Sunday, February 13, 2005

Nork, Wolf, and Atom -- A Review of Gameboy's Bases Loaded

Today's post takes a trip through my childhood, teenage years, and young adult life, to bring a review of what is probably my favorite video game of all time, and CERTAINLY is the video game I've played the greatest number of times. I couldn't even begin to estimate how many games I've played in Bases Loaded for the Gameboy, but it most definitely would have to be over 1,000...probably well over a thousand, it's very difficult to say.

Bases Loaded (all references here are to the GameBoy version) is the greatest game of all time, no doubt in my mind. But why? This post will explore that very question.

*Background: You can choose between two teams East/West, which are essentially equal and which I will get into more later. There are 5 opposing teams: Rookie, A, AA, AAA, Majors.*

CHALLENGE LEVEL: I rate this game's challenge level 1/5. Actually that 1/5 is misleading. This game does take a pretty good time to get the hang of. For a long time after we had it, we had trouble beating even the easiest teams. But I'm rating this here for myself as of right now, and right now I could very easily beat this game all the way through without even beginning to expend any effort whatsoever. That's part of the reason it's so's comforting to know that whatever challenges come my way, at least I got Bases Loaded in a vise grip.
The way to make the game interesting after thousands of plays though is to make little challenges for yourself along the way. Here's an example of some of the many little challenges I would set for myself while playing will give you an idea of the level of my depravity in love of this game. I'll express the challenges in graduated levels, then in parentheses indicate how difficult they are to attain.
Hit 3 home runs, 4 home runs, 5 home runs with one player in a game (not too hard, only gotten it a handful of times, never done it)
Score 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 runs in a game (very easy, fairly difficult, quite tricky, done it a handful of times, only done it once)
Have an inning of 10, 15 runs (happens in about 20% of the games against rookie, happens in about 5%)
Pitch a perfect game (only done it once, but it was against single a, not rookie)
Score a run in every inning (never done)
Get rid of the first 2 pitchers in the first inning (rare, but I've done it a couple of times.)
Back-To-Back-To-Back homeruns (never done it before. *NOTE* this challenge is only possible if you are playing as West.)

etc. You can see how this could go on and on, so that there can always be something moderately challenging you are going for, even though the winner of the game is never in doubt, ever.

SOUND (5 out of 5): The sound in this game rocks. The music is extremely repetitive and very catchy, which makes it very annoying, obviously, but man I've listened to that song on end for like a couple hours at times and I've become completely immune to it. I can perfectly recall the entire bases loaded song in my head right now. The best sound in the game is the sound it makes when you get a pop fly...BWOOOAAAAAEEEEE----BEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW

THE CHARACTERS (4 out of 5): This is where the game gets REALLY fun. Unlike Play Book Baseball (see previous post entitled YOU are the manager, YOU call the shots), there are no real defined characters in this game. All the people in the lineup have names along with batting averages and # of homers, and that's all. It's never even specified which position people play. Given all I've said before, it may not surprise you to learn that I have tried to guess what position they play on the field based on their body type, and what type of hitter they are.
Andrew and I just spent about 45 minutes on an IM conversation discussing this in depth and we are confident in the following lineup.
1. Cook - CF
2. Mich - 2B
3. Bark - 3B
4. Clar - RF
5. Plan - 1B
6. Ills - LF
7. Stif - SS
8. Wolf - C
9. Poe - DH
Now here I will talk about some of the most interesting characters in the game (Including the three characters who title the post) and why we find them interesting. Keep in mind that as far as the game is concerned these guys are nothing but stat lines with a name, all the rest is overanalyzing by Andrew and I.

Who is Nork?: Nork is the first pitcher on the Double A Team
Why is Nork Interesting?: Nork...he has a high ERA, his pitches aren't that good, slow fastball, average curve. And yet, he dominates us. We have no idea why, but the man just lays us out. In fact, we have "verbed" his name. I'm getting Norked, means that I am playing bases loaded against double A, and Nork is doing very well. Or you can Nork Double A, which means you knock out Nork early. We haven't ever used it in any other contexts.

