The SBA seemed to have the elites,
Pitting robots against the athletes.
But they cheated hardcore
Now don’t run things no more,
Yet the cycle now sorta repeats.
People will universally agree that 2020 was the greatest year mankind has ever been graced with. And what a fitting time to review the game with a much higher score than my eyesight ever got- Super Baseball 2020. For starters, the opening sequence makes me dizzy, and someone stole Goku’s nimbus cloud.
In the demo, you’re greeted by Samus Aran in her baseball uniform cosplaying as Mega Man.
I will now attempt to relay the story as best as I can understand it: The Super Baseball Association has been pitting their robotic squad against the world’s best humans. However, the SBA modified their artificial players beyond just the normal advantages synthetic beings would have, and this ensured that they would always excel against their opponents. Thus, the association has been making a fortune off of constant victories. However, the general populace eventually discovered the unfair tampering and took action.
You’d think that they’d simply return baseball to its roots. No robots or enhancing gear or anything, just a test of skill between athletes. However, not only did the general populace continue allowing robots to play, but they also permitted upgrades to continue both for the robots and humans. Think sort of a sports team that used steroids, got caught, and then was shut down only for drugs to then be allowed for everyone without regulation. Well, if everyone can freely acquire buffs now and use them to their heart’s content, I have a question: Come ‘ere. Lil closer. Come on now. Just a bit more. ‘Kay:
WHY HAVE THEM AT ALL!?
This setup is such a bizarre thought process of the characters. If there is no rule against equipping more power-ups than the opposing side, things can easily go back to the unbalanced square one, the very scenario that caused the SBA to taken down in the first place. Seriously, what did the people actually change? With enough cash, your team can be maxed out, creating a huge disadvantage for the other team. The game is still about dominating your opponent by purchasing more gear.
Speaking of money, if you perform poorly, you instantly lose funds. I guess the umpire has the manager’s credit card and a mobile reader. If you do well, you earn varying amounts of cash to buy the boosts. Yet, if you’re already owning your opponent, they’re clearly the ones that need an extra edge, so again, the balancing gets all out of hand. Still, ignoring the implications of the world in the game and just taking up a controller as a gamer, the modifications do make for a cool addition to the gameplay.
There are two “races” so to speak. Statistically, robots have an advantage over people. While humans have a variety of gear to choose from, though, the robot players are simply powered up to a stronger one. Humans can even be upgraded to robots. I smell Dr. Wily.
Now, you probably know the basics of baseball, and this game stays pretty true to them. There’s the usual batting, pitching, catching and running, but they added minor differences throughout to keep things unique from real life and other titles in the genre. For examples, balls cannot be caught by the audience, as the viewers are covered by a sheet of glass that the baseball will bounce off of. The foul zone is much smaller to speed up progress, and the game transitions very quickly, making for a smooth, rapid pace. There’s also a “stop zone” where I guess time itself freezes; no matter how much momentum the ball has, if it lands there, it halts instantly. Newton’s first law of motion? What’s that?
On a dour note, there are some limitations and a wonky camera to be wary of. Despite the upgrades, there are no new equipment options for a different gameplay feel and/or aesthetic. No special abilities either. Despite the many pitches in baseball like a knuckleball, your options are kept very basic. When going to catch a ball, it’s not always clear where the character is who you’re controlling which can cause some disorientation; zooming out at these segments would have gone a long way. Even dashing for the ball with your jet pack after everything does come into view can be kinda janky, too.
Games are always played in the same place, the Cyber Egg Stadium, no doubt named by Dr. Ivo Robotnik. At least the baseball diamond isn’t referred to as Green Field Zone Act 1. Both men and women play together, so the game paints a beautiful picture of gender equality. As for the robots, while certainly proficient combatants, they go boom when overused. And when they go boom, all their stats drop to zero, so they gotta be powered up again to be useful. This does not happen to human players though. Pitchers can tire out, but having a relief brought in will perk them right back up. After hitting the ball, you run to the base automatically. It’s a shame you can’t freely move, as the field is clearly a prime area to catch Voltorbs.
After defeating the other teams, you simply- win. That’s it. No interesting cutscene, no other mention of the defunct Super Baseball Association, no unlockables. Replay-wise, with 12 different teams with varying stats and aesthetics, players are given a generous amount of material to go through, and having another person to play against adds another reason to pop the cartridge back in.
In regards to the story, it seems a shame that the SBA was limited to a prologue/backstory then dropped completely. Not that a baseball video game of all things needs some overarching antagonist or plotline or anything, but to set up a villainous group that was dethroned and do nothing interesting with it just seems like a waste. Heck, the SBA isn’t even mentioned in the software itself, only the manual, so there was bare minimum effort.
Imagine some competition where your team and that of the former SBA members were slowly fighting their way back to the top, and you had to put a stop to their plans of reigning supreme for the last time. After each victory on your part, you’d get a short scene of what your rival is up to, pimping their players, maybe creating some new super robot, and whatnot. But nope, the ex-SBA is so inconsequential that if you only bought the cartridge, you wouldn’t even know they existed. And don’t get me wrong. I do find the game’s lead-in to be an interesting, creative one. I just wish it was either fully realized or avoided completely to forgo the squandered potential.
If you like other baseball video games, I believe you’ll appreciate this one, too. The character graphics are gorgeous; the sound and speech are on point; the controls are super responsive; and the A.I. will not hold back from the very start, requiring you to get a handle on the nuances pretty quickly unless you feel like exploiting the option to steal bases without ever getting caught. And while the music is fairly lively and invigorating, there’s only one track, so get used to it; would have been so cool if each opposing team brought its own tune. Ultimately, this here is a pretty fun, beautiful, unique baseball gem that stopped just short of home plate.
Well, I gotta get going. Due to overuse, all the stats just dropped to zero on my toilet, so I need to get it upgraded.
Graphics and Sound- 7.5/10
Difficulty Balance- 7/10
Very foxtastic indeed!
Next time on The Bad Wordplayer:
Two furry boys decide to go to stop, all while getting presents that are a real steal!