Baseball Stars
by Polly

I don't like sports aside from the occasional hockey game. I couldn't tell you the first rule of baseball. I have no idea what pass interference in football really is. No idea what offsides in hockey means. And until it was explained to me, I thought a back-court violation in basketball was just another term for unwanted buttsex. Yes, sports bore me to death. Yet somehow, some way, I've ended up playing sports videogames and on a few rare occasions, I've enjoyed them quite a bit. The Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl games are the first games that come to mind when I think of highly addictive, simplistic, and enjoyable gameplay. Why can't sports games be like THAT today? Why do they ALL have to be so bloated with so much bullshit that you'd actually have to play the game in real life to understand? There's just no room for fun these days...none at all.

Which is why if I'm in the mood to play a damn good sports game, you can bet your fat stinky, hairy, pimply ass that it's gonna be SNK's Baseball Stars. This game wasn't licensed, so there's no real teams or players (though a lot of the pre-made teams have players with some pretty familliar names), but who cares about those steroided up dickfuck fuckfaces anyway? Listen to me. Seriously. LISTEN. LISTEN! I SAID LISTEN GOD FUCKING DAMN IT!

This game is FUN! Fun on a motherfuckin bun!

They really packed a lot into this little cart. From the get-go you get 8 unique teams to play around with. They all have varying strengths and weaknesses that you have to work around in order to play a good game and it makes for some exciting games here and there. But the real catch of this game, is the ability to create your OWN team from the ground up! You can use money you earn from winning games to power them up from scruffy little nobodies barely able to get one out of the park to the full-blown home run hitting, base stealing, no hit throwing superstars you knew they were destined to be. It's this RPG element of building your team up that really helps give this game a lot more life in your NES than any other baseball game might have. You can hire and fire new players right from the main menu or just create your own! What more do you want? And once you've finished raising that team and editing it to your own evil little desires, there's still room to do it 7 more times! You could have an entire league comprised of only your created teams! I think that's fucking awesome!

But it's not the stat building or team building that are central to making the game FUN. Sure, those are awesome elements and initially what drew me to the game in the first place, but the bottom line is that the baseball games themselves are fun as hell to play.

Pitching and hitting are simple and intuitive. The pitcher can throw curves, sliders, fastballs, and sinkers using only the D-Pad and the A button. Batters can move around and find a good position to try and hit from needing only to worry about timing their press of the A button to connect with the ball. Unlike every other baseball game on NES that I've played, Baseball Stars also perfected fielding. Once the ball's in the air, it's not hard for you to move the right man into position to try and get a play on it. The camera moves so that the ball's shadow is always centered and all you have to do is move your fielder under it in order to make the catch before it hits the ground. There's also the option of making sliding stops and catches by simply pressing the desired direction and A at the right time to snatch up the ball. Baseball Stars is also the only NES baseball game I know of where once the ball's in the air, the game remains fast paced. In every other game I played you could fucking take a nap in the time it took an outfielder to throw to home plate. This game keeps up the pace all the way through. And that's really what makes it a winner. The action never slows down and there's really no time to be bored. Even in games that reach the 30-40 minute mark, the action's still fast enough to keep players interested. HELLO, SPORTS GAMES OF TODAY! A GAME MADE IN FUCKING 1989 IS STILL KICKING YOUR ASS IN TERMS OF BEING FUN! I HOPE YOU'RE FUCKING LISTENING... Oh who the fuck am I kidding, since WHEN did game companies ever listen to the consumer.

Anyway, the game does offer a few modes of play as well. There's your typical 1 or 2 player one-off exhibition game, but the real meat of the game lies in the League mode. You (and up to 6 other people if you wish) can create a league of any 2-6 teams, created or pre-made, and take them through a 1-150 game round-robin'ish season. The cool shit is that the game keeps track of all stats accumulated throughout the season including win/loss records, batting averages, ERAs, errors, etc. That was some really cool shit for 1989 and it kept track of all six teams involved, not just ones you were playing. It was really cool to see that kind of detail back then and if you're playing your own created team, they could be bragging rights for when friends came over.

And there's the beauty, my friends. A friend and I wasted almost an entire summer, both creating our own team and going through the same season together. The fun we had murderizing other teams (Yeah, fuck you SNK Crushers) and those games vs each other was just nuts. It's an experience we STILL talk about today and have even planned to re-live sometime in the near future. THAT'S the kind of fun I want to have if I'm gonna fart around with a sports game and only this game and Tecmo Super Bowl have ever managed it. You can not beat that.

The game does look good, but the graphics aren't what anyone would call a spectacular package. Player sprites are nice and colorful and pretty big for a change. Even when the ball's hit and in play, the game gives you the feeling that you're playing on a pretty large baseball diamond and not the little miniature shitty parks that most NES baseball games gave you. There's enough animation for the game to get by without being called sloppy. The predominant color is GREEN. Get ready to see some GREEN. They coulda done a bit more with the grass in the field, but hell it is grass, so I guess I can't find TOO much fault with it.

Sound department is typical NES. Lots of blips, bloops, and pitch-shifted kazoo sounds that sound nothing like you'd hear at a baseball game, but it's an arcade baseball game and not necessarily a simulation, so I doubt anyone's gonna care too much. There's only 3-4 tunes that play during the game and though they're not bad, they're not really memorable or recognizable once it's all said and done.

Along with Tecmo Super Bowl, this is right up there with the most enjoyable sports games that the NES had to offer. It's not officially licensed but I say who gives a fuck. It's good enough to make me enjoy baseball when I FUCKING HATE BASEBALL. This is not a game anyone should be lacking in their NES library. God damn game is SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD and my backup battery from 1993 IS STILL in tip top condition with my original created, fully-powered up team. Go SNK! Way to fucking do it right when no one else can seventeen years later.

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