Baseball is another one of those odd American games designed so they never lose
to foreigners! So far it's been 100% success with no foreign team even entering
the so-called World Series. Maybe Graham Taylor should change the rules for
football so no foreigners enter the World Cup either!
Games named as obscurely as RBI 2 aren't designed as arcade fodder and true
to form this Nintendo conversion offers plenty of realistic detail. There are
28 teams (including two 'all-star' sides), each containing their real 1989 players
with authentic statistics, and both National and American Leagues (with two
You can choose either to play another person or the computer (easy/hard). Once
this is done the actual game is loaded in and you're given a choice of teams.
If you pick an opposing team in the same league you're assumed to have entered that
league. If the teams are from different leagues a series of seven matches are begun
- as if the two teams were in the World Series.
Now you can select your starting Pitcher and your Batting order, making
substitutions where necessary. Once the match begins admire the novel screen display.
A central strip shows a close-in view of the Pitcher and the Batter. The Batter
can be moved /left/right and forward/backward while he waits to receive the ball.
Meanwhile the Pitcher moves left/right on his Mound and can throw the ball fast
or slow, curving it all over the place. On the left and right there are strips
showing First and Third Bases (Second Base can be seen behind the Pitcher) -
perfect for when you want to Steal a Base.
Once the ball is hit, the three views disappear and the screen follows the ball
while a radar scanner shows what's happening on the bases. The Fielding player gets
direct control of his Fielders while the Batter can choose to send his runners
forward extra bases.
The graphics are certainly well thought out, and there's cute touches with
fielders leaping to attempt catches and runners sliding into bases, but there's
nothing spectacular. The Batter and Pitcher are reasonably animated but could have
been better and the Home Run fireworks are primitive.
Sound is equally unimpressiv, a handful of beeps and whooshing sounds with no
tunes whatsoever - a shame. But the important stuff is gameplay and RBI mixes in-depth
realism with playability. For instance, when a player is caught out all the runners
have to run back and tag the base they were on before.
There's also realistic Time-Outs to change pitchers and substitute fielders or
batters. Changing Pitchers is critical because they soon get exhausted with 97mph
fastballs slowing to 47mph after a couple of innings. Pitchers also take a couple
of matches to recover, adding to the management side of the game.
Thankfully authenticity doesn't make RBI inaccessible - everything works perfectly
off the joystick and even the statistics soon make perfect sense! Initially simply
hitting the ball seems impossible, and when you succeed it generally goes backwards
for a Foul ball (which can still be caught to dismiss the Batter!).
There's a good Bunt option though, which allows you to set the bat high, low
or middle - then you simply move the player to hit the ball with the fixed bat for
a short shot. With practice, though, you can soon be scoring home runs - swinging
just as the ball seems to be going past is best.
More than most games, baseball is about psyching the other guy out. Deciding
which balls to swing for, which to leave or equally where and how to pitch, are
as much guessing how your opponent is thinking as observation or reactions.
And Stealing, of course, can soon get tempers to boiling point! This makes for
great two-player games. One-player mode is almost as good with comprehensive league
options and in both modes there's a neat codenumber save option.
RBI 2 apparently sold two million on the Nintendo and the graphically superior
C64 version should be a big hit too. Realistic but highly playable, both fans and
newcomers shouldn't miss this one!