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Review: Pick up the pennant chase with N64's baseball contenders

August 28, 1998
Webposted at 3:30 PM EDT

By CNN/SI Associate Producer Adam Levine

(CNN) -- Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa might not crack Roger Maris' hallowed home run record this season, but a pair of baseball titles for the Nintendo 64 gives you a chance to capture that glory without leaving your couch.

Nintendo's "Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr." and Acclaim's "All-Star Baseball '99" are serious contenders in the growing sports library for the N64.

Both games offer the typical amenities, including rendered stadiums, MLB player licensing, player specific batting stances, a home run derby and rumble pack support. However, the games take a decidedly different approach to the style and pace of baseball.

Take me out to the simulated ball game

Nintendo's Ken Griffey baseball game features fast, arcade-style action.   
"Griffey" is an arcade-style game with fast action, in which you can riffle through a single game in under 20 minutes. "All-Star," on the other hand, plays slower (a 45-minute game is common). It's a simulation game, loaded with statistics and strategy.

A dramatic example of the difference between the arcade and simulation approaches: If you switch pitchers during a game in "Griffey," it's no problem, but if you don't warm up your incoming pitcher over the course of a few outs or innings in "All-Star," he'll get hit hard and often by your opponent.

"Griffey" rates players in four categories (batting, power, running and arm) and offers the basics of bating average, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases. In contrast, "All-Star" offers more statistical categories than the back of a baseball card. "All-Star" rates hitters in 11 areas (including clutch hitting, defense, and streak hitting) and pitchers in 19. "All-Star" also features just about every statistic (from on-base percentage to double plays hit into) for the 1997 season and for the careers of the 700 plus players in the game.

Oh say can you see - and hear - the difference

The impressive graphics and smooth game play of "All-Star Baseball '99" set it apart from other N64 sports games.   
When it comes to graphics, "All-Star" is simply beautiful. The game runs on a high-resolution engine that leaves "Griffey" looking like a Super Nintendo rerun. Player animations in "Griffey" are unnatural when compared to the fluid motions in "All-Star."

The in-game commentary in both games is generally annoying and repetitive, but the atmospheric sounds in "Griffey" are worth leaving the volume up and your stereo off.

"Griffey" captures the charm of the game with compelling sounds (hear the bark of the peanut vendor as you stride to the plate) and has realistic touches, like thinning crowds if you take a beating on your home field. The stadiums in "All- Star" are sharp in detail and scope, but the crowd is generic and will consistently cheer home runs by the opposing team. (What ever happened to home- field advantage?)

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play

A huge feature missing in "Griffey" is the ability to create a player. "All-Star" comes up swinging in this arena, allowing you to create players and stuff them on any team you like. You get to rate a host of physical features (from hair color to height to jersey number) and then assign your creation hitting, fielding and pitching attributes.

Both games allow trades, but "All-Star" also features a farm system where you can groom new prospects or send down a struggling slugger.

The bottom line between the two games is an issue of simulation versus arcade. "Griffey" is worth renting, but with it's stunning graphics, rich statistics and managerial options, "All-Star" has what it takes to deliver a game worthy of America's pastime.

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