It’s quite easy to sum up what we at Gamestyle know about rounders, it can be done in one word: nothing. However as I went to the Boardwalk & Baseball theme park in Florida a good few years back I was the most qualified to give judgement on the latest release from Acclaim.
Its good to see minority interest titles getting a release in other parts of the world as no doubt there are a few hardcore baseball fans in Britain if not Europe. Still why on earth do we get baseball titles while gems such as Final Fantasy Tactics (and perhaps PSO ver.2) remain firmly out of our reach? Gamestyle will never know. As you would expect from a major American publisher, it must have it’s own sports brand. EA have the most infamous brand and Acclaim have their lesser known All-Star range – perhaps due to the fact its been exclusively on the N64. Will this offer something new or more of the same statistics and faithful representation of a traditional sport?
Although this game does offer arcade settings don’t be fooled, it is a pure simulation and one for the fans of the sport. For your money you get the chance to select from all the 30 Major League teams – unfortunately being a Texas Ranger doesn’t involve beating up innocent civilians or acting like Judge Dredd, shame. In total there are over 700 hundred players here from the Major League, I won’t provide an example as they are all household names. There are statistics coming out of every section and you can choose to digest or ignore them, thankfully. You choose how in-depth you wish your game to become. Added to the package are the realistic and authentic stances, stadiums, uniforms, awards, drafts, free agents and team mascots. On the subject of mascots surely after sitting through another “funny” routine from the team mascot you could have the option to beat the crap out of them? This would increase your batting skills and you could be rewarded on the basis of damage inflicted?
Even though the game is from Acclaim it does remind me of EA’s Madden 2001 which I reviewed earlier this year. The style of presentation and the range of options is very similar, perhaps EA have set the benchmark in this field but these American sports games (and FIFA) are becoming very generic. If I had the misfortune to play EA’s Baseball title or one of the various basketball titles which clutter up EB shelves no doubt I could say the same again. A new approach is quite frankly needed as even with all the options and graphical touches you cannot change one thing about baseball, its boring! Simple additions as used by Virtua Tennis (lets face it, a tennis game without the women involved should be boring) to increase the enjoyment such as mini games, rewarding controls and gameplay could have been included. This sense of boredom applies to multiple players; such is the stop start nature of the game that it isn’t perhaps to our taste. The whole experience feels under control and is quite relaxing but everyone soon began to loose interest. It must be hard to follow a baseball team; at least with Raith I don’t know what’s going to happen next and often laugh so much that it hurts. None of that here.
There are plenty of modes to keep the baseball fan in heaven till the next instalment is released. I found the range of options and customisation quite daunting, for instance you may choose from Series, Home Run Derby, Practice, Exhibition, Quick Play, All Star, character creation and Season. Within each mode you can customise to your hearts content, fancy 162 game season? Not me! The practice modes are invaluable, as most would believe that baseball involves just hitting a ball with a diet cricket bat. By using the control method that Acclaim has obviously spent a great deal of time on, it soon becomes possible to place your shots. Getting to 1st base is pretty easy but it takes time, patience and a bit of skill to get to 3rd base as we all have experienced. Never mind a home run. The skill settings and options offer a variety of means to allow the more inexperienced person a chance of success.
All-Star Baseball 2002 looks great on the PS2 and every stadium, player, official and sound effect is beautifully reproduced for your pleasure. There are the odd glitches such as the occasional animation problem or the sleep-inducing commentary but overall you can tell that this product is made by fans, for fans.