Little League Baseball: Championship Series – NES
Release Date: June 1990
Genre: Sports, Baseball
Nerd Rating: 7.5/10
Reviewed by: InfiniteKnife
When most people think of games made by SNK, they would probably think of titles like King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Samurai Showdown, and Metal Slug (all awesome), but may be surprised that they actually made a few sports games as well. In honor of baseball season, we’re going to talk about one of the games I grew up on, Little League Baseball: Championship Series.
Now, if you’ve seen my review on Ken Griffey Jr Presents: Major League Baseball, you already know I’m a baseball fanatic and I have a lot to say about the various baseball games that have been released throughout the years. Almost all have at least one element to make them stand out in a positive way, but Little League Baseball is one of those sports titles that, to me, just gets the job done, and I mean that in a very good sense.
The game starts off with a pretty bright title screen with noticeably loud music. I often have to adjust my volume from the normal setting to play this game without my ears bleeding.
At the title screen, you’re presented with 3 options:
Championship Series – Pick a team and enter a single elimination tournament with all 16 teams.
– You can play this by yourself or with up to 15 friends as all teams can be player controlled. This is one of the first times I remember seeing this and it was a neat addition.
– For all games that are CPU v CPU, you have the option to watch the game or do Speed Mode, which just gives you a final scoreboard. There are a lot more perfect games in Speed Mode than you might think. (Poor Italy)
Exhibition Mode – Play a game solo or against a friend, choosing one of the 16 available teams from across the globe
Power Analysis – In this mode, you are given a map and can select any of the teams to see a chart that shows how strong the team is in Batting, Pitching, Running, and Defense on a scale of 1-5. Almost all teams have their distinct strengths and I thought it was a cool thing to add. (Italy has literally no strengths as they are straight 2’s across the board)
Each team has 15 players, of which anywhere from 2-5 have a pitcher rating of above 1, so your options are kind of limited there, but I rarely use substitutes of any kind due to the length of the games (6 innings).
So, before the game starts, you’re presented with a screen with a player from each opposing team and an umpire in between holding a bat upright. The bat is tossed up into the air, and when the handle gets toward the bottom, pressing A will cause your player to grab the bat at whatever point it is relative to his hand. The players then take turns stacking their hands until the top of the bat is reached. This is how the home and visiting teams is selected. It’s not a major gripe but home field advantage can be huge in baseball and to have it decided this way is pretty silly. At least having a coin flip programmed in would have been way better!
Once this is done, you can take turns adjusting your lineup. The same one is preset every time, but you are able to make any adjustments you want. You can place any player at any position and any spot in the batting order. Each player has a skill number from 1 “they suck” to 5 “they’re like Benny Rodriguez from The Sandlot” but what is frustrating is that you have no way of seeing this on the lineup screen, so you just kind of have to figure it out as you play. It’s possible that a reason they do this is that there is a re-entry rule (per actual Little League rules) that allows you to bring a subbed out player back into the game, so if you accidentally bring in the kid who is only on the team because his dad is a coach even though he throws the bat and faceplants after swinging, you can put the good one back in.
Note: There is no actual faceplanting or bat throwing in Little League Baseball.
The music is where the game kind of falters for me. There is only 1 piece of music during the game and it just continues to play over and over, only changing after a hit in which a sort of fanfare plays, and at the end of each inning/game when they show the overall scoreboard. If you’ve played it as long as I have, you can kind of drown it out, but holy crap is it ever annoying. What makes it worse is, again, the super loud game volume.
The rest of the sounds are fine for an NES baseball game. The ping of the ball hitting off a metal bat, sliding into a base or diving, even catching a ball are all pretty solid.
There isn’t a ton of variety in the player models. There are 3-4 different batter sprites and about the same for pitchers. I do like that some pitchers have different deliveries and arm angles which can really mess you up if you’ve just gotten the timing down on the starter. The number of frames in each batter’s swing is pretty impressive for the time and you can actually check it out frame by frame by tapping the A button. It really bothers me that even if you’re on the first frame of the swing animation and take the pitch, it’s called a strike, but that’s the baseball nerd in me talking. The players also make a pretty funny face when they get hit by a pitch and do a little animation of banging the bat on the plate when they strike out with 2 outs and runners on.
There is zero variety in fields so it always looks the same, and there isn’t much going on visually to make you stop and say “that’s a cool looking field.” It’s pretty boring and the outfield dimensions are ridiculous the farther you get from the foul poles toward center field. It becomes so deep that it’s incredibly rare to hit a home run anywhere other than LF, RF and a bit of left and right center. There isn’t much going on with the crowd, either as it’s pretty generic. When you do hit a round tripper, there is a screen with some cheerleaders who forgot what sport they are supposed to be supporting and a big home run sign to remind you of what you just did. It’s only really satisfying if you hit one to seal a come from behind win late in the game, otherwise, it gets a bit annoying.
Gameplay is simple. A button swings and B bunts when at bat, but it’s worth noting that pressing B a second time will change the angle of the bat to allow more control over bunts which I thought was a really cool idea. You also have freedom to move anywhere in the batter’s box.
Stealing is done by pressing B and toward the intended base and while running the bases otherwise, B advances and A retreats.
On defense, throwing a fielded ball is A and the D-pad toward the intended base and running to a base is done by holding B and pressing toward where you want to go. You can also dive for a ball by pressing A and jump with B. Defense has a bit of a learning curve, as you have to move fielders toward where you estimate the ball will land based on the sound of it rising then falling after being hit. Many times, the fielder you’re going to use to catch the ball is off screen, so you have to get good at judging. There are also occasions where you’re not controlling the fielder you thought you were and the ball drops with no one around it. Those times are pretty frustrating. I’d say that’s pretty rare, though, and after playing for a while, tracking fly balls is no sweat.
While pitching, you can move to either side of the rubber before starting the pitch. You can control the speed by holding up, down or nothing, and control break by using left and right.
Again, these controls are simple, but they absolutely get the job done and do a fantastic job of making games easy to pick up and play.
Aside from the few gripes I have with the volume, music, and sometimes frustrating (but mostly smooth) controls, Little League Baseball is a more than solid NES baseball game. It’s one of the few I can play if I have a little bit of time to kill and can get through a championship series in about 30-45 minutes.
If you like NES sports games and baseball, you should check this one out.
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