Mario takes to the mound his new baseball game is shaping up to be a home run.
Nintendo has brought Mario out in force at the 2005 E3 Expo. Mario Baseball is just one of a slew of Mario titles on the show floor.
The game starts with players picking a team captain. For the E3 demo, the rest of the team is chosen randomly. The game mostly focuses on batting and pitching, though fielding is also incorporated. Pitching is simple enough. Pressing or holding the A button pitches the ball (the pitch is charged up if the button is held). Releasing the button at just the right time will give you a “NICE!" pitch, which will be harder to hit. Holding down on the analog stick while pitching will cause the team captain to throw a change-up instead of a regular pitch.
Batting, while equally simple, is more difficult. Learning the correct time to swing is tricky, and I went through my first whole game with almost no hits. Hitting a pitch and getting a “NICE!" is particularly challenging. The maneuver is highly dependant on when the pitcher starts his or her wind-up, and starting a swing too early or late will ruin your chances of getting the perfect hit.
Once the ball is in the air, it’s a mad dash to first base. For fielding, a circle is displayed on the ground indicating where the ball is going to land. Getting a character to this spot in time is sometimes a challenge and sometimes incredibly easy, depending on where exactly the ball is headed. The game feels unbalanced, as a ball headed to a remote area of the outfield often opens up the chance for two or even three runners to score. The speed of the fielders could use a boost to correct this. There’s also an option to steal bases and check runners.
The game is a lot of fun, though slightly hard to learn. Multi-player feels more balanced than the single player, but this is most likely because everyone playing the game is new to it, where as the computer knows what its doing. The super-moves (pitches and swings) are tons of fun and do all sorts of wacky things. For example, Baby Bowser throws a Bullet Bill pitch that is nearly impossible to hit and Yoshi’s egg pitch bounces in and out of the strike zone. Power-swings can go flying, but they are not as impossible to catch as the power-pitches are to hit.
One of the big standout features of Mario Baseball is the personality the game has. Every single character is unique. Many of them have special bats and all of them behave in a very zany, cartoon-like manner. Dry-Bones shuffles out to the plate like a zombie, and koopa zooms in tucked inside his shell. These types of actions are littered all over the game and really bring it to life. Expect Mario Baseball to be a ton of fun when it is released later this year.