The words “R.B.I. Baseball” instantly conjure up memories for gamers of a certain age and ilk. First released in Japan in 1986, R.B.I. Baseball has continued to attract a cult following over time, much like the Tecmo Bowl series. Now, the franchise has been updated and relaunched with R.B.I. Baseball 14 ($5) by MLB.com.
Staying true to its roots, R.B.I. Baseball 14 is focused on quick, arcade-style baseball gameplay. Gamers searching for advanced management strategies and deep gameplay should look elsewhere. R.B.I. Baseball is a throwback to old baseball games — controls are very simple. While pitching, users can control the speed and direction of their pitches, and that’s it. You won’t find four separate buttons for separate pitches here. You want to throw a changeup? Hold up on the onscreen joystick. Fastball? Hold down. It’s old school. The graphics aren’t flashy, but they do the trick, and the animations are smooth enough. A nine-inning game of R.B.I. takes about a half hour to play, and games can also be set for three or six innings.
Like the classic versions of the game, it does appear that players seem to perform similarly to their real life counterparts — it’s most notable in the speed of a player on the basepaths or when throwing fastballs with a power pitcher. Controls are a breeze to learn and use. Pitching, hitting, and throwing present few problems. Baserunning can be a bit much when multiple players are on base, but plenty of baseball games have that issue. Fielding can be adjusted within the settings. R.B.I. Baseball defaults to assisted fielding, which lets the computer guide your fielders, while letting you handle the throws. Considering that it’s not always easy to judge fly balls in the game, it’s not a bad option.
It’s not a simulation-style game, but one might expect R.B.I. to have a few more details than it does. Actual MLB ballpark wall dimensions seem to be in order, though the details behind the outfield fences aren’t really there. The game has the official licenses, and all the teams. It has plenty of real players, but far from all of them. The bench is short, as are the pitching staffs. Pitchers fatigue quickly, so you’ll have to go to your bullpen often to get through a nine-inning game. And forget about messing with your batting order.
Curiously, for such a fast-paced game, R.B.I. Baseball 14 offers no multiplayer options. To some gamers, this might not matter at all, but it would have been nice to include something. The season mode is also lacking, giving players virtually no management options. Again, it’s not a simulation sports game, but being able to pick the starters or throwing in a few wrinkles wouldn’t have been so bad. The season mode isn’t much different than playing exhibition mode. Gamers can also go straight to the playoffs with a postseason mode.
MLB.com deserves credit for sticking with R.B.I. Baseball’s true arcade feel. Not everyone wants to play a highly involved, 90 minute baseball video game, and they didn’t lose sight of that. However, as the game’s title notes, it is 2014. A few more things could have been added without diluting the game’s appeal — most notably, deeper rosters and a few other extra options. Old school baseball gamers who want a fun pick-up-and-play game should be pleased with the purchase, but anyone looking to go deeper will probably be disappointed dropping $5 on R.B.I Baseball 14.
iLounge Rating: B