Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#112 – Tecmo World Wrestling

Wrestling with my first Tecmo sports game!

Basic title screen, but great title theme!

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 1/5/19 – 1/13/19
Difficulty: 7/10
My Difficulty: 7/10
My Video: Tecmo World Wrestling Longplay

Today we have another NES wrestling game. I am surprised at how many of them are on the system. There are four WWF games and a smattering of others, even a first party Nintendo title. I know that Tecmo Bowl and Super Tecmo Bowl are highly regarded football games and Tecmo makes good games in general. That alone made me hopeful that Tecmo World Wrestling would be a solid entry. Let’s see how it fared.

Tecmo World Wrestling was released in Japan, North America, and Europe. The initial version was on the Famicom. In Japan it was named Gekitou Pro Wrestling!! Toukon Densetsu and was released in September 1989. The NES version came out in April 1990 and the PAL release was in November 1990. The game was developed and published by Tecmo in all regions.

There isn’t much story to go along with this game. You are competing in a tournament to become the champion of Tecmo World Wrestling and win the title. The matches feature a live announcer, Tom Talker, who will provide commentary throughout the game. There are ten wrestlers to choose from, each with special techniques that not all other wrestlers use. Win matches against all the other competitors to win the game.

Choose your wrestler from this instructional pamphlet.

At the title screen, you select between single-player or two player mode. Multiplayer only has one-on-one matches where each opponent chooses a wrestler. Choosing single player mode presents you with a booklet featuring two wrestlers per page. Press either A or B to flip pages to view two more wrestlers. There are ten wrestlers in the game: Akira Dragon, El Tigre, Pat Gordon, Rex Beat, Jackie Lee, Boris Chekov, Mark Rose, Julio Falcon, Randy Gomez, and Dr. Guildo. First find the page of the wrestler you want. Then move the star cursor to either the left or right page with the D-pad. Press Start to choose that wrestler. After selection, choose your name. The wrestler’s current nickname is the pre-provided value. Use the D-pad to move the cursor around, press A to choose a letter, and press B to go back a letter. Finally, press Start to play.

Before your first match, you get to do muscle training to get stronger. You also do this after every loss. You can choose between squats, sit-ups, and push-ups. Each choice seems to be the same, just with different animations. This is a button-mashing mini-game where you press A as fast as you can for 10 seconds. You’ll see the workout animation along with the timer, power level, and push meter. The push meter is what fills up as you mash the A button and once it’s filled up all the way you will add a notch to your power meter. You begin at Power 0 but can go all the way up to Power 7. The power meter determines how powerful your moves are when fighting an opponent.

First, let’s cover some basic ground rules. The object is to knock your opponent down and pin him to a three-count to win the match. You can also win by submission by forcing your opponent to give up. Matches are seven minutes long and are considered a draw if there is no winner after time. Wrestlers fighting outside the ring begin a twenty-count and lose by disqualification if one is still outside the ring after the count. If both wrestlers reach the twenty-count, the match is considered a draw. There is also a five-count and associated disqualification for climbing and hanging out on top of the turnbuckle.

Wrestling with commentary just like on TV.

Matches are shown in a split screen view. The top half contains all the action in the ring. The screen can contain the whole width of the ring but slides over a little to show the outside of the ring on either side if one of the wrestlers gets thrown out. The bottom half contains the status bar. You see the match timer and stamina meters of each wrestler. Two player mode also features what is called a biometer underneath the timer. It changes between red for player one and blue for player two. Whichever color is more full on the meter means that player will have better power and defense for a time. At the bottom is the running commentary by announcer Tom Talker. He clues you in on what moves are being performed and makes the matches more entertaining.

I have not yet played Pro Wrestling, but thanks to this article at Hardcore Gaming 101, I have learned that the control scheme between the two games are similar. You can move freely around the ring with the D-pad. Double tap either Left or Right to run in that direction. You can bounce along the ropes until you press the opposite direction to stop. Press Up when in the corner of the ring to climb on the turnbuckle and press Down to get back down. If your opponent is outside the ring, you can walk into the ropes to go down on the floor with him. Move toward the ring to go back inside from the floor. To pin a downed opponent, press B while standing next to him. Mash the A and B buttons to break out of a pin. You can also clinch an opponent simply by walking up to him.

