No! Balls! and two! Strikes! - Review By Mr. Domino
I used to play Little League. I wasn't really good, and one doesn't
really appreciate that statement until the person finds out I was on the
D team. Still, so what? I enjoyed playing the game, and that's all that
matters. Right? Right. Having lost the ability to suck on the field, I began
playing baseball video games to recapture the fun of the sport without
having to assemble some two dozen other people to play with me. There
was Homerun on the Atari 2600, various games on the NES such as RBI
Baseball and Baseball Stars, the World Series Baseball games on the
Genesis and Saturn, and now, at last, World Series Baseball 2K1.
WSB2K1 promises everything a baseball fan could want from a video game
incarnation of hardball: MLB endorsement, all current players and parks, realistic
graphics, real commentary, a full season, and other goodies. After
playing the arcade World Series '99 and experience with prior Sega
baseball games, particularly the superb World Series Baseball '98, I was
expecting the options and season of '98 with the graphics of '99. In
some respects my expectations were met, in others....
But first, a note for those who think Triple Play is the only game in town:
you need to start playing a REAL baseball game. Triple Play, like so
many other titles, is still using the same outdated engine seen way
back in Jaleco's Bases Loaded for the NES. Sega's World Series Baseball
series has (mostly) been been about creating a true-to-life, realistic video game presentation of the sport that is baseball. This is where the series shines, and so I went into WSB2K1 with high hopes.
When Sega released World Series Baseball '95 for the Sega Genesis, it
revolutionized the standard, ho-hum batting and pitching game. No longer
could batters swing and hit every pitch with the tap of a button. No
longer did pitchers have all of their technique ruined by a far too
simplistic batting system. World Series Baseball '95 instituted a
batter's box and cursor system, requiring batters to swing and connect
to the ball for a hit. It was genius. Instead of the "Insta-Hit" system
which plagued all prior baseball games, players had to move a cursor
over the plate where the batter anticipated the pitch to land. It was
better. It was real.
The play mechanics of the batter/pitcher duel are excellent.
Oddly enough, no other baseball games have made any attempt to copy this
system, staying with the tried and true (and boring and unrealistic)
swing and hit system. Thankfully, WSB2K1 keeps the innovative batting
system and improves upon it with analog control. Not only does the
Dreamcast's analog controller allow for greater precision when lining up
a hit, it also allows you to control the strength of each hit. If it
sounds complex, that's because it is. Those not familiar with the
batting system from earlier Sega baseball games will have trouble simply
hitting the ball and may become frustrated as a result. Like any game,
practice makes perfect, and after a couple of plays gamers should begin
to grasp and enjoy the batting system. After all, even great hitters
like Mark Grace aren't guaranteed home runs with every bat.
Although the pitching system is basically the same as in most games, the
improved batting game gives much more weight to the pitcher's decision
before releasing the ball. Aim a direction and press the button for the
type of pitch, and then adjust the position and power of the pitch while
the pitcher goes into his windup. It takes a bit of skill to get
the ball over the plate without just feeding the batter the ball. You
also get a real sense of what it is to be facing a truly great pitcher.
Cover boy Pedro Martinez is FAST -- so fast that getting a hit on him
requires a steady hand and lightning fast reflexes, just as it should.
Going up against a side arm pitcher such as Kellie Wunsch is also
deadly, in that it's difficult to judge the position of the ball before
it's too late.
The stadiums look nothing short of fantastic.
The batter and pitcher duel in WSB2K1 is the best out there, and make it
a joy to play as well as look at. Players move convincingly and look
like their real-life counterparts, with more than enough superfluous
animations to make the game feel like you're really there. All the Major League
clubs are in the game and realistically modeled with both day and night
versions of their parks and stadiums. Each and every player has been
realistically modeled from this year's roster, with their batting
stances and individual characteristics intact. However, with the players
and fields looking all shiny and hi-res like, the poorly animated and
drawn crowds really stick out like a sore thumb. Although the arcade
World Series '99's crowds weren't anything to write home about either,
they were positioned far enough from the camera so as not to clash too
much with the rest of the graphics. Each time your batter goes to the
plate, you're treated to a close, great looking warm up... and the ugly
looking, heavily outlined "crowd background." It just clashes, but
that's just a minor nuisance in light of the game's otherwise amazing visual
Next: The Bad and The Final Word