Great Baseball

One of the very first articles I wrote here on TVG was Baseball and NES, because I love many baseball games for the NES. I haven’t played them all but one of my absolute favorites is MLB (yes it is made by LJN), but an extremely close second would be Jaleco’s Bases Loaded. I still remember the commercials for Bases Loaded, even as a kid who had yet to own an NES, and when I finally got my hands on both an NES and a copy of that game I could hardly part with it.

What Bases Loaded did differently from any other NES baseball game I had seen at the time was give you lanky players, as opposed to short, chubby, Babe Ruth inspired sprites. Another thing that it did differently that I hadn’t seen anywhere else was setting the view point from behind the pitching mound, as where most of the others were set from behind home plate. Needless to say, I loved Bases Loaded for the NES.

Fast forward many, many years to 2012 when I acquired my Sega Master System, accompanied with a game by the name of Great Baseball. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Great Baseball, but I knew it had to be baseball and it had to be better than Nintendo’s game, simply titled, Baseball. Great Baseball’s title screen says it all, starting with it’s use of more eye catching colors than the NES could ever hope, and finishing up with a pseudo-action sequence of a player sliding into home.

After you slowly come back down to Earth from that intro, and you manage to hit the start button, you’re greeted with six game options.. six! In reality there are only 3 modes; single player, two player and home run contest, yet there are two difficulty levels for each. After you’ve chosen which mode you wish to play you are then presented with a good variety of teams, with a map that will show exactly where each selection hails from.

After you and player two, or the CPU, have your teams chosen, you have to choose your pitcher, their special pitch and how much stamina they will have for the game. After that you’ll be shown the lineup screen, which shows the batting order for the team up to bat. Once the game starts the first thing you will notice is how bright and vibrant the game’s colors are, as well as how the player sprites don’t look as sickly as it’s NES counterparts.

Most of the time you will start off pitching, though sometimes I have found myself at bat, pitching is fairly straight forward as you can control the ball’s speed and direction with the D-pad. If the batter happens to hit the ball the game will switch to the diamond screen which shows the whole field of play, where you will then see players scramble to their positions and you now control an outfielder, which gives you a chance to make a play. If you’ve played an NES baseball game, this is pretty standard.

Overall there isn’t much difference in the way the game handles in comparison to it’s NES counterpart, so there isn’t any long awkward learning curve with Great Baseball. The replay value on this game is phenomenal, even for an old cartridge based baseball game. Due to it’s brilliant color palette and the smooth game play Great Baseball has become one of my favorite baseball video games, as well as one of my favorite Master System games.

Posted June 24th, 2012

(not so) Great Basketball

While the Sega Master System’s library was rife with worthwhile titles, it was also plagued by a whole bunch of stinkers! Sega developed and published a series of sports titles for the Master System, all with the prefix Great boldly starting off the titles, followed by the actual sport that was supposedly so, well.. great! I happen to own two of these games and I can say without a doubt I enjoy Great Baseball quite a bit, dare I even say more so than any of my NES baseball titles.

But Such is the story of Great Basketball, perhaps more of a wishful title than a literal one. As you can tell by the title this is a basketball game, naturally. But sadly the only thing great about this game seems to be it’s atrocious, and often times mind-numbing flaws!

From the title screen you’re greeted with a pretty standard screen which allows you to choose one or two players. This screen is pretty opaque and doesn’t show the horrors that await you next, which is the team select screen. You are then presented with 8 choices of countries, rather than actual teams.

The game can’t even get choosing a team done right as the controls are sluggish. Even once you’ve made your choice, you’re forced to sit through a short rendition of that country’s national anthem, which I’ve only managed to skip, on accident, once! Then you have to finish up by picking the CPU’s team, or allowing player 2 to choose their team.

Now the action starts and the graphics look pretty good for an 8-bit basketball game; the court looks nicely decorated, the cheerleaders are standard yet interesting sprites, the referee is the tallest sprite on the screen and perhaps should be the one playing basketball, and the teams are comprised of Amish style, faceless sprites. The goals look like goals and the basketball looks like a basketball. Graphically this game could have delivered a little more in some areas, but truthfully not by much!

So here is where the true horror begins, by now you’ve forgiven the sluggish selection screen and being forced to learn a new national anthem and you’re ready to play ball, but again the game can’t even get that done right! You can pass the ball around quite swiftly but to shoot a basket you must first jump, wait for the peak of the jump, then hit the jump button yet again to throw the ball. From there fate and chance take over as to whether or not you’ll drain that bank shot, more often than not you’ll end up missing.

So lets say you, or the other team most likely, were fortunate enough to sink that basket, now you have to wait as the game makes a sound to let you know that someone scored, the ball drops to the floor and the crowd starts to cheer. This event will burn up an additional couple of seconds off your playing enjoyment. Why can’t I just pick up the ball and inbound it right away, instead of waiting for it to tell me someone scored and hearing the crowd cheer!?

So the ball is now inbounded to a teammate, or perhaps you chose to become a ball hog and rush over to the shadow and inbound to yourself, now you have to go by what I call the “2 pixel foul rule”. The 2 pixel foul rule is just that, if you or the other team possess the ball and YOU walk within 2 pixels of the other team, you foul them by default. This merely changes possession as I’ve never seen any free throws being offered, and although it is harder to do, you can get them to foul you as well.

I will give the game credit for having fairly clear voice samples, the referee will call “Jump Ball”, “Jump Shot” and “Three point shot”, regardless if it were you or the CPU who made the shot. Again the graphics are pretty good, although the crowd looks like Bob Ross’s palette after a long day of painting happy trees. Perhaps there is too much orange off the court and anywhere else there isn’t substance, but that is my favorite color so I may be bias there.

