Monday, March 3, 2008

Day 1: Home Run Nighter Pennant League

Spring Training is in full swing and it's actually been nice enough to go outside without a coat a couple of times, so I'm in a baseball kind of mood. It took some hunting, but I was finally able to find a baseball game I'd never played. Home Run Nighter Pennant League. I think.

I don't read Japanese, so for all I know this game could be called Gatorade Enema Pennant League. Do enough Japanese kids speak English to include both languages? Should I feel stupid and inferior for not only not knowing what any of those little Japanese squiggles mean but also not knowing enough to know if they're even really Japanese? At least I can throw a ball from second base to first without bouncing it, which none of the players in this game seem able to do.

Even the names on the team select screen are English. Cups. Fire. Swan. I went with Butta and was prompted to set my starting lineup. Since this was all in Japanese, it quickly devolved into pushing every button I could until one of them started the game.

One thing I noticed that sets Home Run Nighter apart from other games of the era is that not all of the players look exactly the same. About 90% of them look the same, but one or two guys per team actually have unique sprites. I don't know what the significance is, but I do know that my two different-looking guys got my only two RBI. Coincidence?

The game plays exactly like every other baseball game from the time that I've ever played. That means you control pitch movement with the d-pad after releasing the ball and you don't know where your outfielders are in relation to fly balls until it's too late. Once the second baseman cost me an out by intercepting a throw from short to first.

I gave up 4 runs in the first learning how to play, but after that things went better. Sure, I lost 9 to 2, but I did hit a home run and a triple, so as a team I hit for the cycle, something the computer controlled team didn't do.

After the game, the losers (me) shuffled off the field while the winners were photographed for the sports page. Then the anchors of the postgame show broke the ass-kicking down. All in Japanese of course. I believe that last group of symbols, in the giant font a followed by two exclamation points means "played like a crippled gopher" but I could be wrong.

The late 80's and early 90's produced many of my favorite baseball video games. That was right before being realistic became more important than being fun. Home Run Nighter Pennant League fits nicely with RBI Baseball and Baseball Stars as one of the best of the era.

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