RBI 2 - Runs Batted In 2
Copyright/Publisher: Domark/Tengen, Release Year: 1990,
Genre: Baseball, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

Baseball is another one of those odd American games designed so they never lose to foreigners! So far it's been 100% success with no foreign team even entering the so-called World Series. Maybe Graham Taylor should change the rules for football so no foreigners enter the World Cup either!

Games named as obscurely as RBI 2 aren't designed as arcade fodder and true to form this Nintendo conversion offers plenty of realistic detail. There are 28 teams (including two 'all-star' sides), each containing their real 1989 players with authentic statistics, and both National and American Leagues (with two divisions each).

You can choose either to play another person or the computer (easy/hard). Once this is done the actual game is loaded in and you're given a choice of teams. If you pick an opposing team in the same league you're assumed to have entered that league. If the teams are from different leagues a series of seven matches are begun - as if the two teams were in the World Series.

Now you can select your starting Pitcher and your Batting order, making substitutions where necessary. Once the match begins admire the novel screen display. A central strip shows a close-in view of the Pitcher and the Batter. The Batter can be moved /left/right and forward/backward while he waits to receive the ball.

Meanwhile the Pitcher moves left/right on his Mound and can throw the ball fast or slow, curving it all over the place. On the left and right there are strips showing First and Third Bases (Second Base can be seen behind the Pitcher) - perfect for when you want to Steal a Base.

Once the ball is hit, the three views disappear and the screen follows the ball while a radar scanner shows what's happening on the bases. The Fielding player gets direct control of his Fielders while the Batter can choose to send his runners forward extra bases.

The graphics are certainly well thought out, and there's cute touches with fielders leaping to attempt catches and runners sliding into bases, but there's nothing spectacular. The Batter and Pitcher are reasonably animated but could have been better and the Home Run fireworks are primitive.

Sound is equally unimpressiv, a handful of beeps and whooshing sounds with no tunes whatsoever - a shame. But the important stuff is gameplay and RBI mixes in-depth realism with playability. For instance, when a player is caught out all the runners have to run back and tag the base they were on before.

There's also realistic Time-Outs to change pitchers and substitute fielders or batters. Changing Pitchers is critical because they soon get exhausted with 97mph fastballs slowing to 47mph after a couple of innings. Pitchers also take a couple of matches to recover, adding to the management side of the game.

Thankfully authenticity doesn't make RBI inaccessible - everything works perfectly off the joystick and even the statistics soon make perfect sense! Initially simply hitting the ball seems impossible, and when you succeed it generally goes backwards for a Foul ball (which can still be caught to dismiss the Batter!).

There's a good Bunt option though, which allows you to set the bat high, low or middle - then you simply move the player to hit the ball with the fixed bat for a short shot. With practice, though, you can soon be scoring home runs - swinging just as the ball seems to be going past is best.

More than most games, baseball is about psyching the other guy out. Deciding which balls to swing for, which to leave or equally where and how to pitch, are as much guessing how your opponent is thinking as observation or reactions.

And Stealing, of course, can soon get tempers to boiling point! This makes for great two-player games. One-player mode is almost as good with comprehensive league options and in both modes there's a neat codenumber save option.

RBI 2 apparently sold two million on the Nintendo and the graphically superior C64 version should be a big hit too. Realistic but highly playable, both fans and newcomers shouldn't miss this one!

?
There's been a fair few baseball sims before, most notably the showy but simplistic World Series Baseball and Hardball - realistic with great graphics, but no league option and an awkward behind-the-pitcher view for batting.

RBI 2 can't match the graphical and sonic glitz of either but its playability is higher and in my opinion this is the one to get! I especially like the tactical realism, such as deliberately 'walking' your opponent's big hitter to prevent a home run!

You also have to conserve your pitchers' stamina as they soon get exhausted, and know the right time to make substitutions. The pitcher-batter confrontation is the best yet, with the view from behind the batter making hitting the ball easier. This results in a higher-scoring, more open game with plenty of frantic fielding and risky base running.

BASEBALL BASICS
Probably developed from Rounders, baseball is a fairly simple game. To score runs you must get players around the four bases with a run awarded for each player getting to Home Base. The Fielding side try and stop this by catching the ball before it bounces - to dismiss the Batter - and throwing the ball to Bases before Runners reach them - again dismissing them.

If three Batters are dismissed the Fielding team gets to bat. Each team gets nine innings - and if the match is still drawn, extra innings are played. Another way to dismiss batters is to prevent them hiiting the ball! The pitcher should throw the ball between the two white lines of the Strike Zone.

If the Batter then misses the ball it's a Strike - three Strikes and he's out. However, even if the ball goes wide of the lines, it's still a Strike if the Batter swings and misses! If the Batter doesn't swing at an illegal ball a 'Ball' is declared, four of these and the Batter simply walks to first base.

Even better, if the Batter is hit by the ball a 'Beanball' is declared and he walks to First Base straight away! Oh, and as for 'RBI' - it means Runs Batted In, a statistic showing the match average number of runs scored as a result of a player's batting.


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 90%
Four league divisions, good codeword saving system, two-player option, hard/easy computer opponent and limited multiloading.
GRAPHICS 79%
Not as impressive as Hardball, but still attractive and well designed for effective play.
SOUND 28%
Basic spot FX with no tunes.
HOOKABILITY 90%
Timing batting swings takes time to master, but we were soon hooked with the two-player mode being irresistable.
LASTABILITY 89%
Two leagues to beat plus the option to control any of the 28 teams, from the best to the worst, provides an enjoyable challenge.
OVERALL 89%
A hit for beginners and fans alike.


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