Acclaim’s All-Star Baseball
franchise used to be on top of the heap. At that time it was just a two horse race with 3DO’s now-defunct High Heat
franchise. EA Sports, which used to be the laughingstock with Triple Play
, now heads the pack with MVP Baseball
with SEGA’s ESPN Baseball
closely in tow. Suddenly the race isn’t so simple for Acclaim and it actually fell down a few notches last season; the company has set out to bring the franchise back up to its former glory but as this 2005 iteration shows, it still has quite a ways to go.
In addition to the now standard exhibition, home run derby and franchise modes All Star offers up This Week In Baseball, Online play, trivia modes and a couple of other mini-games. Like before, the mini-games are nice diversions but they’re pretty much throwaways for anyone who’s really serious about the game of baseball. This Week in Baseball is based on the weekly highlight show of the same name except its theme is different. Instead of recapping the happenings of the week it allows you to tempt fate and change the course of history. It’s a situational mode where you relive some of the 2003 season’s most notable moments in hopes of changing the tide of the game. This means that you’ll be able to take control Moises Alou as he does combat with Steve Bartman in hopes of removing the Chi-town curse.
ASB2005 is a pretty easy game to pick up and play. Everything in the game is self explanatory and there aren’t any extra features in place to overcomplicate matters. As with any baseball game, the pitcher/batter interface makes or breaks the game and I feel that ASB has one of the best in the business. As before, rookies can go with a timing based system that eases them into the game. Real players will want to go with the total control cursor system though. In addition to determining the contact zone you can determine the angle of your swing with the right analog stick. If you feel so inclined you can guess the upcoming pitch before the pitcher delivers. A correct guess will increase the size of your targeting cursor while an incorrect guess will shrink the cursor.
Pitching is pretty effective too thanks to the charts at your disposal. In the middle of the at-bat you can call up a graph that shows the batter’s hit dispersion in case you want to shift the fielders. This is effective against batters with a significant pull such as a Jason Giambi or a Rafael Palmeiro. You can also pull up a pitch chart to see the pitches in the batter’s previous at-bat as well as hot-cool charts. It’s an effective system that’s still effective after all these years. You know the old saying, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Unless the competition is doing jumping jacks all over your grave that is.
I was a huge fan of ASB2003 because I felt that it offered me the most control while providing me with the most realistic depiction of the sport. 2004 was a letdown because the developers did very little to differentiate itself from the previous iteration. While I’m not as disappointed with the 2005 edition I still feel like Acclaim hasn’t done enough to separate itself from the crowd. Acclaim helped pioneer a number of gameplay elements and they still stand the test of time. It’s just that it hasn’t done very much to add or build upon them. While MVP Baseball is incorporating a Links
-style pitching mechanism All-Star is still content with the cursor based system that it’s been using for a number of years. Sure you get the drag bunt and directional hitting but the gameplay all feels very 2002 instead of 2004.
One of the new additions to this year’s game is the much-vaunted fielder cam but it generally comes off as more of a gimmick than a true gameplay addition. It’s clunky and never does quite give you an adequate view on the action. Speaking of fielding, I think this year’s game really highlighted what was wrong with the system. It just feels so sluggish and unintuitive. There are far too many times when I overran a fly ball or missed an easy grounder because the control was too touchy. I also found that there was a huge lag between the moment that I pressed the button and the action occurred onscreen. This is amazingly frustrating when I’m trying to throw out a runner on a close play.
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