There are a surprising number of attacking moves in the game. You can do basic strikes by pressing A or B. You can do two different attacks with A and B while running. You can do a jumping attack off the turnbuckle. You can also attack an opponent while he is laying on the ground. Most of the moves are done from clinching with the opponent. Simply pressing Left or Right will throw your opponent toward the ropes. The other wrestler is also trying to do a move during the clinch, so I found you have to mash the button to get your move in hopefully. The A and B buttons do different moves, and there are also different moves when combined with a D-pad direction. So there is an Up and A move, a Down and A move, a Left or Right (toward the opponent) and A move, as well as moves swapping in the B button.

Training sure looks intense!

Wrestlers also have special moves. These are moves that replace default moves and only apply to certain wrestlers. For example, the normal Left+A move while clinching is the Back Drop. Akira Dragon and Jackie Lee will do a German Suplex instead, while El Tigre and Mark Rose do the Northern Right Suplex. (That particular move is a mistranslation and should actually be the Northern Lights Suplex.) Furthermore, most of these special moves only are used when the wrestler is low on stamina and the common, default moves are used with higher stamina. It’s all very complicated and the manual is really important in detailing what moves you have available. I think the high/low stamina moves make the matches more interesting as the stronger, more exciting moves will occur toward the end of the contest.

Tecmo World Wrestling features what the manual calls Zoom Mode. These are cutscenes that occur whenever a wrestler does one of his signature moves against an opponent with little or no stamina remaining. They are just like what you see when scoring a touchdown in Tecmo Bowl. These scenes flow freely during the match, replacing the action briefly while leaving the bottom half of the screen with the timer and commentary intact. They are very well animated and neat to look at. I think they serve as a nice little break from the action but do get repetitive after a while.

In the single-player mode, you will match up against each other wrestler in order. Each win advances you to the next wrestler. Losing a match or a draw puts you back to the previous wrestler instead of a rematch. You are forced to put on a big winning streak to make progress in the game, and of course each wrestler gets more difficult the farther you go. Being able to do some training and increasing the power meter after each setback helps you do more damage in subsequent matches, plus you can keep playing and continuing for as long as you want. After winning against all nine wrestlers, there is one more wrestler remaining known as the Blue Mask. He was disqualified from preliminary matches in the competition, but he is the strongest wrestler in the game with all the best moves.

Detailed cutscenes provide a break in the action.

This was my first time playing Tecmo World Wrestling, as will be the case with all other wrestling games on the NES. I was surprised to find out that this game is really cheap online. It should only cost around $5 and is probably cheaper bundled with other games. I’ve had an extra copy or two through all my game buying, but it doesn’t seem quite as common as the pricing would normally indicate.

A good way I would describe this game is exhausting. It’s not on the level of Super Team Games, but it wears my forearms and fingers out for sure. The controls are complex enough so that there is some nuance to the action, but ultimately most of the time is spent button mashing. The obvious button mashing occurs during the training. It is very easy to go up one power level during training and very hard to go up two levels at once. My button mashing technique is to lock my arm and vibrate it to rapidly tap the button. I can keep that up for the ten seconds but usually I fell one notch short of that second power level. In the matches, later ones especially, I reserved that technique for when I needed to pull off a well-timed move or kick out of a pin with no stamina left. This game can be beaten quickly, but lose a few matches and all of a sudden it takes a while to complete. It really wore me out, and losses were demoralizing.

