Champion Baseball (Arcade)

Datafile

Company: Alpha Denshi (distributed by Sega outside Japan)
Year: 1983
Platform: Arcade
Controller: Joystick with 3 buttons.


Foreword

This is probably the first baseball videogame I played in my hometown, at the time everybody rooted for the Los Angeles Dodgers (because of Fernando Valenzuela) and with the arrival of this videogame to my (then) baseball-oriented city generated many illusions of trying to imitate the games of that team, even if only in videogames.

Game

You don’t want to know how the ball reached near the head of the batter.

The game only allows one player games against the AI, it’s true there is a two-player mode, but every player takes turn per inning against the AI. It’s possible to choose from 12 cities with MLB teams at the time (I don’t understand why Houston, I think for the colors, was changed to Texas), or if you managed to play the version from Japan, were the 12 teams of the Japan lagues indicated for the first letter of its city, common practice at baseball videogames in those years.

There are not significant differences between the teams, aside from the colors of the uniforms… well, as long as the colors are not the same for the two teams. In the western version are two (Cincinnati and St. Louis) but in the japanese version, it’s very easily to see both teams with same colors facing each other. Forget looking for known players at the time like Dave Parker on Pittsburg (appears that way in the game, without “h” at the end), Rollie Fingers on Milwaukee or the aforementioned Fernando Valenzuela with Los Angeles, they are not. Probably because they did not get the license from the MLB Player Association, something that will come later.

Definitely in Japan are not very shy to experiment with colors.

As ussualy in videogames of the time, the player had a score, aside from the runs scored. In this case, the score gets higher according to how many hits were connected, which bases reached, how many innings were played. One second, what do you mean of innings played? every game of baseball is of 9 innings or not? Well, not necessary you play 9 innings. You see, one problem of videogames, specially in arcades, is achieving a balance of how many time you spend playing and the waiting player do not bore to death waiting you to finish. In this videogame was easily solved: if the player finds down in the score during the bottom of any inning, game over, finito, fin.

OK, to that point, we’re fine, but the programmers had the happy idea to make the AI always playing as local, meaning, it finishes the inning; so, as soon as is winning, well you know what for the previous paragraph. If we add that after each inning, the AI gets tougher and tougher hitting homeruns almost every turn at bat, or hitting unreachable hits, well the game can finish quite fast. You can imagine the frustration after losing in 5 minutes, or worse, in the very first inning. At the time the game had a catchy music and the umpire made very understandable (for the time) calls, a very amazing achievement at the time.

To batting and throwing you only used one button, although batting you can use another button to steal, but only to steal, forget to try hit and run or other fancy things, because if you try to steal the base, cannot hit with the batter. A runner can advance to the next base using one button, and try to return with the other, but only during the at-bat turn. Fielding was really easy, if your player catched the ball with one button throw to base and with the other run to the base, where you can indicate which base with the joystick at the way:

Joystick directionBase
RightFirst
UpSecond
LeftThird
DownHome

This system became a defacto standard to play fielding in almost every baseball videogame following this one. There was also a third button to allow either a relief pitcher or a pinch hitter. It’s a highlight the closeup of the pitcher and the batter, something unussual at the first videogames.

Other Platforms

The game was adapted for the console Sega SG-1000.

Legacy

The game had two secuels. The first, Champion Baseball Part 2 – Fair Play allowed two players facing each other. And the next one, called Super Champion Baseball some years later. The series of games was very popular in Japan.

Epilogue

Really hard game, addictive up to a point. Particularly, I never reached the fifth inning, sometimes even the third without changing pitchers.

References

Sport and Console icons designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.

EstadioRetro

Informatic guy and fan of retro videogaming. Mexican and spanish. I like to drink good coffee. My favorite sport is baseball, but I like to watch others.

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