RBI Baseball (NES)

Foreword

Middle of the 80s, very good time for the King of Sports, or baseball, with World Series sporting great and worthy memories like the “hit” of Jorge Orta, Bill Buckner’s error, Local victories for Saint Louis and Minnesota, the homerun of Kirk Gibson (grrrr) or the earthquake in San Francisco. Also in this time came the rebirth of videogame consoles in USA, spear-headed by the japanese console Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES, for the friends) with an impressive quantity of quality titles.

In Japan, there were already a nice amount of baseball videogames for the Family Computer (or Famicom, for the friends), the original version of the NES, and the company Atari Games published in USA an adaptation/translation of one of these games called Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium (or Family Stadium, or Famista, for the friends) to arcade machines. Such a success was followed up by a port for the NES console, now published by Tengen, subsidiary of Atari Games.

Datafile

Company: Namco (Tengen)
Year: 1986
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Controller: Console default controller

Game

Dodgers vs Yankees? Nah, but it’s National vs American.

A very basic baseball game, with a lineup of 9 batters without DH. There are 4 batters in bench to be used as pinch hitters, and also 3 other pitchers, giving a total of 16 virtual athletes per team. This console port was one of the first titles to get a license from the Major League Baseball Players Association, to use real-life baseball player’s name in the game, this gave the game an advantage for other baseball games at the time.The player can choose between 10 different teams:.

California Angles 1986Boston Red Sox 1986Detroit Tigers 1987Minnesota Twins 1987
Houston Astros 1986New York Mets 1986Saint Louis Cardinals 1987San Francisco Giants 1987
American League Stars 1986National League Stars 1986

The differences between teams are not limited to colours and names, also the abilities of the virtual athletes. Example, it’s very complicated to prevent a stolen base from Vince Coleman of St. Louis, or if Fernando Valenzuela, from the National League Stars team pitch relatively slow respect to other pitchers in the game, but instead has a scaring curve ability. The controls of the game are quite simple:

ButtonBatterRunnerPitcher
AHits the ballReturns to base indicated by controlPitches
BSteal baseAdvances to the base indicated by controlPitchout
UpSecond BaseChangeup
DownHomeFastball
LeftThird BaseCurve
RightFirst BaseCurve
STARTPinch HitterRelief Pitcher

The game’s AI is a worthy opponent, but the game is funnier when played between two human players. The music can get monotonous, and it’s possible to distinguish a slow from a fast pitch for the sound.One player can choose a team, and try to test his/her skills against the other teams in the game. It’s worth mentioning that regarding to the 4 pitchers, the first 2 are starters, and if one of them throws in a game, it’s not available for the next one. This do not happen between human players. It’s possible a Watch mode, where the player chooses both teams, but cannot play, only watch the game (hence the name). Useful if you want to see how performs every team.

If one team outscores the other with 10 or more runs at the end of any inning, the game ends. In case the home team is the one with the advantage, is not necessary to end the inning.

Other Platforms

Famicom Disk System

The thing looks japanese, literally.

Strictly written, the game known in North America as R.B.I. Baseball, was the first game of the Family Stadium series in Japan, called Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium, the first one to feature 10 teams. Future entries added more teams.

Between the japanese and american games there are differences. The japanese game in general is harder, because the batters produce a lot of hits and are faster, also the speed of the pitches appear in kilometers-per-hour instead of miles-per-hour which can be confusing to anyone who is not familiar with the metric system. They are a bit slower, but a lot trickier. The american version the sluggers are more powerful but slower, also the AI performs with less skill. Also the colour combinations of the uniforms are… less timid, we can say.

Also, like real-life a match in the japanese version can end in a tie after 12 innings.

The teams available in this game are:

G – Yomiuri GiantsL -Seibu LionsR – Combined team from Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes, Hankyu Braves and Nankai Hawks
C – Hiroshima Toyo CarpT – Hanshin TigersF – Combined from Nippon Ham-Fighters and Lotte Orions
W – Yokohama Taiyo WhalesD – Chunichi Dragons
S – Yakult ShallowsN – Namco All-Stars (Ficticial)

Arcade

An attractive Bay Series

The videogame was also avaliable for arcade machines, but it is considered different for the following reasons:

  • The machine keeps a record of winning and losing matches for every team
  • There are different teams. Also the rosters are different, instead of being the roster of a certain year, they are sort-a-kind of All-Star teams. The teams are the following:
Oakland AthleticsHouston AstrosAtlanta Braves
Saint Louis CardinalsChicago CubsLos Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco GiantsCincinnati Reds
New York YankeesBoston Red Sox

The gameplay was identical, but I sensed the teams harder to beat, which makes sense if we’re talking about rosters of All-Star players.

Legacy

It’s hard to write about only one legacy in this case. Let’s see, the game is a translation of a japanese game, in that country, the developer company produced specific sequels for the Famicom every year until 1993 being the main change the updated rosters, and none other (except the port to Game Boy, and again, with other title), was exported to America. Other gaming systems after the NES, got their ports, primary home consoles and handhelds from Nintendo.

Even got ported to Microsoft MSX 2 computers (with the name Family Stadium Professional Baseball).

However Tengen, the company which distributed the title in America, chose to not adapt these japanese sequels of Family Stadium, and make their own with notable differences in graphics and playability with the name of R.B.I. Baseball porting these games to gaming systems different from the ones of Nintendo like the Amiga computer, or the consoles Genesis and Game Gear from Sega.

Epilogue

Awesome videogame, very easy to learn playing it, and is great to play either alone against the A.I., or against a human rival. In my hometown was very popular, mainly because we could pitch like Fernando Valenzuela.

Finally, it’s worthwhile to mention the passion that this particular game generates in fans from the american continent, with even an online editor to modify the game. With this editor, they can change players names, teams, colours, field color, etc. It’s worth a try. Check out some of the roms available there.

References

Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.

Console Icons taken from Retroarch.

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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