>> PennOaks.net > Archive 64 > Review House

All-Star Baseball '99

Rated E for Everyone


Nintendo 64 (N64)


Acclaim Sports


Iguana (Texas)


May 1998

ROM Size:

96 megabits


One to Four Simultaneous


Sports (Baseball)


Controller Pak (107 for season, 15 for roster, 18 for playoffs)


Rumble Pak



> Final Rating: 3.9 out of 5.0


Like 1997's battle on the gridiron, Acclaim's diamond entry seems to be getting the lion's share of attention and good press over its competitor. But does it really deserve all that recognition? Yes and no. All-Star Baseball '99 is certainly a much more realistic and faithful simulation of its sport than Acclaim's previous two offerings—NHL Breakaway '98 and NFL Quarterback Club '98—were of their respective sports. However, the game definitely has its flaws, including some really annoying ones, that could relegate it from the major league level, depending on what you want in a baseball game.


Compared to the competition (namely MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.—don't even consider Mike Piazza's StrikeZone), All-Star Baseball '99 is the realistic baseball simulation for the Nintendo 64. But for all the realism it has in statistics, options, and features, there are some unrealistic things that are repulsive—at least in my opinion. Let's look at the positives and negatives of different facets of the game, and don't forget to check out my review of MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. for even more comparisons.

Gameplay & Control

First comes the control. Compared to MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., All-Star Baseball '99 has control that is more comprehensive but also more cumbersome. For example, on the comprehensive side, you can switch between power and contact swings, you can shift the infield or outfield with a button, you can do bunt and slashes, you can make a sliding catch in addition to jumping and diving catches, you can do power throws when fielding by holding an additional button, and you can even increase bunt power. You can't do any of this in MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. But it does seem like there are times when the number of buttons could be paired down to something more simple and intuitive (e.g., base running).


The pitching interface in All-Star Baseball '99 is also good and not-so-good. Unlike MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.'s one-step pitching interface, you are first required to select a pitch (with the C buttons) in All-Star Baseball '99 before throwing it (with the A button). That added step slows down the game quite a bit and can be annoying after a while. In the simulation mode, there are four pitches from which you can choose. Conversely, in the arcade mode, there are eight types of pitches. One cool thing is that the batter can try and guess what pitch is going to be thrown. If the batter is correct, the size of the batting cursor will increase; if not, the cursor size will decrease.


Hitting is another "either you'll like it or you won't" aspect of All-Star Baseball '99. Hitting is very difficult in the game. It requires matching your batting cursor to where the ball will be. Note that you're not matching a batting cursor to a pitching cursor, but you have to move your cursor so the ball will appear in it when contact is made. I personally do not like this interface, and I hope the designers include an alternate style in next year's edition, just like MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. has two options.


Now it's time to gloss over some of the options and features in the game, which is really a big strength of All-Star Baseball '99 for die-hard baseball fans.


In the options screen, you can change the game mode (simulation or arcade), game time (day night), wind (on or off), injuries (off, one game, or variable), pitch aid (on or off), ball landing target (on or off), field control (manual, assist, or auto), number of innings (between one and nine), camera options, and audio/video options.


As for gameplay modes, there's obviously the standard Exhibition, Playoff, Season, and Home Run Derby modes. But inside those modes there are many other options. For example, you can select who you want to control each player on each team (CPU or human players), you can choose how many innings you want in a season mode, you can change how long the Playoff or Season mode lasts, etc.


There are many other features and options to fool around with, too. Some of the features—most of which MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. doesn't have—include a spring training mode, the ability to call up prospects from your farm system, trading players (with no weighing of player performance), the ability to cut/sign and promote/demote players, putting players on the DL, changing rotations and lineups, and most importantly, the Create-a-Player feature. I personally don't care if a game has a Create-a-Player feature or not, but I know many sports fans want this option, which is something MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. doesn't have.


OK, let's move on to some miscellaneous pluses and minuses of All-Star Baseball '99. When playing each baseball game, I made a list of the things I liked and didn't like, so now I'm going to present them for this game in no particular order.


One of the coolest initial things about All-Star Baseball '99 is the batting stances. It's great to see your favorite players in their actual batting stance. There are also several different pitching styles for the more unique pitchers (e.g., Hideo Nomo). However, the animation is often too dramatic or just inaccurate. For example, it is too drawn out when the player walks to home plate. The problem is that if you skip the sequence, then you miss out on the statistics. Another problem is that players sway unrealistically. Some of these guys are moving all over the place, when in real life they are almost completely still. And for all of this great animation, how come the home run celebration absolutely stinks? It's one of  the worst I've ever seen. Speaking of home runs, the home run distances are quite unrealistic. Please, someone give us realistic distances, not high 400- or 500-feet bombs every time.


