WORLD SERIES BASEBALL is the new baseball simulation from Sega for the Genesis. World Series Baseball, WSB, is a follow-up to Sportstalk Baseball, which was first released in 1991. Sega made a number of welcome improvements to this game, but still has a little way to go before achieving the perfect baseball simulation.
WSB has a number of features which make this cart more realistic than many other baseball carts. The pitches are viewed from the perspective of the catcher, allowing more realistic curves and ball movements than other games. The pitch selection is outstanding-- each pitcher has three of eight pitches (fastball, curveball, slider, splitter, change-up, knuckleball, screwball, sinker) which can be thrown at three different speeds. True to real baseball, the speed differences and amount of curve on the ball makes or breaks a pitcher's effectiveness.
Batting in this game in also more realistic than in other baseball carts. Like LaRussa baseball, the batter has a choice of contact, normal or power swings. However, like the real game, timing isn't everything. WSB also has a circle which aims the bat to swing with power at a certain place. If you don't time the swing correctly, and guess or react to where the pitch is going, you won't make contact. A choice of contact swing gets you a large hitting circle, a choice of power swing gets you a small hitting circle.
Other realistic features, which are available in some combination in other baseball simulations (LaRussa, Hardball III): a bullpen to warm up pitchers, which takes time; the ability to do double-switches and other pinch-hitting functions; a "strategy" feature which allows you to set infield and outfield overshifts and depth, e.g. bunt, double play, guard the corners; and pitch-outs.
World Series Baseball has numerous playing options. A season can be played in varying lengths from 13 to 162 games. For purists, the leagues can be set up in 4 divisions; for revisionists, the leagues can be set up in 6 divisions (good for those who like to play AL West teams). There are three levels of difficulties for both pitching and batting. On the Rookie level, there is no need to aim the bat, only timing matters when swinging. The pitches do not go over 80 mph, and do not have killer breaks. On the Veteran level, the batting circles are rather large and the pitches come in faster (less than 90 mph). On the All-Star level, the pitches fly (90- 100 mph) making change-ups so hard to hit, and the batting circles range from medium to miniscule, depending upon the swing choice you make.
WSB does a good job with statistics. During a season, full statistics are kept, and at the end of each game league leaders are tallied.
Up to this point, this has been an extremely positive review. However there are downsides to this game, some serious. The only problem with the game controls comes when baserunning. To control the runner on first, the D-pad must be pressed towards the right, in other words, towards the base the runner is COMING FROM! This is opposite most (all?) other baseball games and is confusing for the new player--and sometimes the old!
There are also many bugs in this game-- some serious, some merely annoying. The more annoying:
1) Homeruns are almost always hit too far. 495 feet is a length Frank Thomas dreams of, but I've seen John Burkett hit one that far.
2) The sportstalk mistakes left field for right sometimes on fly balls, and never calls a grounder back to the pitcher.
3) A pitcher can get a save by getting the last out of a game, even though his team is ahead by 15 runs.
4) The computer continues to sacrifice even though it may be down by 10 runs.
5) During a season as the Boston Red Sox, Otis Nixon's batting average was higher than his on-base percentage.
The more serious bugs (i.e. can affect the outcome of a game):
1) Sometimes doesn't let the runner tag up on flies.
2) The outfield makes a disproportionate amount of "great diving catches" and there are too many homeruns. In the same season mentioned above, Mike Greenwell has 34 homeruns in 20 games.
3) Computer sometimes calls safe when the throw clearly beats the runner and vice-versa
4) If you make multiple runners take off on the pitch, the computer gets confused if you then try to make the tag.
5) Sometimes an outfielder will make a catch and then never throw the ball back into the pitcher, effectively stopping the game
6) Double plays sometimes get called wrong. For instance, the throw beats the guy at second, but is late getting to first. The computer will call the guy at second safe, but the guy at first out.
Please note about these bugs that they DO NOT happen all the time or even most of the time, nor is the above a complete and exact list.
Even though bugs plague this game, WORLD SERIES BASEBALL is by far the best baseball simulation available, hands down. The gameplay is realistic, the options great, and the graphics are incredible! A must- have for baseball fans, WORLD SERIES BASEBALL is as close to perfect as a baseball simulation can *currently* get.This review is Copyright (c) 1994 by Kerry Anne Pearce for Game Bytes Magazine.