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October 23 2017

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  Baseball Stars 2 - ©SNK 1992 (Review 2)





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Game Stats
Other:
Players:
1 or 2 player

Type:
Sports/Baseball

Size:
50 Megs
Japanese Name:

Baseball Stars 2

Released On:

Home/MVS/CD


Reviewed By:
Top Reviews By This Author:


Prime2ime


No Other Reviews From This Author


Other Opinions - More Reviews On NG4L:
Review 1 - by Kazuya_UK



The Game History

Baseball Stars Pro was one of the first games released for the Neo Geo AES console way back in the early 1990's, along with the infuriating but stellar Magician Lord and the solid shooter Nam 1975. To say it met with a lukewarm reception on these shores would be fair, to be honest I'm not sure how well it went down in the US or Japan, but it must have done well as it spawned the excellent sequel Baseball Stars 2.

At time of the AES release I worked at a small computer game shop, despite the massive cost we brought in 3 Neo Geo AES systems and 3 of each game released. A big risk considering the games where near £200 and the system was £400. But we all wanted to see this wonder with our own eyes and it helped that the lady from the dealership who showed the system to us was very easy on the eye and as a result hard to say no too.

Anyway after a roasting from management from ordering such expensive kit, I do remember the owner calling it an 'irresponsible act of idiocy' which to this day always comes to mind when I think of the Neo Geo, we actually sold all three in 5 days. So no one was fired, but could we shift Baseball Stars Pro? Hell no. Everyone that brought the system brought Nam 1975 and the Magician Lord sold, but the only guy that tried Baseball Stars Pro at £175.00 returned it the same day.

So I think it's fair to say it wasn't a hot title back then, but I thought it was absolutely fantastic, I guess it helped that I was a baseball fan. But I couldn't get enough of it, it was so much fun and easy to pick up and play. Plus it was light years ahead compared to the likes of Baseball Stars on the NES or Hardball/RBI on the Amiga, which at the time where the only other shows in town. So when SNK announced it was producing a sequel I was excited and couldn't wait to see it appear in the arcades.


Introduction

All together, don't forget to stutter "B-b-b-b-b-b-baseball Stars Twoooooooo!!!!"

I think the easiest way to describe Baseball Stars 2 is to say it's Baseball Stars Pro on steroids. It's like the Jason Giambi of baseball games. Everything is bigger and better. It's similar to Midway's NBA Jam and NFL Blitz; everything is large, loud and over the top. This game has a wonderful mix of action and humour, it's simple but effective and in my opinion there is no better arcade baseball game.

Always strange how art imitates life, this game came out at the a time when steroids where just starting to get into the Major Leagues and batters where going from 25 home runs a season to 50, not to mention growing arms like Popeye or in the case of superstar Barry Bonds a head like giant donut.

The problem is only now being tackled on the back of some congressional hearings in the US, where top players where exposed as steroid users by former player and user Jose Canseco, the MLB have brought in some real testing. But regardless the 90's will always be known as the 'Juiced' era of baseball and funnily enough Baseball Stars 2 is the perfect representation of that. Especially when you can pause the game to go get a 'Power Up' and come back twice as big and ready to hit home runs, hell it was like SNK could see the future. I can imagine Canseco sitting in Florida playing the game - maybe while thinking about growing a mullet in 2006 - and thinking 'boy I wish I could interrupt an at bat for a quick shot of the good stuff'.

The first time I played this game was in the arcades and it must not have been long after its release. In the arcade you got like 3 or 4 minutes of play per quarter, which was nowhere near enough, but they crammed so much action in and it moved so quickly that you didn't feel cheated. Needless to say this machine took some serious change from me back then. But it was a treat to play and you always wanted more. For me it was one of those rare games that I always hoped would be in any new arcade before I walked in.

Something strange I always remember about this game was how heavily it featured on the show GAMESMASTER on Channel Four. It was one of those games you challenged a minor celebrity to play at end of the show. Anyway I vividly remember that former Aussie tennis player and Wimbledon champ Pat Cash's wife was like the Neo Geo World Champion or maybe Baseball Stars 2 champion at the time and turned up to mop the floor with some dorky kid. She was very good and also very fit, maybe that's why I remember it, anyway it always comes to mind when I think of this game, which I can only thank the lovely Mrs Cash for.


Graphics/Sound

Baseball Stars 2 took the best bits of BSP and amped everything up 100%. The game went from being a very drab looking game to being awash with colour and packed with 'Over the Top' action. The basic player sprites were replaced with hulking great muscle men, while pitchers went from being generic to being crafty veterans or electric armed rookies.

