March 3, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 79  

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SPORTS

Once Upon A Time...
Roger Clemens MVP Baseball

By David Lee
Gazette Staff

“Ask the Rocket.”
Along with a host of other features, the ability to ask Roger “The Rocket” Clemens for pitching advice is what makes the 1991 Nintendo Entertainment System classic Roger Clemens MVP Baseball stand out as a unique take on the game of baseball. While there were certainly more novel approaches available on the NES (such as Baseball Simulator 1.000 or the previously reviewed Base Wars) MVP Baseball introduced some original features yet to find their place in the mainstay despite being innovative and highly influential to game play.

The most obvious difference between MVP Baseball and the rest of the crop was the fielding perspective. While most baseball video games used — and still use — a traditional perspective that follows the ball after it leaves the bat, MVP Baseball used an “over the shoulder” technique that cut to the proper fielder immediately after contact. While such a change avoided the need to switch between fielders, it also took some getting used to, especially when it came to throwing the baseball to the proper base. In most games, holding right on the directional pad while pressing A would throw to first base, but in MVP Baseball every perspective except the catcher’s required you to press left and A to throw to first. While the fielding system was heralded as intuitive, in practice it was anything but.

David Lee/Gazette
BEHOLD THE NES, IN ALL ITS GLORY. Pictured above from Roger Clemens MVP Baseball: Clemens gives players offensive advice; a close-up of a slide play at third base and Alan “Melltram” takes some hacks for Detroit.

The best feature was the close-up mini-game when a runner was sliding into a base. Instead of the usual rule whereby the runner was out if the ball reach the base ahead of him, MVP Baseball offered the offense a chance to roll the dice a little. The base runner could either press left or right on their control pad, moving him to the inside or outside of the bag, or do nothing and slide directly into the middle. The onus in such close-ups was on the defender, who had to press left, right or down to place his glove in the correct path. Once you committed to a direction, you couldn’t change, thus making the slide plays a glorified game of chicken with both sides trying not to tip their hand too early.

Another “unique” feature — and one that shamelessly grew from the game’s license — was a chance to ask Roger Clemens for advice on any given game situation. Though one might assume that pitching advice would be vast in a game featuring Clemens, it got repetitive very quickly — Clemens’ advice was usually to change your pitcher if he got tired or to “mix up the speed and location of your pitches to throw off a batter’s rhythm.” On the offensive side, Clemens usually told players to bunt in order to surprise the defense no matter the current game situation. Clearly, if this type of advice feature is ever to be reborn, it needs to be refined and expanded.

For anyone that’s played the game, though, what really makes the game fun after the features’ novelty wears off is trying to guess the names of each team’s players. While the teams themselves were fictionalized due to a lack of a Major League Baseball license (The Toronto Blue Jays were the Toronto Bears, for example), the players’ names were even better.

For example, the line up of the “Detroit Wheels” was graced by Fieldman (Cecil Fielder), Bambi (Rob Deer) and Inkervac (Pete Incaviglia.) Other notables included Frynn, Melltram, Cuylilt and Skeeter — if you’re an old-school baseball fan, you should be able to figure those out for yourself. As for the “Bears,” there was Grubb, J. Olly, Dewhite, Alamo and Cartwell.

While there was no option for season-long stat tracking and player injuries were non-existent, MVP Baseball still shines today because of its distinctive play-style, its shameless plug for Roger Clemens and the fact it’s still a lot of fun to play.

 

 

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