Ken Griffey Jr. Presents: Major League Baseball – SNES
Being a huge fan of baseball, I love playing the different titles released throughout the years to see what developers do to try to bring a better experience to players. Things have come a long way from the classic NES Baseball, but just because we have systems that are able to show the stitches on a jersey using the latest and greatest graphics technology, they are not necessarily better. If I can see the pores on a batter’s face, but the game doesn’t control fluidly to where making a routine play is actually routine, we have a problem.
Ken Griffey Jr. Presents: Major League Baseball (or Ken Griffey Baseball for SNES, as I like to call it) was one of the first baseball games I played as a kid and it is still one of my absolute favorites. Why, you ask? Well, it’s quite simple, really. I love the game because it was exactly that, simple! It was simple, but it was completely functional, and it did exactly what you need a functional baseball game to do.
The basic controls were easy to learn: When pitching, you move the pitcher to either side of the rubber and press B to throw the pitch. You could hold up or down on the D-pad to control whether the ball went fast or slow, and could control it in flight by using right and left. Pitcher stamina would decrease along with their stamina rating, number of pitches thrown, and how many of them were fastballs. Once they got tired, they would begin to breathe heavily which you could clearly see on screen, so you’d know when it was a good idea to take them out and bring in a fresh arm from the bullpen.
Hitting consisted of hitting B to take a swing or Y to bunt. You can move the batter anywhere in the batter’s box and the ball would be hit harder depending on the point of contact on the bat relative to the timing with the ball. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what would govern whether the balls hit would be on the ground or in the air, but I never thought about it while playing because there is enough variety that it feels like a normal, natural baseball game.
When running the bases, you can use the X button to lead off a base and steal, A to shorten a lead and go back, and B to go to the next base. You indicate which base the runner is returning to by pressing the direction of that base while pressing the button.
On defense, use the D-pad to run to the ball (duh), and hold B and toward the intended base to throw to it. You can also dive for a ball by hitting B before the player gets to it. The catching part is done automatically and there are no errors in the game (a small gripe). You can run to a base (like when you have a runner in a pickle) by holding A and the D-pad toward the intended base.
That was a long explanation on controls, but the key is that they are simple and they are functional. Picking up and playing a game is super easy and fun with the only frustration occurring when you play me, and I start the merry-go-round on the bases and beat you 15-0!
An interesting thing about this game is that the MLB team names and stadiums were used but because there wasn’t an agreement with the MLB Players Association, all the player names were changed. A cool thing about this is that the dev team was able to be creative with the names. For example, a few of the members of the Boston Red Sox are named after characters from Cheers (C. Claven, N. Peterson, S. Malone, you get the idea). All the teams have different themes and it’s fun to go through them, and try to guess how they correlate to the city or just what kind of group they were going for.
The game came with a player editor mode where you could go in and (painstakingly) change the names to their real-world counterparts manually. The stats, physiques, and jersey numbers match up with the real MLB rosters of 1993 so as long as you have a list in front of you, changing the names (of at least your favorite team) is easy.
Season mode is fun, and takes you through a 162 game season with playoffs. It also tracks your team’s stats, so you can see how everyone is doing individually, but it doesn’t update the rest of the league. Another fun part of the game is the after-game summary that shows up in the form of a newspaper. It shows one of several headlines such as “Benches Clear After Beanball Exchange in Braves Victory” as well as a line score similar to how you’d see it reading an actual sports page. I think it’s a cool touch.
I’d be frustrated striking out down 17-0, too.
Player models for the batters look a bit exaggerated in their body stature and stances but I think it adds to the charm of the game. There are some fun animations for strikeouts like breaking the bat over a knee and yelling “Aw Come On!” at the screen. They also programmed in home and away uniforms depending on which team is playing as the home team. I like touches like that, but I’m really detail oriented when it comes to baseball games.
If nothing else, this game was accurate with steroid era body types
There are a few frustrating parts of the normal gameplay that just require some getting used to such as taking extra bases after hitting a ball in the gap being difficult because it seems most of the outfielders have laser cannons for arms and throw 95mph seeds from the outfield wall to 3rd base. In a way, it makes sense, because most times, a ball hit in the gap would result in a double except for exceptionally fast players. For the most part, the game is balanced well, which is what makes it so much fun to play. The controls are simple enough that it’s easy to get the hang of, but almost impossible to exploit, so you have to play it straight.
This is one of the first games I load up when I want to play baseball on a classic system. If you like baseball and have the patience to correct the names of the players on your favorite team, check this game out.
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