DSiWare | Tasuke | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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19th June 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
At the start of the game, you select from a list of 12 teams and choose one that you'll work with for hours to come. Taking on the role of manager, you'll oversea all team operations over the course of month-long seasons, sending them off to league games against other teams as part of a schedule. From the Schedule menu, you can also see just how well your team is doing in comparison to the other teams through their wins and losses. After having come up against so many teams, you'll compete in the Play-Offs followed by the Championship games. But this doesn't happen until much, much later.
Pressing the B Button on the Schedule menu will bring up Team Setting which lists your team roster and each person's individual stats. Players are measured in terms of two different sets of attributes. For batters, you'll be looking at such things as control, stability, stamina, and mental strength, and for pitchers it's more about how good they are at base stealing, running, and even the strength of their eyesight. Everyone on your team will have their abilities graded from E to S which gives you a good idea of what each person's strengths are. Character stats will also give you insight into how popular they are with the crowds, as well as their overall condition. This is represented by little emoticons that depict when a person is down, when they're doing good, and when they feel like a star.
Advancing the schedule will bring your team to a generic stadium for a game of baseball. The top screen is used to show the different characters in their ready positions while the bottom screen displays the scoreboard and the stats of the players who are currently up to bat or pitch. During gameplay, you'll actually do more than just give brief pep talks. Players will actually have a degree of control over the different actions their team performs on their turn. You can either press A to have them go for a normal swing or pitch, or if you're looking for something more advanced, pressing the X Button will bring up a list of commands.
The commands you have available to you depends on what phase you're team is playing in at the time. For batters, you can direct them to do a strong swing, aim for a fly ball, try to steal a base, or simply feel more motivated. When pitching, you can have the player aim for a strikeout, tell the fielders to switch up their defense patterns, or advise the team to watch out for base-stealing runners. In both scenarios, you can also switch out teammates on the fly if you sense that you're falling behind. But still, this is just a sampling of the full list of commands you can make.
Game flow follows a predictable pattern with innings progressing the way they normally would in a typical game of baseball. The process of selecting commands doesn't in fact slow the game down. In fact, the pace is pretty steady all-around and shouldn't be considered bothersome. I did have one or two minor gripes, but otherwise, there aren't many problems to be had with this aspect of the game.
Winning games won't not only be good for your team's average rating, but it'll also be beneficial for their individual progress. Growth Points are given at the conclusion of a game that you can deposit into some of your players to build their stats up a bit. When you look at this element in addition to the element of using commands to direct your players, the entire game has an RPG-like feel to it and it's an interesting setup to be sure.
If this experimental style of gameplay does sound appealing to you, I should first caution you that there's a big problem with the game. Never mind motivating your team, it's hard to stay motivated yourself! This game's biggest drawback is that it's just not fun to play. Even when you gain a victory, it doesn't feel like that big of a win to celebrate over. And part of that has to do with the fact that you don't feel totally connected with what's going on, which is kind of ironic given the amount of "control" you have over team actions and the like.
I found myself longing to have more input with the players -- instead of just telling them what to do, I wanted to actually control the timing of their swings, maybe control the outfielders manually, that sort of thing. If you don't mind the automatic approach, then you might not have a big issue with it. But the fact remains that Absolute Baseball lacks the ability to be an enjoyable experience.
However, I do think the game has enough content to be worth the price tag. The amount of games you'll be playing will last you hours for sure. But the problem is that after so many games, you start to get bored with what's taking place. Again, this goes back to the problem of not feeling completely connected with what's going on.
There's not a lot to say about the presentation. The game's visuals are average as is the quality of the music. It's not super repetitive, but even with the slight changes in audio, it gets dull after a while. Nothing big.
For what it's worth, Absolute Baseball is a very interesting experiment, but it lacks that extra something to be truly worth your time. Yes it has the content to be worth the $5, but it's missing the enjoyment aspect to keep you going well into the Championship games. And even with the amount of control you're given to manage your team, you still feel disconnected with everything that's taking place. So for those reasons, I can't recommend this game.
15/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Features an interesting RPG-like setup, manage your team's actions through a list of commands, limited sense of control
Presentation 5/10 - Average visuals, animations and layouts, features decent music that becomes repetitive after a while
Enjoyment 1/5 - Not fun to play, disconnect between the player and the action that takes place on-screen, gets boring after playing a few games
Extra Content 3/5 - Getting through all scheduled games will take hours, has enough content to be worth the $5 but most won't play the game for that long
Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)