A really nice feature in All-Star Baseball '99 is the auto fielding option. It's not perfect, but it's better and more accurate than in any other baseball game, including MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. As a tie-in to the fielding option, one of the most impressive yet subtle things in All-Star Baseball '99 is how players back each other up. For example, you'll see the catcher run over to the first base side just in case there's an error. Of course, it looks slightly awkward to see the catcher run faster than you can believe… Another really nice simulation aspect to the game is hot and cold zones for each batter that can affect how the player hits the ball. There are also specialty pitches for the pitchers and a stamina meter so you know their strength.


Now here are some of the small yet important mistakes in the gameplay that no one seems to have pointed out. First of all, the ball physics are nowhere near as good as in MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. The ball doesn't seem to actually bounce as often as it should or as high or low as it should. Second, outfielders get to the ball too quickly. This makes extra-base hits more difficult than they should be. Third, the ball also just rolls to the outfield wall too fast, which is basically a tie-in to the second problem. Fourth, hit detection is quite a bit off when it comes to catching and fielding balls. The outfielder will often catch the ball, even though it seems as if the ball should drop in front of him.


But wait—there's more. We haven't discussed the intelligence or bugs yet. All-Star Baseball '99 was originally rejected because of a base-running bug, and you can almost see the remnants of that problem. How so? You can almost throw out guys on singles. I'm not saying that this happens frequently; I'm just saying there are too many close calls. Also, when playing against the computer in a game, the computer actually got caught advancing on an infield pop-up. And, no, there weren't two outs—the CPU stupidly decided to run half-way to the next base on an infield pop-up rather than taking a few steps.


Also, All-Star Baseball '99 has proven to be quite buggy. For instance, some people encountered problems saving seasons incorrectly and others had problems with stats getting messed up after playing partially through a season. I know I would be absolutely furious if that happened to me. But since no one can seem to determine if it's the result of shoddy debugging or substandard accessories, I can't really take anything off the overall score. Still, I just wanted to give a word of warning.


Finally, here are a few miscellaneous notes. First of all, games take a long time to complete. While an average nine-inning game in MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. might take 20 to 30 minutes to complete, it takes about 45 minutes to one hour in All-Star Baseball '99. Second, because of the high-resolution graphics, much of the text is almost too small to read when sitting six feet away from the TV. Hopefully Iguana will use bigger fonts for its next sports games. Third, for all its beautiful graphics, the game has a surprising lack of an instant replay function. It would be nice to go back and look at those close plays at the various bases. Fourth, like MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., All-Star Baseball '99 supports the Rumble Pak, but makes even better use of it. The swapping can be a pain, though. The Rumble Pak support, by the way, enables you to "feel" when you're inching out of the strike zone. Lastly, unlike MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., All-Star Baseball '99 can be played by four players simultaneously, which may be a bonus for some sports fans.

Graphics & Sound

Like NFL Quarterback Club '98 before it, All-Star Baseball '99 uses a second-generation version of Iguana's high-resolution graphics engine, which Acclaim has started to market under the trademarked term "Hi-Rez" graphics. The results can be breathtaking at times. All of the players are smooth skinned with real-life faces. There are over 600 motion-captured animation sequences and there are over 100 distinct batting styles. The animation is much, much better than NFL Quarterback Club '98, but there are still some rudimentary animation problems.


The sound is probably the worst aspect of All-Star Baseball '99, especially compared to MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. It wasn't quite as bad as I expected, but it needs a major overhaul for the next edition. On the upside, unlike MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., there is play-by-play calling and color commentary from John Sterling and Michael Kay of the New York Yankees. On the downside, it isn't very good and gets very repetitive. The color commentary becomes annoying almost immediately, and the sound quality of the play-by-play isn't very clear and sounds almost computer-generated. Fortunately, there is some organ music in the game, but the crowd sounds are terrible.


Since I consider myself a pretty big baseball fan, it's pretty surprising that I found that I enjoyed MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. more than All-Star Baseball '99. I enjoy MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. more because of the fun factor, control, pace, atmosphere, sound, and ball physics.


However, All-Star Baseball '99 is the better baseball simulation, with more stats, more options, and more features. So you'll definitely need to play both games yourself to decide which game plays better. Neither baseball game is excellent, though, and both could be improved a lot. At any rate, All-Star Baseball '99 is a step in the right direction for Acclaim's sports division and is a much better attempt than Acclaim's football atrocity from last year.
















Am I experiencing déjà vu? The same recurring problems appear in Acclaim's sports games a few months after their release. All-Star Baseball '99 is the latest sport to suffer from shoddy artificial intelligence, boring gameplay, and quirky play mechanics. Fortunately, it looks like Acclaim is going to turn the beat around by delaying its latest football game well into the season. Now only if people would stop being mesmerized by the graphics and hype to see the real game. Choose your baseball game wisely.


Review by: Scott McCall

First Reviewed: July 9, 1998

Appendix Added: September 27, 1998




>> PennOaks.net > Archive 64 > Review House