9.0 / 10
to grips with Sega's new "platform agnostic" policy has been
significantly more difficult than first imagined.
Seeing the Sega logo appear on a Nintendo console, first with Chu-
Chu Rocket and most recently with Baseball Advance, (both for the
Gameboy Advance) is destabilizing.
Yet, I love it. Though
I cried when Dreamcast became sterile, and developed a slight hernia
when they spoke of developing cross platforms, I have now been won over
in spades. Sega's new hat
as a third party developer is fitting quite snug.
latest gem and 14th cross platform release is the Smilebit developed
Baseball Advance. This is
no port of any existing Sega baseball game, but a true blue original,
though it resembles the quality of the equally original World Series
Baseball on the Genesis (oh sweet, sweet Genesis).
Smilebit chose to focus on the look and feel of baseball with
Baseball Advance, and they have succeeded.
All teams are accounted for with fully licensed everything.
Though only four stadiums are selectable, they are thoroughly
modeled with all the nice details.
Yes, the limited choice of ballparks is cause for complaint, yet
when bumping around town on a bus or fearing for your life on a
turbulence-plagued flight, you really won't notice.
The stand out of the title, and what should now be considered the industry standard is the Batting interface. Borrowing the catcher's crotch viewpoint from World Series Baseball is the first plus, yet what comes next is total Smilebit innovation. Each batter when at the plate is given a cursor within the strike zone. The batters hitting ability will determine the size of the cursor (Ichiro's cursor is the biggest, Izringhausen's is the smallest). To hit the ball you must first aim your cursor at the spot you think the ball will be pitched, secondly you must charge your swing
holding down the A button. There
is a meter that gauges the strength of the swing on the display.
If the ball is pitched anywhere within the cursor, the bat will
automatically center on the ball. If
the cursor is outside of where the ball is pitched you must manually
adjust it in the time it leaves the pitchers hands to the time it
crosses the plate. Batting just can't get any deeper than this.
Connecting with the ball after successfully aiming and charging is
simply thrilling. The pitching
interface is equally enjoyable. Every
pitcher has their distinct pitches available to him, thus Kasaki has his
forkball and Maddux has his crippling curveball.
is flawless, effectively copying my favorite fielding engine ever in Ken
Griffey Baseball for the SNES. With
snappy control your fielder can jump or dive for the ball and pull off a
play at the bases with speed. Double
plays are feasible, and I've eked out a few triples.
Catching a fly ball is a bit more difficult than it should be,
but becomes natural with some experience.
The map that's ever-present in the game only covers the infield
and so is unable to radar-image the balls landing spot, though I guess
this is unrealistic anyway.
gameplay is well paced with a full game averaging around 20 minutes.
Sounds include signature Sega corny lounge pop, yet in-game
cheers and organ music are well done.
the season mode, stats are tracked only for you're team and the league
leaders, this is probably enough for anyone that isn't Tolen Dante.
Not surprisingly Smilebit, the most innovative of the Sega fold, has effectively taken a time intensive, potentially mind numbing sport and made it fast fun and pretty to boot. Though modes are limited and there's no two-player connectivity, the one player season experience defeats any console game to date.
Buy it on principle and enjoy.
(April 7, 2002)
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