My completed run of the game on my longplay video is bad. I think it’s one of my worst videos. I was able to beat the game one time before when I wasn’t recording and just chipping away a couple matches at a time over a day. The next time I played, I set up the recording and got all the way up to the Blue Mask but failed over a few tries before calling it quits for the night. After a day of rest, I got up early in the morning on a Sunday and grinded out a win. It took me two hours to finish the game. I reached the Blue Mask about four or five times and each match progressively got better. It shouldn’t have been that way since I know I got more tired as I played, plus my power meter dipped down to level 4 at one point and I was too tired to possibly upgrade twice per attempt. I had to take a ten-minute break near the end of the game and didn’t bother editing it out as I feel the resting is part of the experience. My family was waking up and I was running out of time for playing, but I managed to beat the Blue Mask by disqualification with a perfectly timed pile driver on the outside. Any way I can get a win in a game like this, I will take it.

The Blue Mask won’t fall easy.

My wrestler of choice was Dr. Guildo and I had a decent strategy to progress in the game. I picked Dr. Guildo simply because he was the only US wrestler and I get a kick out of representing my country in games like this. Plus, he’s the biggest wrestler and looks pretty cool. I highly abused his Giant Swing move. Knock the opponent down any way you can, and press toward the opponent and B when he is on the ground to grab him by the legs and swing him around. This move often throws the opponent directly out of the ring. At about half stamina or less, he would lay down long enough to do an attack from the top of the turnbuckle to the floor, which does some of the highest damage I found in the game. The Giant Swing is a sure thing when you can get your opponent down, but it causes issues with trying to pin your opponent with him usually getting thrown out of the ring where he can’t be pinned. Once I get the opponent with almost no stamina, I would do some kind of knockdown move, do an elbow drop or two while knocked down, and go for the pin. Often that was enough to win though the later opponents were more likely to kick out.

This is a challenging game, but I have a theory on how it works so that I decided to reduce its difficulty rating a little bit. This is just a theory based on my own experience and may not be accurate at all. I get the feeling that this game intentionally gets easier the longer you play and that it also uses the two-player biometer in the background so that the opponent ends up stringing a bunch of moves against you no matter how well you are playing. My first match with Blue Mask in my video I got destroyed, even with a full power meter. After several other attempts that got a little better each time, I dominated that final match. While out of stamina, Blue Mask then got into a stretch where I could not do anything against him. At that point I’m sure I was working off a bit of adrenaline that could have increased my finger speed. I was not at max power since it decays the more you lose and I couldn’t build it back up. With a partial power level and general fatigue, it doesn’t make sense to me that I could hit every move at the start of the match and then not be able to do anything productive at all for a time. In my mind the dynamic balancing has to be intentional. Just keep playing and grinding. This game would benefit greatly if it had passwords. As it turns out, the Japanese version does have a password system that was removed for the US and PAL releases. Maybe the difficulty does slide down as some sort of counter measure. I’m getting into conspiracy theory territory now, so I better quit while I’m ahead.

Tecmo made another great game with Tecmo World Wrestling. This is an early contender for best NES wrestling game. The graphics are excellent with great animation and detail. I’m particularly fond of the text font. The cutscenes do get repetitive, but they look great and I welcome the small break to rest up for the rest of the match. The music is equally excellent. The title screen theme doesn’t usually get heard the whole way through and that’s a shame. It’s not so much underrated as it is under heard. The controls, while complex, are responsive. The least impressive part of the game is in the gameplay loop. Matches tend to get repetitive and for me it devolved into both explicit and implicit button mashing. I suppose that just comes with the territory and I will have to live with that, but it wore on me and got me more irritable the longer I had to play. The presentation is right and the gameplay at its core is solid, so for a wrestling game you can’t go wrong with Tecmo World Wrestling.

#112 – Tecmo World Wrestling


#46 – Bases Loaded

Better hope you are loaded with free time!

The music is upbeat, at least!

To Beat: Win 80 Games
Played: 1/2/17 – 3/1/17
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
Video: Bases Loaded Final Game and Ending

Bases Loaded is a game that has a reputation for being a very long game, which I can now confirm to be true. I am not the biggest fan of sports video games, so this is exactly the type of game that I wanted to avoid playing if I could. I originally came up with the idea in my Methodology to shuffle undesirable games like this to the end of the list and most likely skip them altogether. I have since had a change of heart and decided that if I really want to beat all the NES games, I shouldn’t make excuses against any game at all. So occasionally I will be pulling a game off the top of my “snub list” and playing that one instead. Bases Loaded is the first game off of that list, and actually it came at a good time because I had been building a large backlog of game posts and needed a long game to help me catch up with writing.

