Company: Atlus (distribuida por LJN)
Platform: Nintendo NES
Controller: Console default
If there was a genre of videogames during the 80s, with really hard competition, it was baseball videogames for the NES. The company Atlus managed to get the license of using the name of the, considered, best league of baseball, hoping it would give them an advantage with the public.
It was not the first time videogames were developed with the official names of sport leagues in North America. Doubtless it was the first which included, along with the name, other features using that license.
At first, the videogame allows the player to choose between regular season or World Series. This last option is the one that allows matches between teams of both leagues, remember that the interleague games were not usual back then.
After setting the mode, being a game against the AI or against another human player, then comes choosing the teams. Then, it’s choosing the initial lineup which a feautre either loved or hated. Specially because only the number of the baseball player, not the name, was the only way to distinguish a player (more of that, later) having to choose infielders, outfielders and catchers.
After choosing the lineup (according to the settings, also a designated hitter), the next step is choosing the starting pitcher, and it’s play-ball time. Sometimes, all of the aforementioned steps could take several minutes for every videoplayer, and sometimes the patience of the involved ones was really tested. So it was common to choose pseudo-randomly the lineups for quickly starting up a game.
When the game starts, the videoplayer finds a familiar control schema in every baseball videogame of the time. Batting is really simple, although probably at defense, the virtual players are a bunch of hall-of-famers. Every outfielder have bazookas for arms, and trying to steal a base is a 99.5% recipe for an out. So the options are limited to look for homeruns everytime, becoming masters of Billy Ball style, or developing an extraordinary technique for runnings bases to advance slowly.
When pitching, is not possible to adjust horizontally the position of the pitcher. Which was odd, because it was common-place in almost all baseball videogames at the time. This is compensated by really sharp curveballs, with the side-effect of frequent beanballs.
The videoplayer can choose from the 26 teams competing at MLB at 1987:
This includes the rosters, which include the accurate numbers of the players in the 1987 season (not all, some of them were from the 1986 season, and others… honestly, no idea). But the names are not included.
You see, beside the license to use the league’s name, the use of rosters and stats were included in the deal. But not the license of the MLBPA (Player’s Association), and it was surely because other videogame already had that license.
So, if you did not known which numbers used the players, well, you can face a relatively hard time figuring out the numbers belonging to which player. Difficulty translated to building up the batting order. With certain basic baseball knowledge, the videoplayer could create relatively useful lineups, like putting the dude with most homeruns as fourth bat.
Strictly speaking, there was not a legacy in videogame sequels. But it had a strong impact in another area.
As already mentioned, the license allowed the use of rosters and stats of the players, including the number. But not the names. So it disappointed at least a child at the time, unable to properly spot his favorite baseball player. Let’s remember that even if there was ways to find that particular stat, like Baseball Almanac books, it was not exactly the best way to look through a book to spot which player is who in the videogame.
That was the reason behind the father’s kid, lawyer by profession, sued Nintendo and the developing company for dubious marketing, and a ridiculously high amount of money. Considerably higher than the cost of a Nintendo NES cart at the time.
The lawyer did not win the sue, and IMO, he was partially right, even if the retribution money asked was the next step beyond absurd. However, there was something of solid ground in it, because since then, the companies have been more explicit with the licenses used in the videogames.
In the then-baseball crazy hometown of mine, the videogame was really popular. Even with the tedious time involved in building up the starting lineups.
Interestling, in my group of friends who played this videogame, many of us were quite familiar with many of the numbers used by the Major League Baseball players by then. Probably not exact, but really close in many cases. They were really good times, when in TV more different sports were aired, being MLB matches a common option.
Let’s consider that there were a lot of baseball videogames for the NES running around in my hometown. It was frequent to compare all of them. The particular appeal of this one, was giving us the feeling of playing with all the Major League Baseball teams of the time.
Console Icon taken from Retroarch.
MLB teams logos images taken from SportsLogos.
Artícle where you can read about the sue, in case you’re interested at the topic.