TURN TO CHANNEL 3: Neo Geo’s ‘Baseball Stars Professional’ is good but not quite major league
Here on Turn to Channel 3, I like to think of spring as much as I can, especially when living in the always-interesting Northeastern Pennsylvania weather patterns thrust upon us. To me, more than anything, baseball season is a sign that spring has truly arrived, so I think to keep those positive thoughts of a coming spring in mind, we’re going to take a look at a baseball game from the Neo Geo console – “Baseball Stars Professional!”
Go buy your hot dogs and Cracker Jacks – it’s time to hit the mound and play ball!
“Baseball Stars Professional” (Neo Geo)
In 1990, sports games were pretty basic, and the idea of any kind of commentary, especially in baseball games, was simply unheard of. “Baseball Stars” was a series of games by SNK that had entries on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989 and 1991, to varying results, but this was one of the first SNK titles for its own Neo Geo console.
Based off the NES original from a year earlier, “Baseball Stars Professional” ups the ante with great, albeit repetitive, commentary and stellar tunes to keep you swinging for the fences. While the talking can come across as choppy at times, it is still a welcome addition that takes the basic “Baseball Stars” formula to the next level. Even the intro tune is pretty exciting!
Bright, colorful, and full of character, this was another great example of adding a bit more pizazz to the game we played on the NES. I really liked the mascots you see for each team as you scroll through them. Keep in mind, these teams debuted on the NES, but we weren’t given much to distinguish them by other than the names of each player.
With the additions of these mascots, along with more depth to the stadiums and animations throughout, we are given a more complete baseball game. These are little things we may find no big deal in 2017 but, in 1990, these little differences helped titles stand out in an industry inundated with sports games.
“Baseball Stars Professional” carries on the stellar gameplay found on its NES predecessor to a tee. Playing against rival teams, making your way through a tournament, it still makes for a fun time. However, if there’s one glaring gripe that I think most gamers would have while playing this, it would be the emphasis on arcade-style play.
Whereas “Baseball Stars” on the NES was groundbreaking, as it was the first sports title to utilize a save battery, what made it stand out most of all was the ability to create and edit team rosters to your liking. “Baseball Stars” made a season of baseball as grueling as the real thing, catering to all kinds of baseball game lovers. If you enjoyed a casual game, that was there. If you wanted a season of high price players that may or may not deliver, that strategy was there. If you were a bold, brazen, yet optimistic player, you could create a lower paid rookie team that would take time to develop. You had the ability to hire and fire players which, in 1989 on the NES, a console that at that point didn’t let you create a “Tecmo Super Bowl” football team to your liking, was astounding.
“Baseball Stars Professional” doesn’t give you any of that, simply offering a versus mode or tournament mode, which is a real shame. Developers definitely sacrificed depth and replay value for flashier, more arcade-style play at home. While I can understand that this was the calling card and the big reason for the Neo Geo AES, ignoring those folks who wanted a more enhanced version of “Baseball Stars” with those features intact was a grave mistake in my estimation.
I wouldn’t say “Baseball Stars Professional” hits a home run, but it’s certainly a solid double or triple. If you’re looking for a more complete experience in team editing and season play, then you may want to keep this title from your budding Neo Geo AES collection. However, if you’re looking for a starting point in collecting for the console, as well as a basic, straightforward arcade sports title, then you can’t go wrong with “Baseball Stars Professional” to get your baseball fever rising!
Next time on Turn to Channel 3, we look at a staple of SNK’s Neo Geo console as its premiere arcade fighting series comes home with “King of Fighters ‘94!”
Until then, just keep thinking spring and of great times to game on!