If there’s one
genre portable gaming has always been weak in; it’s the sports sim
genre. In particular baseball sims have been woefully pathetic, with
the lone exception being the World Series Baseball series on
Sega’s own Game Gear. Since the GBA eliminates most of the
problems (lack of buttons, inferior processing power, and small
screen size) associated with bringing a good sim to market, one
would expect serious baseball fans to finally get their due. The High
Heat series has thus far been a major disappointment, but Baseball
Advance proves that there might be some hope for handheld
baseball after all.
The core of any
baseball game is the face off between pitcher and batter, and Baseball
Advance does an excellent job of handling this key aspect of the
game. The pitching interface is simple. The player chooses one of
several pitch types (depending on the pitcher) with the d-pad, then
presses A to throw the ball. After the ball has been released, the
d-pad is used to locate the pitch. My only problem with this is that
being able to locate the pitch only after starting the wind-up doesn’t
give the player enough time to locate the pitch properly. It just
feels wrong, and forces the player to know exactly where they want
to pitch before releasing it. A better way of handling it would’ve
been to have the player hold down B or one of the shoulder buttons
and then move the d-pad to locate the pitch. Once the pitch is
located the player could then release B, and the d-pad would once
again select the pitch type. I’m really being a nitpicker here,
but it just bugged me and took away from the overall experience.
interface is a bit more complex. Each batter has a batting cursor of
varying sizes depending on who it is. Pre-pitch, the player tries to
guess where the next pitch will be located by placing the batting
cursor there. Once a pitch is made, the cursor shrinks down to a
much smaller dot. If the player guessed the location of the pitch
properly, the circle will automatically shrink to the dot and
"lock on" to the pitch once it’s released. From there it’s
just a simple matter of timing the swing right. If the player
guesses incorrectly, then it’ll be up to the player to line the
dot up with where the pitch is located.
doesn’t it? What makes it complex is the use of a power meter.
Once A is pressed down to start a swing, the batter’s power meter
will automatically start to fill up. The fuller it is whenever
contact is made, the further the ball will likely go. Holding down A
for too long will result in the power meter shrinking after it’s
reached the top, making it necessary for the player to learn to time
their swing at exactly the right time. I’ve found with most
pitchers that it’s best to start in the middle of their windup.
Altogether it’s an awesome batting interface that not only takes
into account location, but also the timing of the player’s swing.
Sega dared to be different here, and it paid off.
pretty standard stuff…just make it to the big cursor on the field
during pop-ups, time your dives/jumps at the right time, and press
the right direction on the d-pad when throwing the ball. The GBA’s
smaller screen and Sega’s decision to keep the camera centered on
the ball during pop-ups sometimes makes it difficult to judge where
the fielder is in relation to the ball, but other than that it’s
The one real
disappointment in the gameplay department is that there’s no
multiplayer mode. Sports games are meant to be played against
friends, and to lack one in this day and age (especially when the
GBA makes it so easy to do) is pretty lame. If you’re looking for
a baseball game to play with your buddies on road trips, this isn’t
disappointing about Baseball Advance is not what’s here,
but rather all the details that aren’t here. I realize this is a
handheld game, but some of these things would’ve been simple to
add in with minimal extra storage space required. It offers up only
four modes of gameplay, including Exhibition, Season, Playoffs, and
finally All-Star Game. Not a lot to choose from when compared to
console sports titles, but it’s adequate enough for the GBA. Would
you want to play a Franchise mode over several seasons on the tiny
GBA? I know I wouldn’t. At the same time, a Homerun Derby would’ve
been very nice, especially in light of a batting interface that
actually requires skill to master.
The season mode
does simulate a real 162-game season, but outside of your own team’s
statistics it tracks very little. It tracks the league leaders in
all the "major" statistical categories, but doesn’t
allow you to see the stats for any other players outside of your own
team. It also doesn’t track any secondary stats, such as OPS. The
most glaring flaw however is that you can’t see ANYTHING about the
other league…if you’re playing in the American league, you’ll
never know how many HRs Barry Bonds has hit thus far or who leads
the NL East. Only four stadiums are included – Fenway Park,
Safeco, Wrigley, and Pac Bell. Finally, the rosters are extremely
outdated, with seemingly the only major off-season moves represented
are retirees. There’s no Cal Ripken, but Jason Giambi’s still
with the Athletics.
The graphics are
definitely a step up from other GBA sports titles. The menu
interface is a bit garish, but slick and vibrant overall. The
pitcher/batter graphics are excellent, with huge player sprites
animated very well. A number of different batting stances are
included, and all of them (especially Ichiro’s…wow) look
extremely lifelike. Field graphics are a little worse, as the player
models are much smaller and the grass texture is fairly average.
However, even the smaller player models are animated pretty well,
and each of the four ballparks included in the game look as true to
life as one would expect from the GBA.
The sound is
excellent as well. Umpires call balls and strikes, the crowd roars
at the right times (usually), and the crack of the bat sounds good
(not realistic, but good anyway). If the home team is putting
together a good inning at the plate, organ music will often kick up.
Menu music has a very springy feel to it, and you’ll soon find
yourself humming it after only a few games.
- One of the
best batting interfaces yet, console titles included. It takes a
while to adjust to, but once you get the hang of it it’s
graphics that easily surpass any sports titles found on 16-bit
- Pitching and
fielding are solid, although they could use some minor
- Missing a lot
of stuff: extra gameplay modes, current rosters, more than four
ballparks, and a baffling lack of ability to see what’s going
on in the other league.
- Where’s the
is a wonderful sports title and easily the best baseball game yet to
hit the GBA. It would’ve been nice to get a more complete baseball
experience, but they had to leave something for next year’s game…right?