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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Acclaim

 

Developer

Acclaim

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

 

- Lots of features and stats

- Good control

- Realistic score results

- Does all the baseball basics very well

 

 

- Memory card hog

- If you’re casual fan there isn’t enough of a “history lesson”

- Successful batting takes a lot of work

 

 

Review: MLB 2004 (PS2)

Review: World Series Baseball 2K4 (PS2)

 

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All-Star Baseball 2004

Score: 7.7 / 10

 

I’ve often puzzled over baseball’s popularity but I’m certain it has something to do with beer and lukewarm hotdogs.  I’ve never really understood why so many people gather in one place to watch a guy throw a ball.  There’s a chance the guy with the stick will hit it, but in terms of excitement for the average observer, watching baseball is like watching a game of RISK.  I admit that quite a bit of strategy involved and All-Star Baseball 2004 (ASB) completely convinces me of this – but would I watch an afternoon double-header?  Only if I could stay awake.

 

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ASB is a good baseball game and better when played with a buddy.  There’s a definite social aspect to sports games, more so with baseball because it’s essentially turn-based.  Except during ASB’s Franchise mode, which allows you complete control of the GM’s office.  If you revel in stats and love to analyze numbers, ASB has you covered. (Just do the geeky GM thing when you’re alone.)  Making trades, signing players, etc. will interest most hardcore baseball fans, but will largely be ignored by casual fans.  No, casual fans will be more concerned with the action on the field.

 

Most baseball battles take place between the batter and the pitcher.  (A small percentage might involve the entire team but ASB does not simulate this.)  In ASB, if the batter used a cricket bat he’d still have a damn hard time hitting the ball.  Even after spending much time in Batting Practice, I still had trouble making contact – or I’d hit it out of the park.  I was five or six games in before I “mastered” the mechanics and hit anything other than homers.  The saving grace is that the teams take turns at bat (just like in real baseball).

 

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When it’s your turn on the mound it’s way easier to strike out a batter than it is to knock a ball into right field when on the offensive.  With a simple press of a button and a slight target adjustment each pitch will fly true.  (Think that batter’s crowding the plate?  Bean him.)  The pitcher controls are decidedly easier to “master” than the batting controls.

 

If you have the hardware, ASB sounds good without being over-the-top.  The most important aspect of the audio, the commentary, is great.  The pair often sound like 

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two buddies talking about the game of telling short stories about specific players.  Remembering Acclaim’s recent BMX XXX, I couldn’t help but think the pair would start at least one story with, “Remember those three women in Milwaukee?”  It’s more natural than most commentary found in other sports titles.  The roar of the crowd and the ambience is good.

 

The first downside of ASB is encountered even before the game fully loads.  ASB needs its own memory card.  It tracks so many stats and remembers so many settings I had to delete a swath of saved games before I had enough room to save even the rudimentary settings.  If I’d really wanted to get my hands dirty with the GM options I would have had to delete nearly everything.  It was probably time to buy a new memory card anyway, so off I went and bought a new one.

 

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If you’re not a baseball fan it’s unlikely you’ll get much out of a lot of ASB’s historical footage or understand the significance of the Negro League.  Even small amounts of background information to fill in casual players would have been welcomed.  I’m not thinking documentary length, but a few essays would have been nice.

 

Graphically there’s nothing to scream about.  Marquee players, like headliner Derek Jeter (so recently screaming with a dislocated shoulder) are recognizable but most others must be identified with their jersey number.  However, during gameplay their faces aren’t in view so it becomes a moot point.  The animation is very good and in a game like baseball where timing is so important, it’s good to see some effort when into it.

 

All-Star Baseball 2004 does all the basics well and with the extra features and historical aspects, it’s worth playtime for the hardcore baseball fan.  Even I, with an obvious indifference to the sport, got caught up in the game a few times over a couple of seasons.

 

- Omni

(April 5, 2003)

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