Tony La Russa's Ultimate Baseball
Copyright/Publisher: SSI, Produced By: Beyond Software Inc., Designed By:
Don Daglow, Programmed By: Mark Buchignani, Graphics By: David Bunnett &
Arturo Sinclair, Music By: The Fat Man & Linwood Taylor,
Release Year: 1989, Genre: Baseball, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

America's national sport is simulated yet again, this time by strategy/RPG specialists, SSI. As in RBI 2, you can select any two major league teams to contest a game, but there's no league option. Teams can be player- or computer-controlled, although the latter options still allows you to make management decisions.

Pre-match screens let you select your starting line-up and batting order. The player's full stats are shown including batting average, RBI, home runs and stolen bases.

Out on the ballpark the pitcher-batter confrontation is shown from behind the batter. Both pitcher and batter get a separate menu of options selected by pushing in a direction or pressing fire (as in Hardball).

There are four types of pitch: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, plus either a Knuckleball, Screwball, Slider or Sinker. Once the pitch is selected, a joystick movement determines its direction - the longer you hold the joystick in that position, the further in that direction the ball will go. The pitching meny also gives access to extensive fielding and relief pitcher options.

Similarly the batting meny allows you to make tactical hitter/runner substitutions as well as telling the batter what type of shot to attempt: Normal, Power, Contact or Bunt.

If a legal hit is made the scene switches to an elevated view of the field, scrolling to follow the ball. A radar scanner shows the positions of base runners. The batting player simple presses right to advance the lead runner: the others follow automatically, so it's far less fiddly than RBI 2 where you had to control all the runners. Fielding is also simplified - you can't dive or jump to make a catch/stop.

The only real advantage over RBI 2 is the fielding tactics, allowing you to position fielders to suit the situation. Otherwise the game is slower-paced with lower-scoring matches, due to the great difficulty in hitting the ball. You have just a split second to decide whether to swing, and timing a hit takes much practice.

Although it offers a tad more realism, Ultimate Baseball isn't as much fun as the free-scoring RBI 2.

As you'd expect of an SSI product, Tony La Russa pushes the amount of baseball detail in a game to new heights. This extends not only to warming a pitcher up before he's used, but the superb graphic detail of the guy actually practising pitches in a small trap off the field!

No less impressive is the animation on the fielding/running sprites, which are all quite large. Unfortunetely this has a strong downside with the ball moving at a a snail's pace across the huge ballpark, and fielders are no faster, which is very frustrating.

Graphic style also has a negative impact on the crucial pitcher-batter confrontations. Once again the sprites are large and very well done, but they seem a lot closer together than on RBI 2 and there is thus only a very short time to decide whether to try hitting a ball, and how to hit it.

It alwys takes practice to start making home runs, but Tony La Russa is particularly tough - especially if your opponent mixes in lots of no-balls which are very hard to spot, so you end up swinging for balls you can't hit. (Concentration isn't helped by appalling 'organ' tunes at crucial moments.)

Nevertheless, tolerant baseball fanatics wanting yet more realism could well find Russa enjoyable - albeit far from perfect and dreadfully overpriced.


No league, but 26 teams, changeable starting line-ups & batting order with detailed stats.
Big ballpark and nicely animated sprites, but it all moves a bit too slow.
Shoot the organist!
Frustratingly difficult to hit the ball.
Sports enthusiasts will appreciate the realism, pity there's no league.
Marred by slowness.