The first baseball video games I ever played were very simple. Mattel’s Baseball for Intellivision, Tengen’s R.B.I. Baseball and SNK’s Baseball Stars for the NES were far from technological wonders in terms of their gameplay (OK, Baseball Stars had full roster management, which was pretty advanced for its time), but as I’ve said many times before, I’ve had the most fun with simpler games. While sports games have become fully immersive experiences that have attempted to impart a sense of what it’s like to play the games for real, I have continued to go back to simple button masher sports games through emulation because I had no other choice. And then mobile phone gaming exploded, and a simpler control system was needed for touch screen devices. South Korean developer Gamevil has pumped out half a dozen baseball games for iOS and Android in the last four years, and the curiously numbered Baseball Superstars II is the latest.
While the game’s mechanics share a lot with early console baseball games, at its heart Baseball Superstars II is an RPG whose combat is done on the diamond. Both the game’s Season Mode (which puts you in charge of a team’s baseball operations) and My League Mode (where you live out your character’s 11-season dream of big-league stardom) rely on the improvement of player characteristics through training, in-game encounters or item purchases. And this is the seed of the game’s fatal flaw. Many items require a large investment of G Points, the in-game currency, which can, of course, be acquired by grinding through the game’s other modes – tutorials, Home Run Race, etc. But I’ll bet that Gamevil would rather you take the shortcuts they offer through in-app purchases and ad-supported offers for downloading other apps. The proof for that is the game’s stinginess with G Points relative to the cost of some items. There are cheats floating around, naturally, and with a Rockefeller-esque cache of G Points the game becomes much easier. To that end, a little bit of balance would’ve been nice, since it took my non-cheat character a few seasons before he was able to hit for power consistently.
In addition, some of the storyline elements are a little silly. There are a pair of tacked-on romantic subplots in My Season mode that involve choosing between a cute athletic girl and a rich snob, or a nurse and a witch who looks like she’s 12. By the end, you manage to end up with two girlfriends, though there is little explanation as to how you plan on juggling them going forward. There are in-game challenges as well – your coach will tell you when to swing for the fences and when to simply bunt a runner over, younger players will gaze at you with wonder while they ask you to hit a line drive and occasionally players will get greedy and ask you to hit a third home run when you’ve already put two in the stands.
If you can get past that, though, the game harkens back to a simpler time, when pitching and hitting were easier. The same thrill is there when you’re down by three runs in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded and it’s up to you to turn the tide, a scenario that popped up an awful lot in the course of my career.
Baseball Superstars II is available for free for both Android and iOS. An ad-free “Pro” version for iOS is $0.99.
Don’s cheat character broke Roger Maris’ home run record in 116 fewer games. Call him out for being cheap @UnwinnableDonB.