Who is Atom?: Atom is the first pitcher for Majors
Why is Atom Interesting?: Atom pitches for Majors, supposedly the best team in the game and yet he blows so hard. He is honestly probably one of the 5 or 10 worst pitchers in the entire game, and I have no idea what business he has being on this team at all.

Who are Wolf and Mich?: Wolf and Mich are hitters number 8 and 2 on East, respectively
Why are Wolf and Mich interesting?: Wolf and Mich are interesting when taken together. Wolf's batting average is .387, Mich's batting average is .287, exactly one hundred points lower. But in the game itself...Mich is so much more likely to get a hit than Wolf that it's almost laughable to compare them. Wolf is absolutely terrible, he has no power and is one of the slowest hitters in teh game. For a long time, I honestly thought it was a typo. Surely they meant Mich .387, Wolf .287, but now I realize that the makers of the game made up random stats for the players assuming that nobody would care. But damnit, I do.
Wolf spawned one of the best nicknames Andrew and I came up with. Charles Thomas, former outfielder with the Braves, will forever be known as Charles "Wolf" Thomas, at least to us. This is because Charles used to be the 8th hitter for the Braves and he started out strong with a high batting average, so he was hitting 8th with a batting average of about .370, and it reminded us of Wolf.

Who is Poe?: Poe hits 9th for East
Why is Poe Interesting?: Poe is the slowest character in the game, by far. So goddamn annoying. Even when it's hit to the outfield, there's a good chance they'll throw him out. Many a time I have hit a scorcher to teh right fielder, only to have slowpoke Poe get thrown out going to first base. I hate Poe.

Who is Clar?: Clar is the 9th hitter on Rookie and the 4th hitter on East
Why is Clar Interesting?:

Clar is the worst hitter on any team in the game, there is no question in my mind about that. It is truly a sad day indeed when you give up a hit to Clar. The interesting thing is though, the 4th hitter on East is also named Clar and he is one of the best hitters in the game. I like to think that the same person does double duty, purposely tanking on Rookie for the benefit of his real team, the mighty East.

Who is Zank?: Zank hits 3rd for majors
Why is Zank Interesting?:

Zank's stats are kind of like the complete inverse of Clar's stats, something like a photographic negative. Zank is an absolute beast, almost impossible to contain. In any game against Majors you automatically have to spot the other team about 4 runs or so in most games just for the runs you know Zank will drive in. Zank is always out there man. Major usually has an extremely potent offense, and Zank is the main reason.
Zank is kind of like the John Neff of this game.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (1 out of 5): The game's AI is absolutely awful. Good rule of thumb as to what base they will throw it to, when fielding a ball with men on base: whichever base is least likely to result in an out. Once you play the game enough you can use this to a huge advantage, because you can usually take an extra base on their stupid ass throws. Example: They throw it to third base AFTER your guy is already on the bag, you take home on the throw to third. Happens all the time in this game.

INFIELD DEFENSE (1/5): This is the worst aspect of the game to me. Your infield defense, especially on the left side, is horrible. Any ground ball to the SS or 3B will almost always result in a hit unless 3 things hold true:
1. The ball is hit very hard
2. The hitter is slow
3. You have good reflexes

If any of those 3 fail, it falls for a hit. The game makers screwed up here, they needed to make the 3B and SS have much stronger arms than they currently have in the game. It just makes it annoying that they can keep dropping in these crappy grounders for base hits because your shortstop can't throw the ball out of a paper bag.

GAMEPLAY (5/5): The gameplay on this game is absolutely flawlessly fun.

