Flashback Attack: Super Baseball 2020
Title: Super Baseball 2020
Version Played: Super Nintendo (1993)
I’ll be honest, I’ve never really been a big fan of sports games. Some of my disinterest might stem from the fact that I'm not much of an athlete. When I was younger, though, I did play baseball for quite a while and I’ve had a bit of an affinity toward the sport, video games included. Needless to say, Super Baseball 2020 caught my eye because hey it’s a baseball video game – SET IN THE FUTURE!
So what the hell is this Super Baseball 2020 all about? What makes it so super and why is it set in the year 2020? Well, as Wikipedia so succinctly puts it, “The most obvious difference from real baseball is that some of the characters in this game are robots.” Yes. Amazing. I’m already sold. Let’s play this thing.
Robots? Check. Baseball? Check. Robots Playing Baseball? You better believe it.
Now, like I said in that opening paragraph, I’m not a big fan of sports games. The last sports game that I played with any sincerity was MLB Slugfest 2004 (which, as a young man, I mostly played for the “coaching tips,” to be honest). My point being that I’m not really sure what the current state of sports games is. If Super Baseball 2020 is any indication, though, they MUST be better than they were 20 years ago.
First off, the game has a nice, flashy intro, which is cool except for the fact that you can’t skip through it. Keeping in mind that this game was originally released in arcades, it makes a bit more sense, but it is seriously spastic. After the intro, the rules and controls flash on the screen for about 2 seconds, and that’s about all the time you get to familiarize yourself with how this game works.
Better take a real good look, because this will not be anywhere else in the game.
The controls thing is frustrating, sure, but you’d think that it wouldn’t be too difficult to familiarize yourself with the game. I mean, it’s just baseball, right? Yeah, except of course for the fact that the foul zone is diminished, you have to hit the ball into a certain section for it to count as a home run, you can super-jump for balls, but only in certain areas, etc etc.
One of the big things that the game offers, though, is power-ups. Which sounds totally normal and fine (for a video game). You buy them using cash, which you get by playing the game. Except that none of this is explained, so when I started playing I was just losing cash and I had no idea what it was or why I didn’t have any and by the time I figured out how to upgrade my players I was already down 11-0 in the 7th inning (no, seriously).
Like I pointed out earlier, there are also robots in this game, but frankly they’re really not that interesting. It is interesting, though, that there are females baseball players. Call me cynical but I’m pretty sure they're only in the game to make it more appealing to a young male audience.
I don't think that top meets regulation standards.
But, does it stand the test of time?
No, not really. The whole game feels like it could be pretty decent fun, but it’s grasp is just a little too far for its own good, and everything feels limited by the hardware. The screen can only show so much of the field at a time, and it gives the player a weird sense of disorientation. There were plenty of times when I went to steal a base, not realizing that the ball was actually way closer to the infield than it seemed.
This also came into play when I was fielding. The way the game works, when an opponent’s ball is flying through the air, your guys are moving around on the field, trying to get under the ball to catch it. But because the screen is so small, you can’t actually see any of this. The weird thing is, as soon as your little guy is on screen, you assume control of him. There were so many times that a ball would just land on the ground because I’d see my player running toward it on his own and not realize that I had to take control of him or else he would just stop.
No, yeah, that's cool. Just... just watch the ball. Don't bother trying to get it or anything.
There’s also the minor frustration of pressing the control pad in the direction of the base you want to throw the ball to. If I want to throw to second base, let’s say, I’d press up and A. But if I was running left to get the ball, and accidentally pressed A too soon, I’d throw the ball to third instead. Sort of unforgivable in a game that requires split-second reactions.
Still, the game is certainly pretty by 16-bit standards, and the soundtrack isn’t bad (which is good since it just plays on repeat for all nine innings). While it can be kind of addictive, though, the mechanics are just so frustrating that I was barely able to make it through a single nine-inning game. And this is coming from a guy who likes actual baseball, I can’t imagine what this game would be like for someone that doesn’t enjoy the sport to begin with.
Flashback Attack is a weekly column that goes up every Friday, in which Matt Overstreet takes a look at some older games and tries to figure out if they've stood the test of time. Do you have a game you'd like to recommend? Leave a suggestion in the comments or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.