Bases Loaded is known in Japan as Moero!! Pro Yakyuu and was originally an arcade title in Japan only in 1987. It was published and developed by Jaleco. That same year the game was ported to Famicom by the developer Tose, and it was brought to the NES in 1988. A Game Boy port was released in 1990. Bases Loaded had several other installments. In all there are four NES games, three SNES games called Super Bases Loaded, and Bases Loaded ’96: Double Header for the Sega Saturn and Playstation. The original Bases Loaded was also released for Virtual Console on the Wii, 3DS, and Wii U, all in both Japan and North America.

When you start the game you choose from either Pennant mode or Vs. Mode. Pennant mode is the single player game and Vs. Mode is for a two-player game. If you select Pennant mode you are brought immediately to the password screen where you may continue your game. If you leave the password as the default or enter the wrong password, the game assumes you are playing a new season. You get to pick your team from the 12 teams in the league. In two player mode both players will choose their team. From there you go right into a baseball game!

I spent a lot of hours looking at this screen.

The pitching perspective is similar to how baseball games are shown on TV. You see the pitcher from behind looking toward the batter and catcher at home plate. Before throwing a pitch, you can tap Left or Right on the D-Pad to position the pitcher where you want him on the mound. To throw a pitch you press A while pressing directions on the D-Pad to choose your pitch. You can throw a fastball by holding Up or a breaking ball by holding Down before you throw. You can also hold Left or Right to target one side of the plate if you choose, and you can hold diagonal directions for both pitch type and direction. As the pitcher winds up to throw, you can then hold down any direction on the D-Pad to curve the pitch toward that direction. The breaking pitches are slower in speed than the fastball but have more curve as they approach home plate. The two step process of pitching allows you to throw many different types of pitches. Also, if there is a runner on base, you can press B and the direction of the base before throwing to do a pickoff move to try and get the runner out. Here, Right represents first base, Up represents second base, and Left represents third base. I never used this because I couldn’t figure out the timing for the pickoff.

When a batter puts a ball into play, the perspective shifts to an overhead view. You take control of the fielder that is closest to the ball. Use the D-Pad to move your fielder in any direction. You pick up the ball whenever you come in contact with it, and from there you the throw the ball by holding the D-Pad at the base you want and pressing A. Throws automatically go to first base if no direction is held. Any subsequent defender with the ball can run and throw to bases in the same way. If you don’t press anything at all when the ball is put into play, the fielders will automatically run toward the ball which is a nice touch. They will usually end up catching weak fly balls for you in the outfield. If the ball gets past an outfielder then it is best to take matters into your own hands.

The batting uses the same perspective as the pitching. You press A to swing at the pitch. As you swing you can hold down a direction on the D-Pad to swing toward a specific area. For instance, hold Up to swing high or Down to swing low. You can also swing toward the left or right and also in the middle by not pressing anything. Essentially you have to aim your swing toward the pitch right before the catcher grabs it if you want to make contact. If you want to bunt, press B before the pitcher starts his delivery to go into the bunting stance. When bunting you use the D-Pad to move the bat around to try and bunt it. You can also attempt to steal bases if you have a runner on by pressing B and the direction for the base during the pitcher’s windup.

It’s fun juggling several baserunners when you get a base hit like this.

Baserunning takes place from the overhead view. You press B and a direction to advance that runner ahead a base or press A and a direction to go back toward a base. You can move all the runners by pressing Down and either A to move them back or B to move them ahead. I found this a little confusing so here’s an example to explain how it works. If you have a runner either at first base or between first and second, you use Right on the D-Pad to control that runner. Hold Right and press B to move the runner toward second, or press Right and A to move the runner toward first. I am very used to the R.B.I. Baseball style of A plus direction to retreat to a base and B plus direction to advance to that base, and I never really did get used to the different method here.

