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Baseball Stars, released in Japan as Baseball Star Mezase Sankan Ō (ベースボールスター めざせ三冠王, Bēsubōru Sutā Mezase Sankan Ō), is a 1989 baseball video game that was produced for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) by SNK. It became a major hit in many countries worldwide, particularly in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Baseball Stars was a critical success, often referred to as the best baseball game on the NES platform (and possibly of all-time); as such it became a franchise series for SNK, spawning five sequels, and its "create player" and "create team" functions have become standard features in sports games.
Baseball Stars was one of the first sports games to have data memory, therefore players could create a team, configure baseball league & play a season, and throughout the CPU stored cumulative statistics. Baseball Stars was also the first sports game for the NES to have a create a player feature; giving gamers the power to name their players, as well as their teams. The game also introduced a role-playing element; as each game played earns the winning team money, and the amount won is directly related to the sum of the prestige ratings of the players from both teams (as prestige determines how many paying fans attend the game). The money can be used to purchase upgrades to the various abilities of players currently on the roster, or it can be used to purchase pre-designed players (available in the Rookie, Veteran, and All-Star categories). A hidden feature allows players to purchase female baseball players (also a first).
Simple graphics are coupled with repetitive upbeat 8-bit music. The pitching is simple: curve balls, fast balls, off speed pitches, and sinkers. The batting is a swing on a level plane, thus it is simply a question of timing. The fielding, at the time, was a revolution in arcade baseball; it achieved a level of realism unseen prior to its release. This realism, coupled with ease-of-fielding features contributed to the game's popularity. These ease-of-fielding features are characterized by examples such as: off-screen fielders automatically drifting towards fly balls, fielders catching balls anywhere near them, the ability to jump and dive, infielders shifting to prevent extra base hits down the line when men are on base, etc.
The game has a 10-run mercy rule. Thus, if at the end of any inning, one team is up by a total of 10 runs, the game is called in favor of the leading team. In addition to the 10-run mercy rule, there is also a 100-run mercy rule. If at any point in the game one team attains a lead of 100 or more, play is immediately stopped and a winner is declared, even though the inning is not over. For example, if the visiting team scores 100 runs in the top of the first inning, the visiting team will be declared the winner and the home team will not even have the chance to bat. If the game remains tied after 18 innings, the game is over and no winner is declared; all hits and other stats are not saved - as if the game never happened.
Seasons and vs.Edit
Baseball Stars includes a simple one-off versus mode, but it provides the option of creating a mini-league of up to six teams, with each team playing up to 25 games against every other team. That means a season with a maximum 125 game schedule can be created. When making a season, one chooses how many teams, how many games, and which teams are controlled by the AI (computer) and which are controlled by the gamers. In vs. mode no stats, such as wins, losses, hits, or home runs are kept but money can still be won when a player controlled team plays against an AI controlled team. No money is won in this mode when it is player vs. player. Versus mode games can be considered exhibition games.
There can be teams. Eight teams come with the game and more teams can be created. The original eight cannot in any way be edited or changed.
Although the game does not use any real Major League Baseball teams, one of the default teams, the American Dreams, included players with names that are based on real (former) baseball players such as "Pete" (Pete Rose), "Hank" (Hank Aaron), "Babe" (Babe Ruth), "Sandie" (Sandy Koufax), "Cy" (Cy Young), "Denny" (Denny McLain), and "Willie" (Willie Mays). In addition, the Japan Robins included a player named "Oh," presumably after Sadaharu Oh of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.
The other default teams are the Ninja BlackSox, Brave Warriors, Japan Robins, World Powers, Ghastly Monsters, Lovely Ladies (an all-women's team), and SNK Crushers.
When creating a new team, one is given the option of choosing its main strength (for example: defense, running, batting, balanced, etc). This does not mean that a chosen strength will remain with the team forever. The option simply favors the chosen attribute when the computer randomly generates the players. Each new teams gets about $30,000 to start and 18 players (5 pitchers, 8 batters, and 5 pinch hitters). From there, games are played and games that are won earn money for the team. Players on created teams can be modified and improved as well as traded amongst other created teams. It must be noted, though, that a pitcher cannot be traded for a batter; it must always be batter for batter or pitcher for pitcher. There is also a free agent market in which players can be bought ranging in price from $5,000 to $2,980,000. Since there is a limit of 18 players per team, before a free agent can be bought, a player must be fired.
