Bottom of the Ninth
Konami's second baseball game for the Sony PlayStation runs circles around the first attempt at a baseball game released for this platform (Bases Loaded '96). As an avid sports fan as well as sports gamer, Bottom of the Ninth is just what the doctor ordered. The sharp polygon graphics, combined with the fairly accurate play-by-play announcer, makes this one of the best baseball games of all time, for any system. The game carries the Major League Players Association endorsement, so all the real major league players are in there.
The game begins with the trademark PlayStation introduction. If you're not familiar with the PlayStation introductions, game companies seem to be in competition to create the most spectacular intro scenes possible. Bottom of the Ninth is no exception. Action sequences including pitches by Hideo Nomo and Randy Johnson, batting by Frank Thomas and Cal Ripken Jr., base running by Carlos Baerga and a fielding sequence by Tony Gwynn. Konami appears to have taken an actual photo of the player, cut the faces out and attached it to a polygon body to create the player. Each of the stars have their trademark batting and pitching styles and personalities. For example, Nomo's wind-up looks exactly like the way he pitches.
Gameplay / Interface
If you choose to play an exhibition season, the game uses the final statistics for the players from the end of the 1995 baseball season. If you play a season, all players' stats are reset to zeros and starts keeping track of the stats for your season. Batting averages and ERAs are calculated during the game so you can watch your pitchers ERA go up and down immediately, as well as the batters average, home runs and RBIs.
Each player has a strength bar that increases if a player does not play for a day and decreases for players that play a lot. Pitchers usually take three to four days to recover from starting a game. This adds to the realism and strategy of the game.
Bottom of the Ninth has so many good points that it is difficult to narrow them all down. The best feature of the game is the realism. It is not a home run derby stuck between some occasional fielding. Home runs are difficult to hit which adds to the importance of pitching, just like real baseball. The game play is exciting and fairly tight with a few quirky exceptions. Any half-skilled gamer can pick up a controller and compete in a game in almost no time.
The head-to-head play is extremely fun. The same quirky fielding problems, like receiving little indication of where a fly ball will land, are also experienced by your opponent so it evens things out. There is something about beating up on one of your closest friends that you just don't get from beating the computer.
One of the bad aspects of the game is the computer's Artificial Intelligence (AI). The computer's base running skills are sometimes a little unintelligent. On a ball hit to the outfield, the runner will always try for second if the fielder does not have the ball. All you need to do is wait for the runner to round first, then pick up the ball. 9 times out of 10 he is a sitting duck.
Another bad area is the same thing as the good area: home runs. Frank Thomas is not very intimidating because home runs are so hard to hit. You can pitch fastballs down the middle and you know that approximately only 1 out of 15 will be a home run. This gives the pitching an incredible advantage.
Bottom of the Ninth is not licensed by Major League Baseball, so only 8 stadiums are available. Each of the eight stadiums have very similar characteristics as real stadiums but, without the MLB license, Konami had to make up different names for the ballparks.
The game features a number of options allowing you to customize the game to your liking. The difficulty settings range from minor leagues to professional. A General Manager option allows you to trade players between teams and save the information to the memory card (3 Blocks) for easy access any time you want to play this team in the future.
Bottom of the Ninth is one game no baseball fan should be without. Even if you are not a baseball fan, the gameplay is fun enough to satisfy. This is one of those games that makes your family happy that you invested in a second TV, and overall rates a solid 90 out of 100.