Remember R.B.I. Baseball on the Nintendo? A fun, arcade experience that (at the time) delivered the best baseball experience. Now fast forward to 2014 to where we are welcomed by a new game in the series in almost 20 years. The developers were very forward that they wanted to keep the game close to the original in terms of game play. Unfortunately we are given a game that while can be fun, does not provide innovations to make the series feel new again, but feel rather outdated.
When the game loads up, you hear the fun jingle that played at the end of game on the NES. It is a very nice touch, adding instant nostalgia to the game. Upon getting to the title screen, we have the very robust options; Exhibition, Season, and Postseason. While there is no immediate option for Postseason, it's a little hidden in the Season option. This is a weird choice in design, why would you hide a game option within another?
All MLB teams are represented, but the roster size is limited to 16 players per team; 8 position players, 4 bench players, and 4 pitchers. While this is true to how the rosters were on the old NES, there really is no reason to limit the roster to so few players. Worse, there is no option to change the lineup in any way. The lineup that the game was designed with is the one that you have to live with. To expect a full 40 man roster is a little much, but to have such bare bone roster sizes is a little questionable.
Getting into the action, the pitching and hitting mechanics are accurate to the NES version. The battle between batting and pitching is fun, especially with two players. The electric fastball and confusing knuckler are here just as they were in the NES game. After this however, is where the game hits trouble.
First off, the fielding is a little different. Rather than controlling all fielders, you control one, that is indicated by a yellow ring. A part of what makes fielding tricky is a number of things. First, as SOON as the ball is contacted with, you are given control of a fielder, even when the screen still shows the batter and pitcher. This doesn't seem like a concern on paper, but think of how many times you might move the stick where the ball is hit right after contact. It's easy to move a fielder out of position unknowingly because you did not know you were controlling them before they were visible. Second, the fielders are a little slow and sluggish. I realize that fielders on the NES did not move very fast but the size of the field was considerably smaller than it is in this game. And while it is nice that the players can jump and dive after balls, this is automatic and cannot be done manually. I really wish there was an option to make this manual, as there were times where the fielder would not dive for balls that clearly could have been dove for. Finally, catching fly balls is a lot trickier than it should be. The camera does have an overhead view, but does not zoom out enough to have outfielders visible initially. When fly balls will go into the outfield, you do not have a view of your outfielder for a second or two, which is very crucial. How can you accurately place your fielder to catch a ball when you don't know where they are located? Fielding should feel fun and challenging, not hindered due to poor design and execution.
Design of the stadiums are true to their respective teams; a nice attention to detail. While their designs are strictly just limited to the field design, it is nice that all stadiums were included and accurate to their real life counterparts.
The game's graphics (at least on Xbox 360) have a bit of gloss to them. The player models are are ok, they follow the skinny, medium, and large proportions displayed in similar games such as Ice Hockey on the NES. While they are nothing special, the graphics and player models do fit the style and theme the developers were working for. However, there are frame rate issues when it comes to the outfield. Throwing the ball you can see some choppiness as it travels to the infield.
Update: I had purchased this game the first day it was available for Xbox 360. I found the batting a little tough, I wasn't able to get too many good base hits, the CPU fielders were gold glovers stopping almost everything, and the CPU would crush hits constantly. It felt very lopsided at times. I'm not sure when an update was published, but a hefty 200 mb update is available to addresses a few of these problems. Hitting is improved, as you will gather more meaningful and significant hits than before. I noticed a decrease in slow weak ground balls in the infield. Also the CPU is no longer the batting king that it used to be. It's still challenging, but the CPU hitters are a little bit easier after the update. Something that I have experienced and not seen addressed is the cut out of sound from time to time. This isn't a game changer in any way, but with such a big update size, I'm curious to why this issue has not been addressed. An update coming this July will add some roster updates and online multiplayer.
Overall RBI Baseball 14 is not the great return to the series that many were expecting. It embraces's it's nostalgia which is both a blessing and a curse. The spirit and enthusiasm is definitely felt, but the execution is not done very well. This is MLB Media's first game, and although it is a rocky first start, there is the potential to make this series great once again. Let's hope that they improve in the off season and come out better next year.
- + Pitching and Batting formula still great
- - Fielding is a little tricky and difficult
- - Lackluster rosters and options
System: Xbox 360 (Also available on Xbox One, PS4, PS3, IOS, Android)