In season play, the game conveniently keeps track of various stats. By going into the SEE STANDINGS menu, it can be seen how each team fares compared to each other team, each teams' win/loss records, top ten batting averages, top ten home run batters, top ten run batted in (RBI) hitters, top ten earned run average pitchers, top ten winning pitchers, and top ten save leaders.
Each individual player's batting average and home run totals can be seen when that player is up to bat and individual pitcher's ERA is shown when that pitcher is pitching. With the exception of a pitcher's ERA, stats are current when a player steps into the batter's box.
A game of Baseball Stars has some technical limitations, contrary to a real baseball game.
- If, at the end of an inning, a team is leading by 10 runs or more, the game ends immediately.
- If, at any moment, the home team is leading by 10 runs or more, the game ends immediately, even if the current half-inning isn't finished.
- If, at any moment, a team is leading by 100 runs or more, the game ends immediately, even if the current half-inning isn't finished.
- If, at the end of the 18th inning, it's still a tie, the game ends immediately and doesn't count (as if it was never played).
Considering all those limitations in the game's programming, plus the fact that the home team wins automatically if it takes the lead in an additional inning, the total number of runs scored in a Baseball Stars game can't exceed 3712 runs (1854 runs for the away team, and 1858 runs for the home team).
Theoretically, to reach the maximum possible score in Baseball Stars game, the away team must score 99 runs in the first half-inning. Then, the home team should score 108 runs in the bottom of the first inning. Next, they must both keep 108 runs per half-inning until the bottom of the ninth inning. At this moment, the home team must score only 99 runs in the half-inning to tie with the away team, so that there are additional innings to be played. They must both keep scoring 99 runs per half-inning until the bottom of the 18th inning, when the home team must get a final home run (a Grand Slam; counts as 4 runs), thus scoring 103 runs in the half-inning. At that point, the game ends immediately anyway; but because it's no longer a tie, and because of the final home run, the maximum combined score possible is reached at 3712 runs.
However, as there are not yet any tool-assisted demonstrations of these limitations, and as achieving this in another way would require one to be extremely lucky and patient, the limitations of Baseball Stars can only be demonstrated using mathematical, theoretical means.
As stated above, when money is won, it can be applied to upgrade a player. For batters, there are six abilities that can be augmented. For pitchers, there are eleven. Each ability can be assigned up to 15 points. Each player has a maximum number of points allowed and the higher the "max" of the player, the more valuable he could become.
- Hitting (batting average): This ability is directly linked to the "length" of the player's bat. The longer the bat the greater the chance of making contact with the ball, therefore the greater the potential batting average. An actual change in the appearance of the bat is not seen when points are added to this category, but it is noticed that balls no longer go through the bat.
- Batting (home runs): More points put to this ability will increase the player's chances of hitting a home run as this ability puts power directly into the bat. The ball is hit harder and farther.
- Running (base running speed): The higher the player's running, the faster he/she can go around the bases and the better he/she is at stealing. Running does not affect any aspect of the player's defense, not even the ability to track down fly balls.
- Defense (defensive running and throwing ability): Higher defense allows the player to more easily track down fly balls and close the gaps in the infield. Increased defense also allows an infielder to make longer dives. An outfielder can jump, dive, and climb walls to catch balls (consequently, a home run could be robbed with correct timing and placement). Players with a high defense rating will be able to throw the ball proportionally; the strength of throws can be maximized by tapping the appropriate directional button and the "throw" button simultaneously. However, a fastball pitcher with great baserunning speed but low defensive ability will neither run fast nor throw hard when fielding.
- Luck: This statistic is a purely defensive statistic that places the player closer to the location of a fly or ground ball. A player with maximum defense and luck would play defense flawlessly.
- Prestige (money): The aggregate prestige of a team's players determines the attendance at the team's games; higher prestige results in higher attendance, greater ticket sales, and more money earned for the team. High prestige (i.e., famous players) can improve attendance for poorly-playing teams that would otherwise draw few fans.
