Baseball Stars (NES)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  *Legion* (144)
Written on  :  Oct 16, 2003
Platform  :  NES
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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The gold standard in baseball video games

The Good

Once upon a time, there were sports games that did not feature the latest in professional jocks. While this is almost unthinkable today, it was quite common in the 8-bit and 16-bit console eras. Rather than being a detriment, however, this was turned into an overwhelming positive by creative game developers.

Enter Baseball Stars. Baseball Stars is a clever mix of a baseball game and team management simulation. A number of static teams come with the game, but the whole heart of Baseball Stars is the ability to create your own team. A number of logos and corresponding team uniforms are available for selection. Created teams start with a (very) modest crew of ballplayers, and players upgrade their team by earning money in season play.

The method of upgrading players is a very interesting one. Each player has a "contract value" (which corresponds to their general ability level). By "paying" that value, you get a random number of upgrade points (1 through 6) which you can allot to any skill attributes you wish. After being upgraded to a certain point, the player's contract value will increase, making the next upgrades more expensive. Players can also be fired, and you can buy free agents to take their place. Players have maximum skill values, so the smart game player will look for players that have a high maximum, and upgrade them to that point.

None of this would matter if the on-the-field gameplay was weak, but nothing could be further from the truth. Especially when compared to other NES (and even Super NES) baseball games, Baseball Stars plays like an absolute dream. Play control could not be any tighter, and while some things do take some getting used to (like knowing where outfielders are even when they're offscreen), the large majority of play is very strong.

The Bad

There's very little to dislike about Baseball Stars. Unlike a number of old NES classics, the gameplay holds up incredibly well today.

One complaint would be that the game does not have an ultimate goal. Granted, most sports games don't (outside of the completion of a season/playoffs and such). However, Baseball Stars is not the average sports game, and it seems that once your team is maxed out, there's little left to achieve.

On fly balls (particularly shallow ones that require running up on), you will often need to control an outfielder that is not onscreen. This turns out to be easier than one might expect. The player usually aligns himself with the ball very well, and you only need run down (or down-and-in, if it's a left/right fielder), and the player will run right onscreen and into the ball's path. Still, it's not the most intuitive thing in the world... some visual feedback like a location arrow pointing offscreen would help. After a little practice, however, this becomes a non-issue.

Also, like many NES battery-saved games, Baseball Stars is perilously susceptible to memory wipes from turning the console off "incorrectly". My trick: don't try to release Power and Reset simultaneously - a finger slip can cost you. Hold Reset, press and release Power, and THEN release Reset.

The Bottom Line

Baseball Stars is a game that has never been topped. No other baseball game has captured the unique gameplay aspects of Baseball Stars - even the game's own sequels fall short. The core on-the-field play remains very solid, and the game is still a favorite when it comes time to fire up the old NES.