Quality Control – RBI Baseball (NES)

RBI Baseball Cover Art
RBI Baseball Cover Art

So, for my recap of Nintendo Power last issue, I decided to select RBI Baseball from Atari/Tengen.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have chosen to select a baseball game. NES baseball games in general had one major problem – their fielding controls stunk wholly and utterly. Batting usually worked well. Giving instructions to the runners usually worked well. However, I have yet to encounter a Baseball game for the NES that didn’t have absolutely horrid fielding.

As you can tell from the last sentence, RBI Baseball’s fielding is pretty bad as well. Specifically, it runs into 3 problems – well, technically 4 problems, but I’ll get to the 4th in a minute.  Firstly, when you’re controlling fielders, you’re controlling blocks of fielders – you’re either controlling all of the outfield, or all of the infield. This makes getting the ball to the base where it’s needed more difficult, and makes catching fly balls more difficult. For that matter, the fielders you control don’t include basemen, so, among other things, I saw a baseball slide bounce right towards the space between my 3rd baseman and the shortstop. I went to move the 3rd baseman to catch it, and the shortstop moved instead – the computer got 2 runs in.

The second problem is that once the outfielders get the ball, whenever that will be, they never throw the ball to the infield hard enough, even if it’s center field throwing to 2nd base. Invariably, the ball will strike the ground several feet before it reaches the necessary base, bounces in to the basemen. If you’ve ever watched Major League Baseball, you know this never happens. I’d be willing to forgive poor fielding, if once I got the ball, I could get it where I needed to go quickly, and thus do damage control. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Third, getting fly balls is extremely difficult – whenever the ball goes up, it goes out of camera frame, and gives no definition on the arc for the ball – and whether it’s going, going, gone – or if it’s going to plop down a few feet outside of the infield. Again, this leads to more runs given up, and more runners on base, for really stupid reasons.

Finally, the fourth problem that I was saving for last, is that all of the concerns I just raised do not apply to the computer. This isn’t a case of “oh, I suck”, this is a case of the computer playing pro baseball, and because of the difficulties of the controls, the graphics, and the “physics”, I’m playing like Charlie Brown’s team. All in all, it makes the experience significantly less fun.

Now, there is a 7 game season available (one game against each team), and if you lose a game it isn’t a game over – however, there is no option to save your game and no password mode, so you have to play 7 games in one sitting. Just to make things slightly more annoying – there is no one-game two-player mode, just a best-of-7 series. You can still turn the system off or restart it after one game, but it’s still a nusance.  For all the gripes I had playing the Bases Loaded series when I first got into gaming, RBI Baseball is worse. Don’t play this game.

All that said, it is interesting to see this game, and see how baseball games have evolved over the years of play. The genre has improved a lot.