- Stamina (endurance): More stamina allows a pitcher to throw more pitches at high velocity before getting tired.
- Speed (miles per hour of pitch): The higher the speed, the faster a pitcher will throw the ball. This affects all pitches, not just fastballs.
- L Curve (left curve): This determines how much of a left hook the pitcher has when throwing a curve ball.
- R Curve (right curve): This determines how much of a right hook the pitcher has when throwing a curve ball.
- Drop (breaking ball): All pitchers have the ability to throw a breaking ball by holding "Up" on the D-Pad while releasing the ball (indicated by a slide whistle sound when thrown), but the higher the "Drop" rating, the greater the chance that the sinker will actually sink - rather than hanging in the strike zone for an easy hit. Furthermore, a pitcher with a high "Drop" rating can keep his/her pitch from dropping by holding "Down" on the D-Pad while the pitch is in flight with greater success.
- Prestige (money): This is the same as above.
As in the National League, pitchers both pitch and bat; there are no designated hitters. The pitcher's batting abilities are exactly the same as a regular player with one exception. The prestige in pitching ability is directly linked to the prestige in batting ability. So, if a player has a prestige of 10 in batting, he will also have a prestige of 10 in pitching. If two or more points are added to prestige in pitching, it will automatically add two more to batting as well. This does not mean that pitchers get double the prestige. However, when a pitcher has reached his ability point total, a work-around to continue to increase his or her worth is to build up the prestige factor on their batting abilities. Since the prestige for a pitcher will be the same for their pitching and hitting abilities, this is a way to have a pitcher have a perfect rating of 90 out of 90.
Two popular cheat codes allowed "special" teams to be created.
The first allowed creation of a "super" team with hitters and pitchers almost at their full "max". This could be done by choosing "Make Team" from the main menu; next on the "Select Strength of Your Team" screen, first pressing down, right, left, down, down, right, and then moving to the new team's desired strength and pressing the A-button would bring up the "Enter Your Team Name" screen with the question "WHEN ISN'T IT?"; answering the question with "WHEN" on the first line and "IT IS." on the second line (include the period, and make sure no other stray characters are left besides the answer to the question) would again bring up the "Enter Your Team Name" screen, this time with an actual default team name rather than a question.
The second allowed creation of a "super" all-female team. This was accomplished by choosing "Make Team" from the main menu; on the next screen pressing down, right, left, down, down, right, up, up, down, up, down, up, and then moving to the new team's desired strength and then pressing the A-button would bring up the question "WHAT IS A WREN?"; answering the question with "A BIRD." on the top line (the second line being blank) would again bring up the "Enter Your Team Name" screen, this time with the question "WHEN ISN'T IT?" which could be answered as above; if a regular all-female team was desired, the question could be replaced with a team name, thus creating a team powered-up like a regular all-male team.
It is possible to create a strong all-female team by entering both of the above cheat codes, one after the other (in any order), and then answering both questions as above.
All-male teams could also trade players with all-female teams, thus allowing creation of co-ed baseball teams (just like Medusa on the Ghastly Monsters and Kuno on the Ninja Blacksox).
In 1991, a sequel, Baseball Stars 2, was released by Romstar, but it was far less popular than the original. Reasons for this included the inability to create teams, and unimproved graphics over the original. Two more sequels were made for SNK's console, the Neo Geo:
- Baseball Stars Professional (1990, one of the first Neo-Geo games published) featured all the teams in the original Baseball Stars for the NES, but the teams' features could not be changed, gamers could only play as them.
- Baseball Stars 2 (1992) featured 18 teams across 2 leagues (exciting league & fighting league) and put more emphasis on graphics and actual gameplay (for example, being able to change pitchers or batters and powering up batters which increased the size of your bat).
Finally, there were two other Nintendo baseball games with the same "engine" that was featured in Baseball Stars 1 and 2, though not "officially" Baseball Stars games:
- Little League Baseball: Championship Series (1990)
- Legends of the Diamond (1992) - featuring baseball's all time legends, such as Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.
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