Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball for the SNES

As a kid I loved baseball games on the NES, well some of them. My first experience was LJN’s Major League Baseball and I actually enjoyed it, which gave way to R.B.I. Baseball and the Bases Loaded series. After a certain point I became burnt out on baseball video games and started to pursue more interactive games like RPGs. It wasn’t until I found Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball for the Super Nintendo at a thrift store, almost ten years ago, that I decided to give a Super Nintendo baseball game a try.

Before I get into the gameplay I want to talk about the condition in which I found this cartridge. The cartridge had duct tape on either side holding the poor thing together. The battery was somehow knocked off it’s tabs completely and left to rattle around inside. One of the top clips holding the cartridge together had been snapped off, or rather pushed in with a flat screwdriver, and one of the screws was not only missing but the surface it would contact on the front half of the cartridge was missing as well. There were pry marks on the top from what I’m assuming was the same screwdriver that pushed the top tab in and broke it off. Even some of the game board contacts were somehow mangled, but the game seems to work just fine with them in that condition. After some goo-gone and some TLC the game was put back together the best I possibly could. What this game did to its previous owner to deserve this is a mystery.

Now, as far as gameplay I’m actually ashamed I missed out on this game. Everything feels smooth and the game even has quite a bit of depth to it. You can play a regular game of baseball, or a whole season with the battery save option. Of course I can’t, until I replace the battery, but most likely your cartridge could. Maybe you just want to play an All-Star game, or just the home run derby. Or maybe you just want to skip all the hassle and go straight to the world series. You see, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is your oyster. Maybe that’s what the previous owner thought this cartridge was and took it too literally. Oh well.

While the teams of the MLB are represented here the only real player name in this game is Ken Griffey Jr. himself, while the rest of the roster are filled in with silly names, and even some well known names of people who aren’t associated with the MLB. This game plays much like I remember many of the first NES baseball video games I love played. Although I will say I was a bit put off at the complexity of the outfield. In the NES games I played you had to maneuver players in the outfield manually, but it never seemed like anyone was ever very far from the ball at any given time. I was initially frustrated at how long it seemed to take me to get a player to the ball, only to throw it to home far too late. Thankfully this can be changed from manual to automatic in the options, should you need to. As a matter of fact this game has a lot of options, even a manager mode.

The controls are smooth and everything feels like the baseball games that I loved on the NES, except with much better graphics and sounds. Which is another thing about this game, there are a lot of great voice clips from umpire calls to player reactions. Had I known this game was this fun I would have probably bought the game sooner, but then again had I already owned it would I have bothered to pick up the battered, broken and abused copy I own now? Maybe that’s just the way it was all meant to work out. Perhaps it was serendipity. I ended up saving a video game that might have likely been overlooked and tossed into the trash, and it taught me that Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball is actually a really fun baseball game.

Posted July 26th, 2021

N64 Controller Showdown: One Year Later

A year has past since I decided to buy and test some new controllers for my N64. I was very pleased with the quality and functionality of all three controllers I purchased, with the exception of the crack that developed on the cheap knockoff of the original design. What shocked me, however, was the fact that is the one that has seen the most use. Although I do genuinely enjoy the Tribute and Brawler controllers, I just associate the old trident design with playing N64 games, and that’s something only the cheap knockoff can offer.

The Tribute 64 has seen very little use since purchasing and testing for no other reason than it’s a bit small and the balance being a bit off when a rumble pak is installed. That’s not to say I dislike it by any means, it’s just the other controllers are more comfortable in my hands. Plus, and this might seem like a cop-out, the packaging it comes in makes the controller look really good as a display piece, so I would just rather leave it on display than use it.

Now the Brawler 64 is truly a beast of a controller. It’s rugged, feels great to use, the analog stick is really good, the button layout was well thought out and executed and the balance when a rumble pak is installed doesn’t affect it at all. My only complaint is that my brain just has some weird disconnect with the Brawler 64 and expects me to be playing an Xbox instead of the N64. In the case of the Brawler 64 it’s definitely not packaging keeping me from making this my go-to controller as the box for this controller is completely opaque and I would much rather pull this controller out to observe its beauty from time to time than leave it sitting, or more accurately hidden, inside the box.

And finally we get back to the extremely cheap knockoff that somehow takes the win. Sure, the plastic is cheap and there is absolutely no innovation or changes in design, other than an upgraded analog stick, but I really think that’s why it became my go-to controller. For years my favorite N64 controller was my OEM yellow controller because none of the third-party controllers I own felt right. I think the fact this controller feels most like what I’m familiar with is a major factor in it being used the most. Not to mention it saves wear and tear on my aging OEM controllers. I would rather a cheap knockoff break than any of my original N64 controllers. Speaking of which, that crack by the analog stick really does bother me, but it seems stable, although for how long I don’t know.

Posted July 20th, 2021

Super Mario Kart for the Super Famicom

Super Mario Kart, the game that started the franchise, obviously. Although, as I’ve previously admitted, Super Mario Kart wasn’t where it all started for me. Super Mario Kart 64 was where I got my start and from there it was Double Dash and Mario Kart 7. All of which are really good games, but I really had to see, play and experience where the franchise officially broke ground. When I accidentally won a Super Famicom copy of Super Mario Kart on ebay I figured that was my chance, so here we go!

