Title  : Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
Platforms  : Nintendo 64
Publisher  : Nintendo
Game Rating  : 9.7
Review by  : Ken Gagne

At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo announced their decision to focus on sports, not the overlooked role-playing genre. For better or worse, this choice has already brought about an excellent title: Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr., for Nintendo 64. 

Griffey is a realistic baseball game carrying the official MLBPA license. Statistics for players on all thirty teams are recorded, and games can occur in any of thirty stadiums, day or night. One or two players can participate in single-game exhibitions, or 7-game World Series. Up to four players play an 81-game season, or alternate in home run derbies. 

The first and most difficult hurdle of many sports games are the controls. Functions change depending on many factors, and are often difficult to learn. Although eight buttons are active at once, Griffey's controls are not only logical, but also consistent. Defense and offense are similar, making the switch easy. The four C buttons, laid out in a diamond pattern, each represent a base, and are used for stealing, throwing, and running. 

The graphics are authentic and enjoyable. The stadiums look like their real-life counterparts, as do the players. Batters stretch, offer taunts, and then settle into their actual stances. All players have a variety of actions and reactions, from making a saving throw from a dusty dive to victoriously trotting over the home plate after whacking the ball beyond the park's limits. Automatic cameras switch to provide a close view of the immediate action while neither restricting nor confusing gameplay. 

I had never considered sound effects a vital organ of any game, least of all a sports title. But in Griffey, these effects bring the game to life. The cheers and catcalls of the crowd, the sales pitch of the hot dog vendor, and, depending on the stadium, the sound of passing ambulances and banner-flying planes create a genuine ballpark atmosphere. Announcers and umpires offer a steady stream of sound bites to name players and calls. Only Ken Griffey's occasional commentary is irritating, but can be disabled. 

Anyone can enjoy Griffey, from the rookie to the veteran. There are two batting styles and three difficulty settings to choose from. Fielding and running can be automated. These and other options allow anyone to play in the Big Leagues and work their way up. 

With so many teams, stadiums, and game modes, there are plenty of reasons to replay this game. During seasons, players may draft new players or pool all players from which to create their own team. Trades, injuries, and free agents keep the game hopping. 

I, a gamer who prefers the plodding pace of role-playing games, found Griffey to be an absolutely stunning game. Gorgeous graphics, ample sound effects, a plethora of options and a heavy dose of reality leave little missing or wrong with this baseball title. Nintendo swings, and hits a grand slam, with Griffey Baseball.


This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 22-Jun-98