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All-Star Baseball 2003

Review By:  Roger Taylor

Developer:  Acclaim
Publisher:  Acclaim
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Sports
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  5-28-02

The All-Star Baseball series gained renown on the N64 as one of, if not the, best baseball simulation series available for any console. Last year’s version of the game, however, featured many bugs and was actually a step down from older versions. With All-Star Baseball 2003, Acclaim has brought the series back to its former prominence, by delivering a very solid baseball simulation. There are a few problems with the game though that keep it from becoming the definitive baseball game to own this year.

First, All-Star Baseball 2003 features all the bells and whistles that gamers have come to expect from a sports title, and then some. With exhibition, season, batting practice, create-a-player, earned baseball cards, home run derby, and the new franchise mode, ASB03 rivals even the mighty Madden series as the sports title with the most reasons for you to keep coming back for more.

All of that would mean nothing, though, if All-Star Baseball weren’t built on a solid foundation with great gameplay. Thankfully, ASB is very strong in that department. Pitching, batting, and base running are all very realistic and rewarding. Some have complained that the pitches come in so fast that it is almost impossible to hit them. On the contrary, trying to hit a pitch in this game is more like how difficult it is for a real major leaguer. In past versions of this game I found myself dominating the computer on ‘Hard’ within two weeks. The incredibly fast pitches, which require some luck to hit, ensure that such mastery is impossible. Batting and pitching are both a lot of fun, with a lot of strategy beneath the split-second decisions. When batting you have the option to tilt the bat in order to hit to a particular area, swing for the fences, or just go up and hope for the best. Pitchers can have anywhere from two to five pitches at their disposal, and also can direct the fielders to move around to specific spots. Fielding seemed a little off though. For one, it is very rare for the computer to hit ground balls, which is odd, because infield fielding is arguably the most exciting part of baseball. To add to the imperfect fielding, outfielders drop an unrealistic number of fly balls. Base running isn’t without its share of problems. Like in the N64 versions of the game, the button sequences to get someone to steal, or have one runner out of two run back...it is all unnecessarily complicated. With practice, a gamer can get used to it, but that doesn’t excuse it. But ASB still has the best batting and pitching interfaces of any game around. And compared to most baseball games, the fielding and base running are only slightly below average.

The All-Star Baseball series has always featured great graphics, pushing the N64 to its limit two years ago. ASB03 also features nice graphics, though it doesn’t exactly max out the GameCube’s power. Player models are well done and the face-mapping is very sharp. Batting and pitching animations are well done, and particularly impressive are the breathtaking fielding plays, like having a second baseman jump over a runner trying to break up a double play (though these are rare). The crowd could look a little better, but overall ASB is as pretty as any baseball game yet.

The sound in ASB03, meanwhile, has improved marginally over previous versions of the game. It features very realistic sound effects and probably the best commentary in any baseball game ever released. There are even a few nice touches, like fans yelling things from the stands, and the announcers talking about things not related to the game when you take too long, just like in real life when the commentators talk about their personal lives in between pitches of the unbearably slow Mets pitcher Pedro Astascio. The music on the menu screens and the organ music during the game are both well done as well.

The features mentioned earlier ensure that gamers will be coming back to ASB03 for a long time. And unless you need to have the most up-to-date rosters, this version of All-Star Baseball should tide you over for a couple of years. Though it must be noted at this point that if you want to use either the season or franchise modes, you must purchase a third party memory card (or wait a few months for Nintendo’s larger memory card) since the game takes up far more space than is available on a standard Memory Card 59. As with most sports games these days, this drives the price up dramatically. It’s a shame that developers can’t squeeze more information onto a smaller memory unit.

Highs:

  • Great sound and graphics
  • Realistic gameplay
  • A few touches that give it personality
  • Best pitching and batting interface in any game

Lows:

  • Takes up FAR too much space on the memory card.
  • Fielding and base running still need some work.

Final Verdict:

All-Star Baseball 2003 is a very solid baseball simulation. If you only own a GameCube, ASB is certainly the way to go this year for your baseball fix. But if you own multiple systems make sure to measure this one up against the competition first before purchasing.

Overall Score: 8.3

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