One thing I’m certain is that few people, if anyone, share my burning desire for a good baseball game on Nintendo Switch. The system has a healthy amount of titles in just about every other genre, but for baseball the options are the disappointing R.B.I. Baseball 17 and Baseball Riot — we don’t talk about Baseball Riot. Hamster seems to have heard my cries with their latest release in the fantastic ACA NeoGeo re-release series: Super Baseball 2020.
Super Baseball 2020 (also known as 2020 Super Baseball) originally released in arcades and on NeoGeo in 1991. In Super Baseball 2020, men, women, and robots all play on professional teams across two separate leagues and the game of baseball itself has seen quite a few tweaks. There are now infallible robo-umps, exploding “crackers” placed around the field every few innings, and a home run zone limited to the stands behind center field. Unfortunately, it seems that baseball customs have also apparently been eschewed in the year 2020, as men are covered from head to toe in uniform but women are sexualized. In today’s game, a player would probably get beaned by a fastball if they walked up to the plate in short-shorts. There’s a pretty clear line between fashion and selling out a gender to 12-year-olds with an abundance of quarters.
There’s another relic from 1991 present in this version of Super Baseball 2020: credits. All of the ACA NeoGeo ports by Hamster have it, and luckily, you don’t need to jam a quarter in your Nintendo Switch to keep playing. Mashing the L button will add as many credits as you want, and Super Baseball 2020 will require that you expend a credit after five minutes or so. That’s quite a few credits across a nine-inning baseball game. Obviously, you’ll never be spending any money to play this version of Super Baseball 2020 aside from the $7.99 fee to buy the game, but it gets pretty annoying when the game stops and tells you to expend a credit when the ball is halfway to the plate.
With that aside, Super Baseball 2020 does baseball pretty well. You can play a single-season league against AI or local multiplayer against a friend, and there’s a good variety of fictional teams that specialize in pitching, hitting, or fielding (for example, the American Dreams have maxed-out hitting but poor pitching, whereas the Naples Seagulls are well-rounded in each category). The AI is good, too; I lost my first several games by more than eight runs, and my first couple victories were one-run nail biters.
As I mentioned earlier, the home run zone is limited to straight-away center field because all of the batters are able to hit the ball so far. This limits home runs, making it more rewarding when you hit one — and all the more frustrating when you give one up and blow a lead. Pitching is pretty simple: you hold down the action button to wind up and release it to unleash a 131 MPH fastball that you can move left and right with the joystick as it barrels toward the plate. You can also simply press the action button for a lighter pitch or briefly hold it down and push left or right on the joystick to emulate a slider. Leaving a pitch over the plate will almost certainly result in a home run at worst and extra bases at best. The AI doesn’t mess around.
Batting is a matter of timing and getting the barrel of the bat on the ball. AI pitching is fair, and if you’re patient enough, you’ll be able to draw walks or force the AI to give you something to hit down the middle of the plate. I found that crowding the plate when the AI pitches inside results in a good number of free bases by way of hit batters.
While there isn’t any management during the league — there’s no trading or lineup setting — there is bullpen and upgrade management in-game. The former is exactly as it is in any baseball game, 2020 or otherwise: your pitchers will wear down if they face too many batters and their pitch velocity will dramatically decline. If they’re a robot they’ll blow up and an ambulance drone will fly in and carry its remains away. As an aside, ambulance drones charging ridiculous health care fees may be the only 2020 prediction that pans out. Personally, I hope the infallible robo-umps happen.
That latter type of in-game management, upgrades, allows you to power-up your players during clutch moments. Every result of an at-bat — a strikeout, base hit, home run, fly out, etc — leads to monetary rewards and penalties for both teams. Those funds can be exchanged at any time for upgrades to a batter’s power, upgrades to a pitcher’s power, and so on. The lowest available upgrade for a hitter, for example, is a power increase of 15% while the most expensive is a power upgrade of 40%.
The final things worth mentioning are the fielding and running controls in Super Baseball 2020. Both are archaic, unfortunately. Fielders will automatically run toward the ball and they’ll often let grounders roll right by them if you don’t press the action button to make them dive after it. Balls hit into the stands that aren’t in the home-run zone will bounce back into the field and take the camera off the fielders in the process, occasionally resulting in extra bases for the AI because your fielders weren’t in the best position to field the ball. More annoyingly, your runners won’t advance bases automatically and can only be advanced once they reach the next base. This led to a whole lot of missed runs and shortened innings (tip: to advance runners, hold down the next base on the d-pad and press either B or X, depending on how you have your controls mapped).
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of Super Baseball 2020 for this review.