You can choose to bring in a new pitcher or a pinch hitter. While pitching or batting, press Start to call timeout and press A to bring up the scoreboard. You can choose a new pitcher or batter by selecting his number on the board and pressing A, or you can change your mind with B. If you bring in a pinch hitter, sometimes you have to make an additional substitution before going back to defense if the new hitter does not play the same position as the player you replaced. Each pinch hitter is assigned either as an infielder, outfielder, or catcher, but you can’t tell which one they are. Also, the game will not allow you to pinch hit for a batter if there are no available players at that position. You have to keep track on your own as you play to figure out which positions your best pinch hitters play.

Each player in the game has a name as well as some basic statistics. Batters have a batting average and home run total displayed on the scoreboard before batting. You can see the ERA of the pitcher chosen as well when brought into the game. The home run numbers tend to mirror well with batter power and the pitchers with lower ERA can have more curve to their pitches, but this isn’t always true. It takes some playing to figure out who is more useful to the team.

When you finish a game you get a password. These are 7 characters long with only uppercase letters, so they are easy to manage. The passwords contain the number of games you have played along with your number of wins and the team you will play next.

Not looking too good for the outfielder.

Bases Loaded is one of the sports games on the system that requires you to play a full season of games to get the ending. The season consists of 132 games but you can end it early if you win 80 games. I believe this is the only way to get the ending, but I am not about to play 132 games just to see what happens.

This was my first and likely only time playing through Bases Loaded. It is a very common cart that shows up all the time and it’s cheap. As of this writing I have somewhere between 8-10 copies of the game because it is that common and that hard to get rid of short of giving them away. I bet that most NES collectors got this game early on.

When I started the game I picked Omaha as my team. There were quite a few teams in this game where there is not a real-life MLB team in the same city, and Omaha stood out to me. That team is not one of the good teams in the game, and so the beginning of my season got off to a rough start. As usual it takes some time to get accustomed to the gameplay. I have played a few baseball games on the NES but none from the behind-the-pitcher perspective. It made pitching and hitting different which meant it took me longer to get the hang of the game. My first few games ended up closer than I thought they would, but I fell short. The fourth game I played was my first win and then I lost the next, starting off the season with a 1-4 record. That’s when I figured out The Exploit.

One thing the game has going for it is that the pitching is consistent. I am used to games where you have control over the ball in-flight, but here the path of the pitch is already determined when it leaves the pitchers hand. I took advantage of this mechanic. There is a certain spot the pitcher can throw the ball where it is always called a strike if the batter doesn’t swing, and the batter will always miss if he does. Once you figure this out, you can consistently throw strikeouts and the batters will never make contact with the ball.

This is the magic spot for infinite strikeouts!

Not every pitcher has the capability of throwing this super pitch, so you have to find one who does. For Omaha, the pitcher I relied on the most was Foot. Strange name for a pitcher, I know. Here is my exact technique. Hold Down and Left and press A to start the pitch, then hold Down and Right before letting go of the ball. This starts the pitch on the left side and fades it over to the bottom right for a strike every single time. Now this doesn’t last for long. Pitchers get tired the longer they are in the game and at that point the pitch is no longer effective. It takes Foot 40 pitches to get tired, meaning he can get me to the 5th inning with one out and one strike if I execute perfectly. The good news is I can take advantage of his tired state to throw another super pitch. This time just hold Down, press A, then hold Right. A left-handed batter will sometimes have this pitch called a ball, so to compensate I have to slide the pitcher over to the left one tiny step before executing the pitch. This works for another 30 pitches which gets me to the 8th inning. Then I change pitchers over to Waters who can throw the same pitch as Foot does when he gets tired. Between the two of them I can cover more than 9 innings without the other team scoring anything. Armed with this knowledge I won the next 79 games in a row to end my season at 80-4.