Countless times I’ve tried to give this game a shot, but game up short. Great Basketball never made it to the draft, and there are quite a few reasons why. Had Sega given this game a little more time, and just a few tweaks here and there, this game could have been good, but even so this game simply couldn’t live up to it’s prefix of great.

Posted June 14th, 2012

Sam’s Scores IX

Finally Sam’s Scores has made a triumphant, yet brief, return to it’s maiden format, the article! Some changes have to be made as the video format simply isn’t working out very well for myself, as well as the complete and utter lack of anything worth buying that isn’t outrageously overpriced. In previous editions I loved to show off the price tags as proof that I was indeed getting a score, but nowadays I often buy things in bulk from the Goodwill Outlet stores.

From now on most scores will be noted as bought from the Goodwill Outlet store as well as the bulk price paid, but when I do indeed get a score from somewhere I will do my best to show the price tag. Sadly the price tags on two of today’s scores were both on the back and were removed when I cleaned them. Normally I clean around them, take the pics I need for the article and then remove them after I’ve gotten what I need, but since it would do no good to simply show the back of the items I decided to just remove them anyway and toss them up, enjoy!

4) – Superbike 2000

Number 4 isn’t really anything to brag about, but it is a rare find none the less. Not the game itself, no, but the fact that this game is still wrapped and sealed (note the hologram to the right of the helmet in the image), with the exception of the lower right corner being ripped. From the reviews I’ve seen of the Playstation version, which this one is, perhaps that is where it is most rightful to stay, forever! But finding it still intrigued me enough to warrant a purchase.

Superbike 2000 – Goodwill Outlet $.69 per pound = ???

3) – Interact Superpad for the SNES

Number 3 is an interesting tale of going back for something you wanted, but finding more than you originally went in for. I went into a Goodwill looking to find score #2 (see below), as I had previously passed on it, and couldn’t find it, but instead ran across this sad looking controller. The controller had damage on it and had been pried half open, as if some idiot couldn’t simply remove the 6 phillips screws holding it together. In the end I picked it up, and after a good cleaning, and careful reconstruction, the controller works great. It also has a contoured back, making it quite comfortable to hold as well!

Interact Superpad for the SNES -$1.99 w/ 50% off weekly discount = $1

2) – Sega Sports edition Dreamcast Controller

As I mentioned above I had passed this one up but it stayed on my mind for a week, until it’s price tag color was half off. I hardly find anything related to the Sega Dreamcast, and even less related to the Sega Sports edition, so when I saw this at the price they wanted AND the 50% off, I couldn’t walk away a second time.

Sega Sports edition Dreamcast Controller -$2.99 w/ 50% off weekly discount = $1.50

1) – Final Fantasy VII

And finally, an original black label copy of Final Fantasy 7, with all 3 discs but no manual. I used to own this when they were between running out of the original stock and making up the green labelled “Greatest Hits” version. Personally I don’t mind either, as long as I can play the game, yet as a collector I’m glad I have the original version.

Final Fantasy 7 – Goodwill Outlet $.69 per pound = ???

Posted June 13th, 2012

How to clean a nylon carrying case.

For the past decade I’ve had an obsessive compulsion to organize everything, and my video game collection is no exception. Luckily for me video game companies had both the foresight and the marketing prowess to have video game organizers made. Not only do I use them to keep my video games organized, but I also collect them even if I have no immediate use for them.

The most common video game organizers that I happen to find are carrying cases made of a nylon material, and although the material is strong and rugged, it can hold on to dirt and other markings pretty tightly. That becomes an issue when I find most of mine at thrift stores, where they’re either super filthy or marked up with markers. While markers are extremely difficult to remove, if not impossible, dirt will wash off with a little bit of work.

GBC and Gameboy nylon carrying cases found at the Goodwill Outlet store. They're both very dirty, but that is about to change.

Above are two carrying cases that I picked up from the Goodwill Outlet store and they were extremely dirty, as you can see. I have quite a few cases for different Gameboy systems like the one on the right, but I’ve never found one that holds the system, like the one for the Gameboy Color, and I’ve always wanted one. To be honest, when I first picked up the one for the Gameboy Color I almost put it back down, but I figured as cheap as it was a run through the wash couldn’t hurt.

Back and front were pretty dirty.

After a simple run through the washing machine with the Gameboy bag, as well as one for the Sega Game Gear, all three came out fairly clean. I always allow them to air dry as I don’t know what a dryer would do to the nylon material, so I decide to err on the side of caution. If needed I will use multiple wash cycles as well as spin cycles to help pull out extra water.

So much cleaner!

As you can see above the case came out significantly cleaner, although I may never get it perfectly clean it still looks largely better than it did when I first bought it, making me extremely glad I decided not to throw it back into the bin. This took a couple of runs through the washing cycle and I did have to do some manual scrubbing with a rag on both the outside and the clear sections inside. Also notice how dirty the logo was for the Gameboy Color bag, but since it is made of what I assume to be rubber it is very easy to scrub off with a rag or a pencil eraser works well also, it just leaves eraser dust.

Not always the case, but more often than not, with a couple of runs through the washing machine, just the same as you do your laundry, and a little elbow grease can give your nylon carrying cases a fresher look. I’ve yet to find a good enough way to remove markers or ink, but sometimes they do become lighter once they’ve been run through the washer. It may look new, but you’ll always know who owned it if they’ve marked their name on it.

There are also risks such as straps or zippers getting caught inside the washing machine, or sometimes even the nylon itself will become frayed from being put inside the washer, although I find it rare that any damage occurs in the washer. You take your own risks when you’re trying this with your own items, but I haven’t had any issues yet. But if everything goes according to plan its well worth the risk to give your games a nice clean place to rest.

Posted June 1st, 2012