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Atari at the Ballpark - The Atari Times

Atari at the Ballpark

Baseball games for every Atari system (but one)
by Gregory D. George

October 6, 2005

Home Run... The most basic of baseball games.

Real Sports Baseball for the 2600.

Doesn't Pete Rose Baseball look so much better?

5200 RealSports Baseball. Yawn.

Hardball for the 8-bit computers. WOW!

Pete Rose Baseball for the 7800. Some nice graphical tweaks.

RBI Baseball II for the Atari ST. The nicest looking Atari baeeball game yet.

Crummy box scan of Baseball Heroes for the Lynx.

Why is the Jaguar the only Atari system without a baseball game? There are baseball games for the 2600, 5200, 7800, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Atari Lynx, but not for the Jaguar. Sure few of them are any good, but a Jaguar baseball game would have given the Atari systems a straight flush when it comes to lousy baseball games.

I guess I sound too cynical, but the fact is Atari never created an all-around fun baseball game for any of it's systems. So let's run down (with a steamroller please) these Atari baseball games.

The first home baseball game for the 2600 was the awful Home Run for the 2600. Sure, a few knuckleheads claim to like it, but the truth is the game stinks, and stinks bad.

Apparently, Atari recognized how terrible Home Run was and soon created the RealSports series of games that included RealSports Baseball. While it was a significant graphical improvement, it still lacked the simple fun of a real baseball games. It was so "real" your catcher actually had to throw the ball back to the pitcher after every pitch! And hitting the ball is not a simple matter of pushing the fire button. Oh no. Atari had to make you use the joystick too. The Mattel M-Network baseball game, Super Challenge Baseball isn't much better. As far as I can tell, it's two-player only so I can only hope they made the controls more intuitive.

Then you've got Super Baseball. Technically, it's a larger game than RealSports Baseball, but it's not that much different in gameplay mechanics.

The 2600 didn't receive a respectable baseball game until Absolute published Pete Rose Baseball late in the 2600's life. This is an unbelievably good game that rivals many early NES games. The view is from behind the pitcher like modern baseball games, there are multiple views of the infield and outfield and there are several pitches to choose from. If there is any knock against this game it's that two defenders cannot be on the same horizontal row. This makes it tricky to make those infield plays where the ball lands close to the pitcher. Even with that against it, Pete Rose Baseball (or simply known as Baseball in the Activision Anthology) is a good fun baseball game.

As for the 5200... It too had a RealSports Baseball game. This is a huge improvement over the 2600 version of the game with better graphics, sound, control, and it even has voice. Although, Atari still goofed up the defense area of the game when they decided to use the keypad to select pitches. Don't move your pitcher off the mound, or you'll never get him to throw a pitch!

Finally, we get to the last of these dreadful 8-bit Atari baseball games with Baseball for the 7800. It has about the same level of graphics as the 5200, but no voice. The pitching and fielding are pretty good, but Atari was too keen to use that second fire button when one would have worked just fine. And batting, which is supposed to be the most fun part of any baseball game, is anything but. Lastly, the timing of 7800 Baseball is much too fast. A fly ball will reach the outfield in about .0001 of a second. Again, Atari dropped the ball with this one (you knew that pun was coming, didn't you?) One of the best baseball games for any Atari system is (again) Pete Rose Baseball for the 7800. This is essentially identical to the 2600 version in play mechanics, but unlike that game, this one has more graphical wizzbang. Even the sounds are identical (which is not surprising considering the 7800 uses the same sound as the 2600.)

The Atari 8-bit computer (and thus the XE Game System) had several baseball games on disk. But the one that stands out is the one Atari chose to convert into a cartridge. That would be Hardball by Accolade. Truly, this is a fun baseball game. Good hitting, fielding, pitching all in (again) the modern behind the pitcher viewpoint. Every third-party baseball game had this view, why couldn't Atari figure that out for their baseball games?

Did the Atari ST have any baseball games? Or was it such a Euro-centric machine that they only wrote soccer games for it? Here are the known Atari ST baseball games: Championship Baseball, Microleague Baseball, RBI Baseball I & II, and World Series Baseball. For a computer system that has over 2,000 titles, 5 baseball games seems a little thin, doesn't it? Anyway, I fired up a few of these in the STeem emulator. Championship Baseball looked rather fun, Microleague Baseball crashed, but RBI Baseball II was the best. It had some great graphics, voice, quick gameplay, and even scoreboard animations. Definitely the most complete Atari baseball game I've played.

Next is the lone baseball game for the Atari Lynx. Developed yet again by Atari. (They should have farmed their baseball games to someone else. ANYONE else!) Baseball Heroes is one of my most hated baseball games. Graphically, it looks like it would be a fun game. Unfortunately, the batters swing is too slow, the defense is too fast, and the defensive perspective is totally odd-ball (messing you up every time.) I think this quote from my review of the game says it best: "Baseball Heroes fails miserably."

Finally, we have the Jaguar baseball game... Oh, that's right. There is no Jaguar baseball game. Perhaps it's best there never was one. I could only imagine how Atari would have screwed that one up.

Atari and baseball are two words that go together like bacon and scissors. Gasoline and steak sauce. Floppy disks and sandpaper. Al Franken and radio. Two words together that simply spells disaster. If you must play a baseball game on your Atari, choose practically any third-party effort and you'll have a much more enjoyable time.

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