With the defensive side completely solved by pitching, there’s not much to worry about on offense. My strategy consisted of scoring one run and then making outs as quickly as I can. For the most part, I decided to swing away at every pitch just to put the ball into play. Sometimes I would make an out the normal way, other times I would get a hit and purposefully get thrown out at first or second, and occasionally I would hit a home run. The homers may be counterproductive, but they are fun!

My lineup was not particularly good but they got the job done. Far and away my best hitter was the number four hitter Lyonse. His stats showed 25 home run power but he probably hit 50-60 for me. He would hit the ball hard almost every time he batted. The rest of the lineup power wise was remarkably consistent. Each other player with the exception of the pitcher had 5-10 homers each regardless of their noted totals. I even had the pitcher hit a home run one time, which I couldn’t believe when I saw it!

On that note I had a few other rare moments documented over the course of the season. In one two-game stretch Lyonse hit five straight home runs. In another game, I purposefully stopped myself from scoring to try and hit a walk-off homer in either the 9th inning or extra innings. I went scoreless through 12 innings and then the game suddenly ended in a 0-0 tie but credited me with the win anyway. I couldn’t find that outcome documented anywhere else, so that was a neat tidbit to discover.

I enjoyed running up the score in my final game!

The problem with Bases Loaded is not so much that it demands you play a large number of games, but it’s that the pace of play for each individual game is terribly slow. The pitching in particular is very intentional. The entire pitch from windup to catcher’s mitt is slow. The catcher then slowly throws the ball back to the pitcher to start the next pitch all over again. It takes a long time for the fielding to end when an out is recorded. The scoreboard showing which batter is coming up to the plate is displayed for a long time. There’s no mercy rule like in R.B.I. Baseball so all nine innings need to be played each game. I get that the idea here is to look and feel like a real baseball game, but trying to play through 80 wins with this pace is agonizing especially when the game boils down to simply executing the same plan over and over. When trying to speed through the game like I did it still took 25-30 minutes per game, and that adds up to about 40 hours over the entire season. That’s a lot of time to spend on an old baseball game, but hey, this is what I signed up for when I started this project!

Bases Loaded has a lot of minor glitches too. Sometimes the outfielders will drop routine flyouts. Sometimes an infielder steps out of the way when the ball is thrown at him. Sometimes the defense forgets who is holding the ball and you can circle the bases for a cheap run while the defense does nothing. When a ball is hit to the first baseman, he will run to the bag in a rapid zigzag pattern instead of running straight to the base. One time I saw an umpire standing on top of the crowd past the left field wall. Once I saw two infielders standing on top of each other throwing the ball back and forth instead of toward the intended base. With the long season, it ended up being a breath of fresh air to see some weird things happen like that.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that there’s really no reason to play Bases Loaded in the single player mode anymore unless you are trying to beat all the games or you are involved in some kind of other larger project. It might be fun for a few games but the whole season is obviously such a drag. The two player mode could still be fun, but I think there are better baseball games on the NES and time is better spent playing them instead.

#46 – Bases Loaded


#44 – R.B.I. Baseball

Crush monster home runs in this quintessential NES baseball game!

Not shown is the giant baseball and corresponding *pling* sound effect at power on.

To Beat: Win 9 Games
Played: 12/29/16 – 12/30/16
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
Video: R.B.I. Baseball Longplay

The NES library holds a large collection of sports games. While Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! and T&C Surf Designs could be loosely classified as sports games, I feel comfortable saying that today’s game is the first major sports title covered on the blog. There are more baseball games on NES than any other sport. So not only is it fitting that this first sports game is a baseball game, but it also happens to be one that I really enjoy and have spent a lot of time playing over the years.

R.B.I. Baseball is the first in a long series of baseball games developed by Namco for release in Japan. There it is known as Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium. Subsequent games on the Famicom were released yearly spanning 1986 through 1994. The 1989 installment was called Famista as a play on the name Famicom, and the series has been named Famista ever since. R.B.I. Baseball on the NES was released in June 1988 and was published by Tengen. This is one of three licensed NES games published by Tengen. It was also released as an unlicensed black cart version that seems to be much more prevalent than its gray cart equivalent.

