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Monday, November 14, 2011

Super Baseball 2020 (NEO4ALL) Review

Original release:

Game details:
Standard controller
1-2 players
VGA box

The following game was not officially released for Sega Dreamcast. It is emulated using NEO4ALL beta 4 developed by chui. This is an evaluation of the emulation of the game as well as the game itself.

Using Team RDC's release you can play this game as though it is a commercial game with only a brief loading screen.

Super Baseball 2020 is another example of great NEO4ALL emulation. There's no slowdown at all during gameplay. There is definitely an audio problem with a chime sound that happens sometimes in the game though. It sounds very high pitched and seems to last too long. Once while playing this occurred and afterwards all of the sound effects stopped working.

Super Baseball 2020 is more or less exactly what you'd expect from an early 90s 2D sports game. The fielding is more or less done automatically, and your only real responsibilities lie in batting and pitching. A lot of genres have made amazing progressions from the early days of gaming, but sports games make a hell of a case for perhaps the biggest transformation. Super Baseball 2020 is futuristic baseball. Robots take the field (whoever did the localization was clever, and RoboCop fans will spot a spoof in the naming), home runs are only a small segment of the stands (the ball rolls down back into play otherwise) and occasionally active land mines are added to the field. Seriously. You can also power up your players with money earned by making plays and scoring. This all sounds like it would make a pretty interesting game of baseball, but then the whole "early 90s sports game" thing rears its ugly head.

Since most everything is done automatically, the game degrades into a crapshoot of luck similar to Wii Sports Baseball. You do have some control over the fielding, which is typically very frustrating. Instead of giving you control of the fielder who is closest to where the ball will land, you're given control over every fielder the ball passes over. You could have a fielder running up to the ball, but when it gets close to another fielder you'll take control of them and unless you realize this is about to happen and react quickly, your other fielder will start running backwards as well. Another failing in this is that if there are multiple fielders on screen, all of them will move in the same direction. The strike zone is also quite an elusive mystery to me. As far as I can tell, it needs to be exactly over the plate, and not in the red zone on either side of it. Except half of the time it seems to not matter where you put it at all. Along with these problems, the AI is pretty brutal. It's near impossible to strike out the AI; they will swing on two strikes if the ball is anywhere near the strike zone and they will hit. Going back to something mentioned earlier, team power ups, these are pretty broken. It takes a lot of money to upgrade one of your players, money that is only earned by making plays and scoring. If you're losing then the AI is going to power up a lot and keep you stuck down in that hole. It's a pretty prime example of why the winner rewarding of the COD series really throws the game to one side and keeps it there.

I didn't have a chance to play the game with a friend for this review. Most of these issues would immediately disappear with another person to play with instead of the AI, so I'll recommend this as a game to play with friends.

According to the back of the box, there was some kind of match fixing going on, so these guys are using super baseball power to play super baseball super normally. Or something.

Knowing what the Neo Geo hardware is capable of, these are a huge let down. I understand this is a game from 1991 but even for that these graphics are poor. There's a bare minimum of animation here. If you swing at a ball and the batter holds back (the game will make judgment calls for you at times), they'll get stuck in the mid swing motion until your next swing. All of the players look the same; there's probably 3 different sets of character sprites swapped a million times.

It sort of fits with the whole future thing, but it's nothing noticeable. Like most of the game, the best thing you can say about it is that it's there.

Super Baseball 2020 is fun at times and wildly frustrating at others. It's a very dated game, but I could see it being enjoyable with friends.


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