September 26, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 17  

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SPORTS

Once upon a time...
Baseball Wars

By David Lee
Gazette Staff

Their baseball is real. But they are not.

No, it's not some Spielberg-esque version of "A.I. Baseball." The game was Base Wars, a curious amalgam of baseball and gladiatorial combat for the original 8-bit Nintendo. If you ever had a craving for robot baseball/violence, then this game fits your niche perfectly.

The game featured teams from the baseball Meccas of St. Louis, Minnesota, Toronto and Detroit, just to name a few. Don't be fooled, though - there were no uniforms or unique stadiums. Instead, games took place in a generic stadium that floated in space and teams were divided into simple colours of red and blue.

The focus of the game was hitting home runs, beating on your opponents and throwing ridiculous pitches that had more curves than Heidi Klum. Base Wars also featured the requisite cheesy, repetitive music and pseudo-digital sounds like "home run" and "yeah."

Nevertheless, Base Wars remained plenty of fun to play. Much like Blades of Steel, Base Wars' best-known feature was the constant fighting. On any force play or tag, the game cut to a close-up of the two combatants. At this point, a player could go for a punch/stab/gunshot or use his character's special move. This is where the types of robots really came into play. If you were a cyborg, you'd do a drop kick; a tank would charge at his opponent and yell "Hey!"; a unicycle would spin in the air and the "flybot" would hover up in the air, waiting to land on his opponent's noggin.

The plethora of in-game fights lent itself to different in-game strategies. Each robot had a certain number of hit points that would decrease as he got hit. The points would regenerate during a fight and you would receive big boosts for victories and homers. If any player took enough punishment, he would drop to the ground and lay writhing in robot pain, his hit points having expired. Moments later, he'd explode as the player responsible pranced around, raising his arms in the air. However, if one team lost three players, they had to forfeit the match.

Season mode also had the added bonus of stat tracking and shopping for upgrades. Again, the feature here was the weapons. You could buy swords, guns and "iron fists" that not only increased your punching power, but helped land you at the head of a corrupt regime as well. The zaniest weapon was the detaching fist that could hit your opponent from across the screen. In a nice touch, players involved in altercations during the game had to be repaired in the shop to return to full strength.

Upgrades were also plentiful. A "catch" would improve your fielder's range, while a "shoulder" would improve his ability to hit the long ball. An "engine" would hasten his in-battle recovery, while an upgraded "unit" would make him run faster. Strange, I thought an upgraded unit would make you last longer, not come faster...

Though the game lacked many of the more detailed aspects of its contemporaries, it provided an undeniable sense of fun, something missing in many of today's ultra-realistic simulations. If you're craving an imaginative take on America's game, Base Wars is probably your best bet.

 

 

 

 

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