Once Upon A Time...
Roger Clemens MVP Baseball
By David Lee
“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.
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.