Most doubles by one player in one game: 6 by the player Cook on East. I don't always keep track of that, so I'm not one hundred percent certain that it's a record, but I would think that it has to be. I mean, 6 is one hell of a lot of doubles. I admit that for the sixth double, I could have gone the extra base but I intentionally stayed on second to get the double. You might find that to be a bit sad.
Most runs on one game/Most runs in one inning: My older brother Kevin holds the family record for most runs in one game, with 41. I hold the family record for most runs in one inning with 24, in a game where I scored 40 (which is my personal record).
Comments on the Bean-Ball: The beanball is extremely prevalent in this game. It could be a trick of perception, but it definitely seems to me that some players get beaned far more often than others. I don't know why this would be the case, but it just seems to me that Bark and Wolf get beaned twice as much as anyone else on East. It's definitely true that lefties get beaned more than righties.

NOTE: All of this was compiled by my brother an I entirely from memory without checking the game at all.
Rookie: Ball, Kast, Avon, Belt
Comments: Every pitcher on this team is absolutely awful and none truly merit any comment. Kast is probably the single worst pitcher in the entire game, he throws slow, doesn't have good breaking stuff, puts teh ball right over the plate...

Single A: Duce, Trix/Trik, Sand, Penn
Duce has a very good curveball, but he has absolutely awful control and is just constantly beaning people.
My brother and I had a 1 dollar bet on whether the second pitcher in Single A is named Trik or Trix. I won. His name is Trik.
Sand and Penn are two crappy soft tossing sidearmers that you can feast on all day when they come in.

Double A: Nork, Rube, Ange, Howe
Nork I've already discussed. Rube is a hard thrower with a nice curve, and is very difficult to hit. Ange and Hower are typical crappy rotation filler.

Triple A: Ward, Hipe, Voit, Rack
Comments: Ward is kind of like Nork, only less extreme. He does dominate, but he has a very good curve, a decent fastball, mixes speeds well, throws it around the plate. Very difficult to hit. Hipe is pretty bad...usually Ward goes out of the game and you can feast on Hipe for a while to run up the score. Voit is like a better version of Rube...throws harder, and with a better curve. Rack I've never gotten to because the rest of the rotation is too good.
This team really does have an excellent rotation.

Majors: Atom, Past, Bewi, Tord
Comments: Atom I've discussed. Past is terrible. He's like Kast, except he pitches slightly harder. Really, Atom and Past are two of the very worst pitchers in the entire game and I have no idea why they are on Majors. Bewi is an insane pitcher, who pitches very fast and is very difficult to hit. Tord I've only gotten to once but he is just like Atom from my recollection.

1. Cook, 2. Mich, 3. Bark, 4. Clar, 5. Plan, 6. Ills, 7. Stif, 8. Wolf, 9. Poe
Outside-the-Park HR Hitters: Cook, Bark, Clar, Poe
Comments: Cook is the only character on either team who can both hit a home run and steal a base. Stif is the most accurately named character in the game and will be discussed a little bit below. All the others I have talked about or will talk about except Plan, who is fairly worthless.

1. Setz, 2. Ruby, 3. Cone, 4. Madd, 5. Blue, 6. Lutz, 7. Berk, 8. Main, 9. Zigg
Outside-the-Park HR Hitters: Setz (rarely), Cone, Madd, Blue
Comments: The first 4 hitters are discussed a little bit below. Blue is maybe the worst overall player who can hit a's a tossup between him and Poe. Blue is probably a bit better though because Poe is so goddamned slow. Zigg is a less extreme example of a Wolf type, his statistics as displayed are pretty good, but he's just a terrible hitter. Lutz I like to call "Rally Killer" because he blows so hard and the 5 hitters before him are so good.

Top 8 Hitters on East/West (my own personal ranking):
1. Madd (W)
2. Cone (W)
3. Cook (E)
4. Clar (E)
5. Ruby (W)
6. Bark (E)
7. Setz (W)
8. Mich (E)
East has a deeper lineup, but West has the better star players.

6 Worst Hitters on East/West (my own personal ranking):
1. Lutz (W)
2. Wolf (E)
3. Ills (E)
4. Zigg (W)
5. Main (W)
6. Stif (E)

5 Best Opposing Pitchers
1. Bewi (Majors)
2. Voit (AAA)
3. Nork (AA)
4. Ward (AAA)
5. Rube (AA)