The Famista series in Japan would carry on to many other consoles such as the Super Famicom, MSX, and Game Boy, as well as modern versions on the 3DS and Android/iOS. Not related to Famista, the R.B.I. Baseball name would be used in a brand new series developed by Major League Baseball (MLB) themselves in 2014. This separate series has received new entries every year. Also unrelated to both this new series and Famista are two R.B.I. Baseball games on NES. Developed by Atari Games and published by Tengen, R.B.I. Baseball 2 was released in 1990 and R.B.I. Baseball 3 came out in 1991. These games share a similar style as the original game but with all MLB teams and rosters included. They are not officially licensed by Nintendo and so they will not be covered in the main project, though I will probably play and write about them one of these days.

Choose your abbreviation and let’s get started!

R.B.I. Baseball lets you play a typical nine-inning match against either a computer opponent or another human player. When you begin, you get a list of ten teams and you can choose the team you want. The list only consists of two letter abbreviations and only a fraction of the teams are covered. The last two teams in the list are the American League All-Stars and National League All-Stars, and their rosters are comprised of best players not already included within the other eight teams. Once teams are selected, choose from one of four pitchers. Then the game begins!

The gameplay for R.B.I. Baseball breaks down nicely into pitching and fielding on the defensive side, and batting and baserunning on the offensive side. The one common thread between everything is base selection. On the controller, Right represents first base, Up is second base, Left is third base, and Down is home plate. Most baseball games will use this same scheme because it is both sensible and intuitive.

Player 1 is always the away team, meaning he bats first. While batting, the pitcher is shown at the top of the screen and the batter on the bottom. When batting you can position your player anywhere within the batter’s box with the D-Pad. Press the A button to swing the bat. You can hold the button down to do a full swing, and you must press A again to bring your bat back if you swing way too early. If you tap the A button the bat will immediately stop at whichever point it lies during the swing path, and if you get the bat to stop over the plate you can bunt the ball. The B button is used for sending your baserunners on a steal attempt. While the pitcher is winding up to throw, you press B along with the direction of the base you want to steal. For instance, if you have a runner on first base, press B and Up to have the baserunner start running toward second base.

It doesn’t look like it but this is good swing timing.

When a batted ball is put into play, the perspective shifts to an overhead view of the field and now you control the baserunners. Here the A button is used to go back and the B button is used to go ahead, and you combine this with a D-Pad direction to direct a specific runner to the nearest base. This is the same as baserunning while batting. For example, say you hit a ball all the way to the outfield wall. When your batter reaches first base, you can press Up and B to advance the runner to second base. Now if the throw from the outfielder is going to beat you to second base, you can send the runner back to first by pressing Right and A and avoid making an out. As long as the ball is hit fair and the screen remains in fielding mode, you can move runners around as much as you want, though you run the risk of getting tagged out for being careless on the bases.

In the bottom half of the inning you control the pitcher and defense. To pitch, you start by positioning your pitcher on the mound with either Left or Right. Press the A button to start your windup and throw a pitch. If you hold Down with A, you will throw a faster pitch, and if you hold Up with A you will throw a slower pitch. The slow pitch plays a different sound effect than that other pitches and sometimes it will bounce off the ground, causing the batter to swing right over top of it. After the pitch is thrown you can steer it with Left or Right to curve the pitch. Finally, the B button in combination with a D-Pad direction lets you do a pickoff move toward a base.

If the opponent puts a ball into play, then you play defense from the overhead view. Depending on where the ball is hit, the game will automatically give you control of the nearest fielder. Actually, you get to control most fielders simultaneously. Just run your fielder into the ball to pick it up, or you can follow the ball’s shadow if it is hit into the air. Once you have possession of the ball, press A and a direction to throw the ball to the desired base. If you press A without a direction the throw goes to first base which is useful for infield grounders. If you press B with a direction then your fielder will run toward the base with the ball in hand. This is useful for running down baserunners. The game goes back to pitching once the fielder has the ball without any controller movement for a while.

