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Old 04-05-2012, 04:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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One Hour Retrospective: Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

Can you smell that mix of freshly mown grass, overpriced hot dogs, and drunken revelry? That concoction can only mean one thing -- baseball season is upon us. With Opening Day in full force, the baseball floodgates have opened, bringing forth a surge of peanut shells and chewing tobacco. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at my favorite sports game of all time.

In 1994, Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball released on the SNES, and there was much rejoicing. It built upon the basic framework of games like R.B.I. Baseball for the NES by fleshing out the entire package with nuanced details while still remaining accessible to novice gamers. The first thing you'll notice when booting up the game is the phenomenal, face-shredding guitar riff of an intro theme. What this has to do with baseball is beyond me, but all I know is that I like what I hear. Ken Griffey treads the perfect balance between arcade ease and stat-heavy simulation. Even baseball neophytes can pick up an SNES controller and understand how the game works within a matter of moments. It also hit at the zenith of Griffey-mania, which could've lasted even longer if the future Hall of Famer hadn't succomb to a litany of injuries. Maybe it had something to do with his Nintendo Power cover, which showcased his lack of pre-game stretching in favor of rotating his hat and playing SNES.

One of the major flaws in a lot of modern baseball games is the fun-chasm that exists between the two halves of the game. The pitching mechanic in many games has become overly cumbersome to the point where it seems like a manual is needed to operate a baseball glove. But back in the halcyon days of '94, this was simply not the case. Pitching in Ken Griffey is intuitive, and most importantly, a hell of a lot of fun. Like some sort of gravity-defying demigod, you're able to control the control the direction and velocity of your pitch mid-air. If your opponent is a bit too eager to knock one out of the park, then slow your pitch down and watch them swing long before the ball reaches the plate. Likewise, if an eager batter is crowding the plate, then swerve your pitch behind them. The fantastical freedom that you have as a pitcher make this half of the game a delight, as opposed to the chore it is in many modern baseball titles.

Being able to engage in macho-head games while you're on the mound is one of the most rewarding aspects of the game. These small skirmishes in a much larger war give the game its fantastic multiplayer legs. Aside from Tecmo Super Bowl, there is no other sports game that I will gladly go back to and rekindle and old rilvarly.

Although the game does feature deep and accurate statistics, the former Seattle Mariner is the only MLB player whose name and likeness made it into the game. The rest of the league's rosters is filled out by various analogues that are usually named using some obscure reference or pun. For example, Albert Belle's name in the game is Frank Liberty...get it...Liberty Belle? Oh Nintendo, you slay me. Many of the teams are also named according to a specific theme -- the Milwaukee Brewers are comprised of the secret identities of superheroes, while the Baltimore Orioles are made up of actors and characters relating to John Waters. Weird, wild stuff that was way over my head as a kid, but now I've certainly grown to appreciate it as I've gotten older.



There are so many little things that I appreciate about Ken Griffey for the SNES, like the way certain players react after striking out is unexpected and awesome. Those with low self-confidence will sulk away from the plate like the failures that they are. Meat-heads who embraced the good old days when steroids were encouraged will snap the bat in half. And best of all are the players who scream at the umpire after strike three using a voice sample from the Tom Hanks film The Man With One Red Shoe. These minor moments only occur a few times per game, but their lasting impression stretches far beyond that.

For those of you with a long weekend, this would be the perfect time to head down to the ballpark and soak in the atmosphere that surrounds America's Pastime. Of course, you could also just stay inside, dust of your SNES, and take a trip back to the glory days of digital baseball.



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Old 04-05-2012, 04:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: One Hour Retrospective: Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball

I didn't own this version, I had the one for the N64. I was 161-1. The lone loss, I was up 8-5 pitching in the bottom of the ninth. The computer got bases loaded, and instead of bringing in my reliever, I decided to keep my starting pitcher in. Next pitch, grand slam walkoff and that was my lone loss.
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