Everything was pumped up, the sound effects took a massive step forward also, crowd noise and baseball sounds where all improved in the same 'Over the Top' manor. In fact despite there being only two/three years between the two games they are so different looking you can hardly believe it's the same team that did them. If they tested it in the first one they definitely perfected it in the second, everything feels and looks perfect for an arcade baseball game. You will hear the announcers stuttering 'B-b-b-b-b-b-baseball Stars Twoooooooo' in your sleep.

Over on Neo Geo.com the reviewer described the game as "Candy-Coloured" and I thought that was a fantastic way to describe it, so I stole it. The colours are everywhere and so vibrant that the fantastic cartoon-feel of the game really smacks you in the mouth. This is helped even more by some really nice cut scene's the developers have put into the game. The ones showing batters hustling down to first or fielders making great grabs are fantastic and go a long way to keeping the game realistic enough to appeal to both fans and enthusiasts.

This is always a fine line and the SNK boys walk it to perfection on this game, never pushing the game to strong in one direction. The best bits are the cuts for a 'Home Runs' as you get to see all your guys waiting at home plate to congratulate you while having H-O-M-E-R-U-N!! flashed on the screen, it's very satisfying. It's also worth mentioning the 'Fight' cut scene that appears when a pitcher hits a batter with a pitch, always good to see a pitcher getting a smack in the mouth for his evil endeavours. It's a real treat.


Gameplay

They kept it simple, one button and direction for hitting, pitching, stealing and throwing to bases; it worked very well in the first game and with all the new touches it works perfectly in this one. The overall simplicity gives the game that 'pick up and play' feel that appeals to games fans regardless of whether they are baseball fans or not.

You have six team's to pick from, all made up teams with odd names, like the Monsters, Griffins, Ninja's, Hawks, Ivories and Angles. But I always use the Griffins as they play in Dodger Blue and feature fearsome flame throwing pitcher A. Kuper. Each team has strength's, like fielding or pitching, but to be honest there is not much difference.

The main game is based on a 15 game season and a race for the division pennant. Every time you win the team owner will throw out bonuses and you can improve the team's power. I really like this aspect of the game as it adds a little depth, also it's always fun to 'Juice Up' you star hitter and go for the big fly. You get 5 power ups for your team per game and you can use them whenever you like to give your hitters the edge. While we are talking depth the fact you can bring in pinch hitters and relief pitchers is also a plus.

The game does not go into the game states in any real way, It tracks pitchers ERA's (Earned Run Average), pitches total and wins, while also recording batters batting average (How may hits they get on average per nine inning game) and home run totals, but not much else. I for one love the stat side of Major League Baseball but for me you don't need it here, it would be out of place, this is arcade action and you need to keep it simple. So many times developers try to do everything and instead of doing one thing well they do a number poorly. Baseball Stars 2 never falls into this, simple but so effective is a great way to sum up this game.

The other mode is the standard two player mode, this is a real strength of the game, and it's a fantastic two player battle. One of the things I love most about this game is that you can be a real crafty little git with your pitchers, as players can control the direction of a pitches in-flight movement, so you can throw fastballs, sliders and change-ups to unsuspecting batters. I guess it's compensated for as hitters can move around in the batter's box to adjust, but trust me when I say that nothing feels quite like striking out a pal out with a 56 mph change-up when he is sitting on a fastball or shifting around looking for something down and away. It's priceless.

Overall

I love baseball and I love Baseball Stars 2. It's my favourite Neo Geo game - unless I'm on a hot streak on Big Tournament Golf - and the first one I brought when I finally got my AES system a few years back. The look and feel of this game are perfect, you can play it on your own and have fun or pop it in two player mode and have a real blast with some pals. My baseball team play this at our end of season awards, the annual Baseball Stars 2 championship is as hotly contested as the actual season MVP award.

As I have stated above, simple and effective, is a perfect summing up of this game. It walks a fine line between action and humour, realism and showmanship, but it does it to perfection which creates a classic.

If you are a baseball fan you will love this game, if you are not a baseball fan you should still play it, as it's so simple to pick up and play you will sure to be hooked. It's addictive and fun, the games humour and action will keep you coming back for more year after year, not many weeks go by when I don't bring this cart out for a bash.


Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Game Play: 9/10
Replay Value: 8/10

Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10



Outside Links:
Related Reviews:

Reviews @ Neo-Geo.com:


Review by Dan Elektro

Above links open in a new window.

Baseball Stars Pro
An improved sequel.

2020 Super Baseball
A futuristic version of baseball!


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