Playing all the Super Nintendo games I can get my greedy little hands on means occasionally I have to delve into genres that I’m not that big on. Anyone who knows me could tell you that the only sport I tend to follow is mixed martial arts (and if you count it, professional wresting). Baseball has never been my thing- it’s fun enough to watch live, but there isn’t nearly enough face-kicking for my taste. I’ll give any game a fair shot though, and I played the hell out of Baseball Simulator 1.000 on the original Nintendo, so I was prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
Unfortunately, Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball kind of sucks. It’s nowhere near as fun as Baseball Simulator 1.000 or even plain old Baseball for the NES, and barely takes advantage of the SNES’ capabilities. The graphics are nothing to write home about, even if you go in not expecting much from a 16-bit sports game. There are nice little placards to give some flavour after each home run. I’ve also heard that there are mini instant-replay cinematics for close plays, but I never managed to trigger one. The sound is just weak – the start up has a catchy tune, but the music during the game would be lame even by NES standards. There’s some rudimentary voice work used to call plays, but it’s more an annoyance than a feature. And while I can’t really fault the game for not having the Major League Baseball license, meaning there are only a dozen or so teams and Ripken is the only real player present, I find it a bit hard to swallow that the Orioles would sign a guy named Jack B. Nimble.
Game play is where CRJB falls apart. The game is as slow as molasses and frustratingly imprecise, whether you’re batting, pitching or fielding. Once you get a handle on the unintuitive timing, but once the computer steps up to the plate, you’re pretty much screwed. The differences in pitch speeds are negligible, with even your best fastball delivered at a sluggish pace. The NPC batter’s accuracy is superhuman, unless you severely abuse the curve you can put on the pitch after it’s released, violating several laws on physics, but maybe carrying you through the inning.
Fielding is a bigger problem. Your players move far too slowly to be in any way effective, while the computer’s outfielders will magically teleport underneath your pop-flies every time. A manual toggle between in- and outfield players complicates things further, and the game far too often defaults your control to inconveniently placed players.
As a two player game, CRJB is passable but disappointing, severely hampered by its poor controls and soporific pace. Playing against the computer is a Sisyphean ordeal, one that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone but the most masochistic of baseball fans.
Final Score – 3/10