Look at last year’s All-Star Baseball. It made several mistakes and omissions that robbed the title of its baseball essence- undoubtedly the result of having Brits develop the game. Playing more like an arcade game, sim fans were left feeling duped, like they had fallen prey to the old hidden ball trick. All Star? More like Farm League.
It’s all different, this time around. One of the hottest developers in the Western Hemishpere, Iguana, has not only redeemed itself, but way outdone itself as well. Thanks to them, the Nintendo 64 now boasts one of the best baseball sims ever made.
Any fool can see that ASB ‘99 is the most visually stunning of any baseball title ever. The stadiums look so real, that I couldn’t tell the difference between a screenshot and a photo; I’m not kidding. When you see the players move, your jaw will drop. The motion capture is the best I’ve ever seen and the frame rate is high, adding to the fluid movement. If you look around the field at the players, everyone of them is constantly moving- like a real person- whether checking their glove or shifting their weight. It is this constant motion that brings the whole game to life. Oh, the texture mapping...
Iguana claims to have developed some new way to optimize the N64’s ability to use sound, and it looks as though it may be true. It still sounds a little canned, but the music and ballpark noises are impressive. There is even dual commentary that, while nowhere near as energetic as Triple Play’s, will none-the-less please Nintendo owners used to life without CD sound.
Someone tried to tell me they thought that Griffey played better than ASB. No way. ASB plays beautifully. The interface is simple to use, the batting/pitching is intuitive and there are enough different controls to keep the game challenging. One problem, though, is game time. With all of the uninterrupted motion capture, the games take longer than they probably should. If they had eliminated all of the "on-deck’ shots and done some more nipping and tucking, then the pacing would have been brisker.
Here’s where things could’ve gotten sticky: AI. I kept waiting for the AI holes to open, but they never did. I’m won’t say that ASB has the kind of AI that VR Baseball or Triple Play has, but a strong grasp of the fundamentals, plus some aggressive computer AI (those bastards will really put the heat on, on the base paths!). On top of that, the injuries, and errors pepper the game just enough to make it more exciting.
All-Star Baseball ‘99 eclipses Piazza and Griffey. If you own an N64 and want to play baseball, ASB ‘99 is the only sure bet. This game will sell consoles.