In the world of Nintendo 64 baseball, two franchises stand above the rest: Nintendo's very own Ken Griffey series and Acclaim's All-Star Baseball series. Thus far, it's been a heated rivalry and like most fierce competitors, neither will accept defeat or rest on its laurels. It's a new season and with it comes a new set of entries. This year's Ken Griffey is called Slugfest and it's time for us to see if developer Angels Studios made the right moves in the off-season. Batter up!
Slugfest has a couple of things going for it that raises it above its competitors. It showcases the graphic potential of the Nintendo 64 processors as well as its aural prowess too. Recorded in full Dolby Surround Sound (one of the few video games with this feature), Slugfest scores as the most talkative and vocal of the baseball bunch. The umpire's calls sound on target, the stadium noises are authentic, and the kicker is the commentary from Griffey (which is inconsequential and silly, but still fitting). There's also an excellent create-a-player feature that's the best I've seen thus far in terms of simplicity and intuitiveness. In fact, simplicity is something that Slugfest, as a whole, excels at. And this is not a knock on Angel Studios and Nintendo. It's great to play a game that works so hard to not overwhelm the gamer.
That simplistic feel translates into arcade-style gameplay, but there isn't a real sense of control when it comes to manipulating your players. The camera angles change with every play. We get weird angles whether the ball's hit to the outfield or bounced in the infield. It's as if TV editors were put in control to offer the best looking shot for the audience. But unfortunately, this usually equates to some terrible views for the player. The hitting and throwing interface also needs work. You know where the pitches are coming from and where you have to swing to make contact, but doing so just doesn't feel natural. None of this feels particularly realistic either (it's not unusual for games to reach double digits in scoring before the second inning), but to be fair, realism doesn't appear to be the focus anyway.
Slugfest is a nice sports title. It's definitely one of the best baseball games out there, but it's, for sure, not complete. Things get precariously simplistic at times, to the point where it's purely functional, but for what it is, Slugfest is a treat. It offers the player a fun time with lots of energy. Maybe it's a sign of the times now that baseball has to speed things up and focus on the big draws like homeruns and showboat catches to keep up with other "jazzier" sports.
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