I started off by using the clear memory button combination so that all records would be my own. Even though I had never played the English version of the game before, navigating the menu was still fairly straight forward. There is a lot of Japanese text in this game, because it’s the Super Famicom version, but I never had any problems getting started. I started off with the 50cc class and it honestly took me a little bit to acclimate to the controls. Each track has a different feel, different traction and different pitfalls. Once I figured out how to maneuver each track I actually found that it wasn’t very challenging, but it was still very good fun.

After I had won the cup for all three series in the 50cc class I decided to try my hand at 100cc. This is where the challenge started to really ramp up. I understood that each coin increased the speed of my kart, but the ability to collect them, and retain them, was more of a challenge, as well as the fact the competition seem to have honed their skills since I defeated them all in the 50cc class. Needless to say I am still working on the 100cc class, but I am having a good time learning the tracks and doing better each time I try.

Facing defeat in the 100cc class has taught me that placing anywhere below third will cost me a life, of which I start out with three and can earn extra lives. The question blocks are clearly secret weapons that can be used, although I find the red shell doesn’t always hit the person I want it to hit when I thought that was its sole purpose. And don’t get me started on how second place seems to have an endless supply of their personalized secret weapons, and they know exactly how and when to use them. Ah yes, the old turbo start, something that I thought I had down from playing the other Mario Kart games, but for Super Mario Kart it is very hit or miss, but it’s still in there.

My only real complaint, and it might just be me and my aging eyes, is that some of the tracks spinning around in Mode 7 give me a headache. Back in the day the mode 7 stuff really looked great, but some tracks have textures that are really jagged and flash that my eyes and brain just can’t handle. Most of the tracks are perfectly fine, but there are a handful that hurt my eyes and give me a headache.

Now that I now own some form of Super Mario Kart I’m really sad that young me never got the chance to experience Super Mario Kart. Sure I saw people playing it, sure I thought about it from time to time, but it never fell into place like I had hoped it would. I thought surely a copy of the game would have popped up in a thrift store or flea market for a couple bucks, but somehow it never did. Maybe because it’s genuinely a really good game that has held it’s play value and nobody around here wants to get rid of it. Regardless of the reason I’m glad it panned out this way as I now own the Super Famicom version and I’m super glad I do.

Posted July 12th, 2021

MTV Sports: Snowboarding

In the mid to late 90s sports video games were an open market. It was a time when seemingly any company could publish whatever sports title they wanted, which kept EAvil companies from monopolizing every sport known to humanity. This was good for the consumer as it meant developers actually had to try harder with each installment, instead of merely updating rosters for each subsequent year. However, this left developers fighting for an ever-dwindling slice of the same pie, causing developers to turn to up and coming sports such as snowboarding, giving birth to titles such as MTV Sports: Snowboarding.

Developed by Radical Entertainment, a company whose name fit perfectly in the 90s, and published by THQ, MTV Sports Snowboarding hit store shelves in late 1999. Radical Entertainment would go on to develop quite a few really good titles, as THQ would also go on to publish many good titles, but MTV Sports Snowboarding however will most likely not be remembered as one of them. The biggest marketing draw to the game was the fact that MTV put together the soundtrack. As a matter of fact, if you didn’t even want to play the game you can simply go to the options and listen to the soundtrack on your own terms.

From what I can recall of playing this game as a kid it wasn’t very fun, and playing through it for this review just proved those memories to be accurate. By the time this game was released Cool Boarders was already four games strong, as a matter of fact Cool Boarders 4 had just released a little over a month prior to MTV Sports Snowboarding. So I took it upon myself to compare them back to back. The good things I can say about MTV Sports Snowboarding is, it is snowboarding and it looks fairly decent. The controls are pretty good, with the exception of being locked in once you hold the button to get ready for a jump, but pulling off tricks isn’t hampered by the controls.

When you start the game you’ve got pretty much everything unlocked from the start. I searched through my memories cards to find my old saves for this game but couldn’t, and I think the reason why is because I deleted it to make room for a better game. I really don’t know what else to say other than it’s snowboarding. You choose the boarder, the board, which downhill track you want and you try your best to perform tricks. Remember when I said tricks weren’t hampered by the controls, well they aren’t, they’re hampered by the environment. Even if I lined up a jump well and managed to land it, there was always something right there to prevent me from carrying on and setting up for another jump. Since Cool Boarders came out just over a month before MTV Sports Snowboarding I spent some time with it too, and while many things need to be unlocked I can say without a shadow of a doubt MTV Sports Snowboarding pales greatly in comparison to Cool Boarders 4 in every single way.

Now you have to remember this is a game I grew up with, this is a game I played and played often because I couldn’t go out and buy a new one. As a matter of fact I didn’t even pay for my copy of this game. As a teenager I listened to a local rock station that was having a competition and caller number ten would win a prize pack. This night in particular, when I heard the prize pack included a video game, I set my sights on winning, and somehow I did. Thanks X-103! Or maybe, no thanks X-103. Even though I listened to alternative rock, at that time, I still found the soundtrack to be a bit lacking and I usually just turned it off in the options to focus on snowboarding. I fully intended on this being a review of me saying my memories failed me and this game was a gem in the rough, or that I was wrong as a kid, but if anything I feel even stronger about how much I don’t like this game. It’s not complete garbage, but MTV Sports Snowboarding was just a day late and many, many dollars short.

Posted July 5th, 2021