- Manufacturer: SNK
- Machine: Nintendo
Baseball Stars is a complex sports simulation in which you build and manage teams in a league. It sports excellent graphics and a soundtrack that will make you appreciate the volume knob on your TV set.
The opening screen on Baseball Stars lets you choose your options. These are varied, and it's this combination of options that gives the game its depth. The first option is "League Play", which allows you to play in a pre-defined league, see the league's standings or set up a new league. If you choose to start from scratch, you can select the number of teams and how many games each team will play - even the logo that the club will use.
The cartridge comes with some teams built-in, and there is an option to create or remove teams. Building a team is a simple matter, because rather than picking players, you choose the team's strong point - i.e., consistent hitters, fast runners, a balanced squad, etc. Once you have done this, the NES fills in the statistics. These are then added to the roster and can be placed in a newly created league. Unfortunately, they cannot be added to a league already in progress. The Baseball Stars cartridge sports a battery backup, so the league and team standings are saved from game to game.
You can also trade players from your created teams; the players on the built-in teams are not available. If the players traded have significant differences in their statistics, the stronger player's statistics will be adjusted down to more closely match the weaker player's, so you have to watch your deals.
A "view team" option is available for checking on the stats of each player on a team, which include hitting, batting, running, defense (catching), luck and prestige (not sure about this one). A player has a maximum number of "potential" points which can be split between these categories, as well as a ceiling of "actual" points. The player's actual points will approach the potential maximum as he (or she, as you can also have female players) continues to play. For example, a rookie will have only a few actual points with a high potential max, while the actual points and max points for a star will be very close together. If players are doing poorly you can fire them, enabling you to buy other players, provided you have amassed enough money playing games in league play.
Once you have set things up the way you want them, you get to play baseball, and Baseball Stars is quite good. Versatility is key as there are two options for playing games. The first is league competition, where the teams you have named will play each other. The other version is "vs. play", where any two teams you have set up in your roster can compete. In league play, if two teams are computer controlled, you can elect to have the game decided instantly or watch the computer play. The latter is a lengthy affair, so you probably won't want to choose this option often.
Just the same, Baseball Stars is saddled with some of the limitations that other NES baseball simulations have. While pitching and batting is fairly straightforward, controlling the fielding is not for the easily frustrated. Once the ball is hit, it is very difficult to catch, even with the help of a small shadow. One problem is that you can't see the fielder who is running for the ball until the last second. If the ball does hit the ground, it's hard to judge where the player is in relation to the ball because you can see the ball through the player.
Baseball Stars is best played against another person, because the NES is an awesome opponent that never makes mistakes. Scores of 16-1 aren't uncommon - after two innings! Vs. play is pretty much the same as league play, with options for one-player, two-player or computer play. The advantage here is that any two teams and any two people can play for the fun of it, without upsetting league play.
The graphics of Baseball Stars are simply excellent. The colorful players are realistically animated, and depth and distance are accurately dealt with. The view is generally from above and behind home plate with the entire infield in view. The field scrolls as smoothly as necessary to show the ball's trajectory.
On the negative side, the soundtrack is a bouncy baseball tune that cannot be shut off. It's enough to drive you crazy, as the whole song is only about ten bars which repeat over and over! The manual doesn't tell you how to turn it off, but it also doesn't say anything at all about the actual playing of the game!
Overall, Baseball Stars is one of the better b-ball simulations on the NES, as it combines all aspects of controlling a team in addition to the normal play skills. If you like baseball simulations, you should check this one out.
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Baseball is big in America and maybe that's why there are three, count them, three baseball games in our sports top ten. Baseball Stars is also very American -- putting you in charge of absolutely everything, including the money! Yup, in this game you'll have to learn to do more than simply pitch, hit, and field the ball. You'll also have to create your own teams and leagues, sign up new players, trade with other teams, and even send some players packing when they don't measure up. Talk about realistic!
On the field Baseball Stars features traditional baseball game play, where you get to make all of the right moves at the plate, on the mound, and in the field. It's up to you to hit a grand slam, throw a strike, or snag the fly ball that retires the side. Become an all-star -- or strike out -- it's all up to you.
And, hey, if you don't like the way your team is playing, put on your manager's hat and change the batting order, put in a reliever, or move your players around. If you're still not happy with your team, search for a new player, make a trade for a hot rookie, or even start over and build a new team from scratch. That's baseball alright -- American style!