All told, MLB handled game development slightly better than they handled the Houston Asterisks.
RBI Baseball has always been a middling franchise on Switch since its 2017 debut, and it certainly doesn’t help that it has two bits of competition coming up to take its job. Between Super Mega Baseball 3 next month and MLB The Show from Sony next year, I’d be surprised if we see an RBI 21. And for what is in all likelihood the final entry, it goes out just slightly better than it came in but still isn’t fully recommendable unless you need a MLB fix right now and don’t want to splash out for a PS4 and this year’s MLB The Show.
Since it’s officially developed and published by MLB Advanced Media, RBI does have all of the current MLB players/teams/stadiums you’d want in a sim. There are also a collection of “legends” teams, divided into a selection of baseball Hall of Fame players and a “Classics” group who would mostly fit into a “Let’s Remember Some Guys” column if Deadspin still existed. Each team is rated out of 99 in three offensive stats: contact, power, and speed, and three defensive stats: rotation/starting pitching, bullpen/relief pitching, and fielding to give an idea of their relative strengths, but I have to cast doubt on some of these ratings. I’m as big of a Toronto Blue Jays fan as is possible when they’re 17 hours away by car, and I know their bullpen isn’t a 92. Among regular teams, that puts them in a multi-way tie for third, and only two points below the New York Yankees who are roundly considered the best bullpen in the game. And why does a game published by the sport's governing body still not know how to score a play as basic as a sacrifice fly?
The various play modes are similar to what RBI 19 offered: one-off exhibition games, a tournament mode modeled after the Major League postseason (with forced Wild Card play in game), a franchise mode that runs for ten seasons, and a Home Run Derby that also borrows the most recent tournament format. A typical game will usually run about 30-40 minutes depending on how often the players swing at the ball. The controls are once again defaulted to “modern” controls, which involve using the analog stick to select a pitch or swing location, though it can be set to “classic” controls which simplifies things to just a B button press. Fielding can be set to the user’s preference for manual or automatic control of the closest player. I found the manual controls worked well, but in testing the automatic controls it had a lot of issues with play in the infield: a ball hit in between the pitcher’s mound and 3rd that I expected the pitcher to field saw him sprint to first. There were also more than a few plays where a ball would be hit to the first baseman and the pitcher would try to cover first base, but would fail to complete the out by stepping on the bag.
I found the best combination of difficulty and control options for me was Normal difficulty, with the classic controls. I lost pretty badly with the modern controls on Normal, but putting the game to Easy made things laughable regardless of what control method I used. Notably, I would routinely threaten to or actually trigger a ten run mercy rule playing on Easy mode - and there was no way to disable it. Maybe MLB will implement it for the shortened 2020 season, but I’m not holding my breath about a season happening. Even during my postseason test, I managed to trigger it when winning the World Series:
Technically, the game is mostly fine - though the above video does show some odd movement for the ball: it stops dead in its tracks about ten feet behind the third baseman like it hit a wall. I saw a similar effect when hitting a home run. (The Skydome/Rogers Centre doesn’t have a catwalk, or that ball was going to end up somewhere around Buffalo before its hard right turn.) Other versions of RBI have online play, so its omission from the Switch version is perplexing. The load times are frequent, and the framerate of video clips such as the start of the game can drop dramatically. Players with trademark features (such as the prescription glasses worn by the Blue Jays regular catcher) don’t appear on Switch, which did detract from the presentation slightly. Blessedly, they have added a licensed soundtrack since I last played RBI, and there’s a decent variety of tunes there.
When we didn’t have many options for baseball games on Switch, I put way more time into RBI Baseball than would be considered sane. But with the arcade realm owned by the two Super Mega Baseball games and the Arcade Archives, and the best in the business arriving next year, RBI Baseball is probably going to end up as a talking head on a team’s postgame show.