Baseball Stars 2 Review

Baseball Stars 2 Review

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US Title:Baseball Stars 2
Japanese Title:Baseball Stars 2
By:SNK
Year:1992
Size:68 Megs
Home Release?Yes
MVS Release?Yes
CD Release?Yes

The programmers at Midway--the folks who brought the world such action-oriented coin-op hits as NBA Jam and NFL Blitz--tried to create an arcade baseball game no less than three different times, but could never hit on the proper balance between realism, pacing, and sheer fun. They should have taken a few lessons from Baseball Stars 2, which not only strikes that crucial balance, but delivers it with blinding color and a sense of humor.


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Background:

Whereas Baseball Stars Professional was SNK's earliest attempt at sports (released in 1990, BSPro was SNK's second MVS cart ever, after NAM 1975), Baseball Stars 2 looks and feels much more advanced than its predecessor, even though it came out soon after in 1992. Actually, it's fair to say the two games barely look like they're part of the same series. In the two years between BSPro and BS2, SNK's programmers learned a lot about sprite scaling, color palettes, and presentation--and it shows.


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The goal here is action. You won't find too many statistics here beyond the basics (ERA, batting average), nor will you find real-world teams (but there's something to be said for the 12 fake ones with names like the Aussie Thunders and the Japan Samurais--yes, with an S at the end). No, this is quarter-at-a-time baseball, and it's designed to deliver as much action in three minutes as possible. You'll find power-ups to give the hitter more bang in his bat, straightforward controls, and a bright, peppy, almost silly presentation that makes an impression--fast.


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Gameplay & Control: 9/10

BS2 uses all four buttons to perform just about any action an arcade player would want--batting, stealing, pitching, bunting, calling time-outs, sending in a relief pitcher or designated hitter, and more. Actually, there are enough control options that having the mini-marquee or insert handy isn't a bad idea the first few times you play, but even without it, most gamers can step up to the plate and learn as they go. The game moves along very quickly but never so fast or inaccurately that it feels like fantasy baseball. Players can control the direction of the pitch in-flight and move around quite a bit in the batter's box--great for adjustments when you find you're shanking nothing but fouls.


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Graphics: 8/10

"Candy-colored" is the best way to describe the look of Baseball Stars 2. Almost everything in the game is a vibrant primary shade, from the nuclear-waste neon green of the field to the bright red and blue of the fielders' gloves. Purists may call it wildly inappropriate, but the Fisher-Price approach only serves to underscore the high energy level of the gameplay. And at the time, Baseball Stars 2 certainly looked unlike any other baseball game before it. BS2 features split-screen presentation during hits (the lower third shows the batter hustling, while the top portion follows the ball), brief cutscenes (it's awesome when a batter gets hit by a pitch, then goes to the mound himself to exact bare-knuckled revenge), and constant repetition of the word "FIGHT!" in giant rainbow letters in the middle of the screen. Some decent 3D tricks are achieved when foul balls fly behind the plate, too, thanks to a simple scaling effect. As a result, Baseball Stars 2 has a vibrant look few other games have even attempted, let alone achieved.

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Sound/Music: 8/10

Sound is the game's strongest link to its BSPro lineage. The earnest, cub-reporter announcer returns with more joyously overenthusiastic quips ("He needs re-LIEF!") and a few lines that might make you think something was lost in the translation ("Those of you who have been around since the playoffs 35 years ago are invited to the night game free of charge!"). The music is an odd mix of early-90's sampling attempts (you'll hear the stuttering "B-b-b-b-b-b-baseball Stars Twoooooooo" more times than you will likely want to) and digital pseudo-rock; picture a Macintosh waking up one day and saying, "Today I will pretend I am an electric guitar." If nothing else, the music's memorable and energetic. Thankfully, it's also nicely arranged; otherwise, it would be a lot worse when it inevitably gets stuck in your head.


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Replay Value: 10/10

It's hard to beat sports games when it comes to replay value, especially if you have a friend to join you--it's literally infinite when two players square off. Two selectable skill levels (with six unique teams in each level) let the game develop with the players, too.


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Overall: 10/10

Okay, so it's essentially the number one MVS baseball game in a field of three--but who cares? It's still a wonderful, high-energy take on America's pasttime, oozing replay value and originality. It's easily worth about $50, perhaps more if you're a serious sports fan, so anything below $35 should be considered a steal--especially since you don't find them up for grabs too often. Catch one if you can!
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Dan Elektro
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