Bases Loaded II is, with the possible exception of R.B.I. Baseball, the greatest baseball game ever created for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It beautifully combines the two elements of simulated baseball that have captured the interests of young sports fans everywhere: managerial and statistical prowess and great gametime play.
In the game, you can pick from twelve fictional teams split into two leagues. Perhaps the biggest detractor of the game is that Jaleco did not buy the Major League Baseball licensing rights, and all of players are artificial. Thus, you have no prior knowledge of any of the players' stats before selecting a team. In general, each team is rather evenly matched, with each lineup running the spectrum from superstar to scrub. Despite the general attempt at fairness, the damn Yankees still have the best team in the league. A season consists of 132 games, followed by the World Series. It is a given fact that you will not win all 132 games, unless you cheat and restart losing games. A password system ensures you can pick up right where you left off when you are interrupted by school or work. (See below.)
Pitching is rather straightforward, but has an extremely subtle grace for a NES game. You pitch by pressing the A button - you can also push left or right before the pitch to put it inside or outside, and up or down to increase the velocity. What makes the game really interesting is your uncanny ability to manipulate the ball's path after the pitch has been thrown. Pushing left or right will curve the ball in that direction, while up can change your heater to a rising heater, and down can sink that curve into the dirt. Even more nuanced is the fact that different pitchers have different stuff. The guys with the 99 mile per hour fastball don't have a lot of motion, while the junkballers can move a ball from inside all the way outside in one shot. More advanced players will learn even more tricks involving precision direction pushing for impossibly wicked knuckleballs, screwballs, and spitters. The game also added a neat pick-off move (this only works in two player ... the computer is ON TO YOU). Simply press B before making a pitch, then throw to the base.
Batting, like pitching, is not just a simple button punch. Again, pushing the A button will have a solid swing for over the plate meat. Alternatively, tapping A will turn your batter into a bunter. You can also refine your swing by holding down a direction before hitting A - and the bat head will end up in that quadrant of the strike zone. You can also hit multiple buttons - left and up for that high and away fastball. The best part, though, is you, too, can adjust your bat mid-swing. While the swing is in progress, pushing a direction will ever so softly move the bat in that direction. This is useful for those awkward inside-out 62 MPH curveballs, and for creating a good opposite field single.
Fielding is a little less complicated in Bases Loaded II. When a ball is hit, the view changes to a nice bird's-eye view of the ball in flight. With your direction pad, you simultaneously control all players not covering a bag - pitcher, shortstop, outfielders, and catcher if there's no man on third. A vaguely convenient shadow will appear on the field for catching pop ups and flyballs, and grounders are rarely difficult. You can leap by pressing just B, or dive by holding a direction and pressing B (be warned - the dive is not far, and should probably only be used to catch fly balls about to land.) To throw to a base, push the appropriate direction button for the bag (down for home, right for first, up for second, left for third- it's a diamond, you dope) and pressing A.
By far the hardest and most annoying part of the game is the baserunning. To move a runner forward is relatively simple: hold down the direction button for the base he is on and hold down B. Before the pitcher throws, holding the direction and tapping B will allow you to lead off. Once a pitcher is going to throw, he'll move his head side to side - if you want to steal, now's your chance. While the ball's in play, you can advance runners the same way. To get them back to the base - this is tricky - hit the base they were just at and hit A. You will fail at this many, many times.
I spent hours playing this and Tecmo Bowl growing up. If you want to keep the game simple, great! Two buttons and a direction pad was all you needed. The graphics are more than passable, it's got a great booming anthemic theme song, and the gameplay is extremely well-refined. The best part of the game is that they really tried to capture what a full season might entail - you could give up a home run on the first pitch, or you could throw six perfect innings and then get shelled in the seventh as your pitcher wound down. There was that chance that smash off the wall could turn from a double into a triple, if the outfielder's arm wasn't so strong. It's involving, it's highly realistic, and best of all, it rewards good strategy. Putting in a righthanded pinch hitter against a southpaw almost always got me a hit. There are so many reasons to like this game as much as any Nintendo game - but as a baseball game, I think it comes second to none.
Special Tricks and Treats
- You can get into a brawl! That's right, just hit three batters in one inning, and you're all set for some fun violent graphics. Amazingly, neither the batter nor the pitcher are ejected - everything comes back to normal. Apparently the game is pre-Frank Robinson-era fines commissioner.
- Here is the dirtiest trick of them all for beating the computer. It requires a bit of practice, but once you've mastered it, they'll never score a run except on homers. After one of their runners has reached base, here's what to do:
- Use the pickoff move and throw to the base they're at.
- Using the baseman with the ball, move away from the bag the runner is on.
- Now, look at the base they are headed to next - if they're on first, for example, they're headed to second.
- Now throw the ball to the opposite base of the runner's destination. If they're headed to second, throw it to home. If they're headed home, throw it to second. The baserunner will immediately take off.
- As soon as you catch the ball, throw it to the bag he's headed for. NOTE: This is where most mistakes occur. Not hitting the proper button to make the right throw will leave the runner one base closer to scoring.
- If you make the throw right, the runner will turn back towards his original base - but by now it's too late. Run him down, play pickle until you're close enough to tag him, and there's one less threat on the basepaths.
- I rarely use this trick anymore - sometimes for show. Amazingly enough, many of your friends will also run if you do such foolish things as these.
- The game has a primitive method of determining streaks and hot players. After each game, a sports reporter appears with each player's biorhythms report. Players in all negatives will not be as effective the next game, while players in all positive will be slightly better than usual. Occasionally a player's numbers will be so low that you should probably move them to the 9 spot in the lineup.
One Last Thing
So now that you're running off to buy the game or download the ROM, here's some good cheat codes to get you off on the right track towards eternal glory. Each passwords will give you a 50-0 record.
New York CMDUIID
Los Angeles SCTLRYQ