Retro Review: Baseball Stars 2
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Growing up with sports games in the 80’s and 90’s was so simple. Take baseball for example. You pitched the ball, fielded it, or hit it. As time went on, with consoles becoming more powerful and controllers increasingly complicated, new features such as franchising and player management systems were introduced to entice players to pony up another fifty to sixty dollars for something other than updated rosters, schedules, and statistics. However, many of us simpler folk (the ones that just wanted to play the damned game) were left by the wayside when managing a team became as much a part of the game as playing it.
However, SNK brings us back to those good old days with Baseball Stars 2, one of the latest games to come to the Neo Geo Station on the PlayStation 3. This re-release has some improvements for the modern day player such as Network Mode, which allows you to connect to the PlayStation Network to battle your friends online. It also gives you the ability to easily remap the buttons on the controller with a much simpler interface that lists the action next to PlayStation controller button that it’s mapped to. This is a far better than other Neo Geo Station games that showed you a mapping of the old Neo Geo Arcade controller that had nothing to do with the controller you had in your hands.
Aside from Network Mode, there is the Normal Mode where you can select Local Multiplayer which allows you to challenge a buddy to play a single game. Or if you’re solo, you can select the Penant Race to begin playing. Once selected, you can initially choose from one of six teams to play. However, these aren’t your typical MLB endorsed teams, but rather some generic teams such as the New York Monsters (my personal favorite) or the Tokyo Ninjas. Likewise, the players are just as generic, with names like Harakiri or Phil depending on your team selection. Furthermore, all the pitchers share one of two faces with not much more than a change in skin color and the baseball cap they’re wearing. While it may seem that the game would be bland in its cartoony simplicity, it only adds to the charm. Back then, this game was widely popular with its cutting edge graphics and top notch gameplay, and now it’s just as enjoyable in its nostalgia of simpler days.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward. As a pitcher, you have the ability to move left or right of the mound to give yourself some room to work with for your pitches. The strike zone is the same for all players, making it easy to remember where you need to put the ball to strike a player. Once the ball is thrown, you can curve it, speed it up, or slow it down after to mess with your opponent’s swing. If a ball is hit, you can control the infielders and outfielders to run after it, while tossing the ball to the appropriate plate is as simple as selecting it on your D-pad.
One thing you do need to keep an eye out for the pitcher’s physical state. As they play through the innings they can become fatigued, making their pitches slower, less responsive, and altogether easier to hit. The limit of having only three relief pitchers adds a certain level of challenge to game strategy and motivation for performance. Take your opponents out quickly and in as few strikes as possible, and your pitchers will last longer. Conversely, if you have problems taking out the opposition, your pitchers will get tired quicker, forcing you to relieve them which can cause issues in the closing innings.
On the offensive side, while batting you can move your player inside the batter’s box to match your position with the pitcher, and you can initiate a steal after a pitch is thrown. You also have the ability to select pinch hitters or power up your hitter from the menu with a larger bat for more hitting power. However, the control system isn’t without its faults, as there are the occasional moments where the controls will stutter. Fortunately, these moments are far and few between and don’t ruin the experience of the game.
Baseball Stars 2 still manages to deliver the same great entertainment on the PlayStation 3 as it did in the 90’s on the NEO GEO. Simple and straightforward gameplay makes the game easy to pick up, and the random selection of opposing teams provides new challenges every time you play, keeping the game fresh. If you’re a fan of just playing the game, Baseball Stars 2 is definitely something that should be in your download queue right now.
This game receives a 4.75/5.
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