Sometimes you have to make a long throw to get an out.

The team rosters are very simple. As selected at the start, there are only four pitchers per team. The first two pitchers are the starters and the other two are relievers. This is important because the starters maintain their stamina longer than the relievers. Also in consecutive games, the prior game’s starter is unavailable. You can change pitchers in the middle of the game by pressing Start to call timeout while pitching. You can then bring up a menu of available pitchers and get a fresh arm into the game right away. The same goes for hitting if you want to bring in a pinch hitter. Each team has four pinch hitters on the bench and they can be swapped anywhere into the lineup regardless of position. Just like in a real game, if you pinch hit for the pitcher, then you must select a new pitcher at the start of the next half inning.

Players have different attributes that are not always spelled out in the game. For pitchers, you can see their ERA. Typically, the lower the ERA the better the pitcher. What the ERA doesn’t indicate is that some pitchers throw faster, some have better curves, and a few even throw sidearm for a different look. On the hitting side, you can see a hitter’s batting average and home run count. Hitters with high batting averages tend to hit the ball more often in places it can’t be fielded easily, and hitters with high home run totals have more power. The hitters also have different speeds while baserunning with no visible stat to suggest how fast they run. Finding skilled players in certain areas requires trial and error.

Love that 32 home run power!

R.B.I. Baseball was one of the few sports games I had growing up and I played it often. I owned both the unlicensed black cart and the licensed gray cart and those same copies are still in my collection today. This game was particularly popular in college and people would drop in to play matches all the time. I haven’t lost to the CPU in ages but I lost quite a few games in the two player mode. Our preferred house rule was “straight pitch” style where we always threw pitches right down the middle, focusing just on hitting, fielding, and baserunning.

Despite all those years of playing R.B.I. Baseball, it turns out I learned something new about the game when I set out to beat it. I was expecting that I would have to win a single match to consider the game beaten. However, there is a different ending screen if you win nine matches, one against each opponent. The downside to that is that there are no passwords or saving in the game, so you must complete all nine games in a single sitting. The upside is that the game has a mercy rule which can shorten games significantly. If you lead by 10 or more runs at the end of an inning, then you win immediately.

My favorite team in the game is the National League All-Stars, but similar to college it’s not quite fair to play as one of the teams completely stacked with talent. I would have definitely picked my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, except they aren’t represented in the game at all. So I decided to play as my backup team Detroit. They are a very good offensive team which aligned with my desire to score a bunch of runs to win quickly by the mercy rule. Since I have the game mastered already, it was a breeze to beat all nine teams.

It’s true! Chicks dig the long ball.

Here are some stats about my 9-0 run of the game. I outscored my opponents 112-4, and I allowed all four of those runs in one inning of my first game. Every game I won by the mercy rule and I averaged a little over 5 innings per game. I pitched two separate three inning no-hitters and struck out 90 batters total. I got 145 hits, including 28 home runs, and I only allowed 23 hits. It was a pretty thorough bashing of the other teams, but I expected nothing less!

One interesting tidbit about R.B.I. Baseball is that it is the first console baseball game that uses actual MLB player names. This is because the game is the first baseball game officially licensed by the Major League Baseball Players Association. However, the game is not licensed by MLB, and as a result it cannot include the names of the actual teams. So here you have the names of the players but not the name of the team, leaving only the city names to represent the teams.

It may not be easy to see just looking at the game, but R.B.I. Baseball is a classic title that is still fun to play today. Appearances can be deceiving, since the characters are large, chunky sprites and the movement feels slow. The music, while catchy, can get repetitive over a long play session. What really matters is that R.B.I. Baseball is simple and easy to play. It may be a trimmed down experience, but it is so intuitive and quick to start playing that it has maintained its popularity for all these years. If the formula is good enough for a modern remake, then it is good enough here.

#44 – R.B.I. Baseball