no save files… It’s just, you know, purely scoring in a single game. You can pick from a whole two teams, which have four starting pitchers each. For variety, you can choose to play either the American or Japanese mode. The only difference I can spot between these two modes is that the feet are now designated as meters and the characters now have Japanese names instead of things like Bob and Fred. So yes, Baseball doesn’t have much to offer. The actual game itself has very little of interest. Admittedly, I’m not a sports fan, but I can’t think of a time that I’ve played such a disappointingly simplistic sports game of any sort. I used to enjoy baseball as a kid, I played a lot of baseball games on NES, and this is more pathetically simple than all of them. I suppose at heart Baseball is meant to be a portable update of Nintendo’s Baseball which was a launch game on the American NES and debuted in Japan in 1984. But it actually offers far fewer features and options than the NES version that it was based on. Playing against the computer is an exercise in frustration and tedium. The computer seems to have an overwhelming advantage against you until you learn all the tricks. The first time I played, I popped out three times in a row, which was then followed up by the computer taking the bat and… making three consecutive home runs. Pitching is extremely simplistic and seems to be very hit or miss. Fielding is practically an automated process. You’re actually much better just letting the game control its own fielders than trying to guess where the ball is going. Frequently the ball, when it’s hit really hard by the computer, will fly beyond the boundaries of the screen leaving you guessing where things are going. Batting is a slightly more active process, but not much more fun, and again the computer seems to have a huge advantage. Playing the single player mode of Baseball is actually one of the least enjoyable experiences you can have on a Game Boy. But the single player experience wasn’t really the point of Baseball for Game Boy. The real point was to make use of the Link Cable. Baseball is really meant to be a head-to-head game. You against another player, rather than you against the computer. Against another player, things are much more evenly matched and each player has their own view of the field… it’s an asynchronous kind of multiplayer game and it works really well. The Link Cable was a very technically deficient sort of way to combine two systems, but with a slow-paced game like Baseball it actually worked out really well. While playing against another player doesn’t necessarily add any depth to the game, it does at least level things out and make things more fair. It doesn’t change the fact that far too much of the game is spent just watching the computer automatically chase after balls, and that there’s way too much downtime between the actions. However you choose to play it, Baseball is an extremely simplistic take on the sport. Again, like Alleyway, this is somewhat understandable in the context of the times. After all, this was one of the very first generation of Game Boy games and was basically seen as a step above Game & Watch. In that light, you can understand why Baseball is not particularly exciting or substantial. But still, the fact that it’s so much more simplistic than the NES game, which, you know, debuted five years prior this, does definitely make Baseball somewhat of a disappointment. Given all the superior baseball options on many many other platforms, there’s really no reason to go back to this one, unless you just happen to be extremely nostalgic for it. But you know, nostalgia’s not always right. Sometimes, it’s best to just let go and run. Like Alleyway, Baseball appears to have been co-developed by Intelligent Systems and Nintendo R&D1, which makes it even more of a disappointment, because those two studios usually create such great software. But again, this was baby steps. The Nintendo Game Boy would soon see much better sports games of all stripes. This was just something to kind of keep things going at the very beginning. After all, America and Japan both love baseball, so this was a game that would, you know, do well in either territory. And while it was a step behind the baseball games that were currently available on Nintendo NES, on TurboGrafx-16, on Master System and even on Genesis at that point. It was still a step above portable baseball games that had come before. So yes, it’s a disappointment and definitely not a game worth revisiting, but it had its place in its proper time. However, I think we can all agree that that time was 25 years ago. For more on Game Boy’s history, check out gameboyworld.com

19 thoughts on “Baseball (Game Boy) retrospective: Crying foul ball | Game Boy Works #002

  1. Are you using an emulator or capturing off a SNES? Can't really tell from the video. Great videos anyhow, look forward to the rest.

  2. Somehow with all the justification for the quality of the game I kept hearing Iwatas voice in my head saying please understand. Liked the vid. They can't all be winners. It's always an art making the bad games interesting and you have succeeded.

  3. Great video! Despite Baseball (and Alleyway) being super-simple and ultimately insignificant games, you've managed to provide some interesting commentary, history, and context about them. Do you plan to do these videos for every Game Boy game? That's pretty awesome, if so.

  4. I had this one. I was young and didn't really know how baseball was really played, but I made what I could of it.

  5. I don't know why I chose to buy this game along with my new Gameboy back then, as I'm not really a baseball fan, but I do have fond memories of playing it in the car when dad took us on fishing trips.

    Meeeemorriiiiiiiieeeeeeees

  6. The only thing this reminds me of is how Nintendo should make another Baseball game… And not like the very generic, paint-by-numbers baseball game they had in that Mario Sports Superstars, I'm talking Mario Superstar Baseball/Mario Super Sluggers, tons-and-tons of characters Mario Baseball! Those were great fun!

  7. I loved this game as a 9-10 year old kid, the music is classic too. As you said it was fine for it’s time, especially for kids who don’t have the critical review abilities well developed yet.

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