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PlayStation Network Review: Baseball Stars Professional

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Baseball Stars Professional, besides having an impossible to remember name, was originally a baseball title for the NEOGEO in 1990. This is basically a straight port of that game for the PS3, with some added features like network play to spice things up just slightly. It’s arcade baseball action at its purest with some noticeably Japanese additions that make it colorful and functional, but not really worth the $9 price tag unless you have an emotional attachment to the original game.

This game follows the same formula most 2D baseball games do, just like every one of those you may have played on the SNES or Genesis growing up. There are, in fact, dozens of flash games free online that will provide the exact same gameplay as this title, and perhaps even with better graphics. However, this title has some Japanese character to it that gives it a bit of individuality. There are a lot of teams, not from any real league but organized by different oddball concepts. There’s the Comic Astroboys, a team made up of Astro Boy references, the Creative Brains, all named after historical inventors and thinkers, and other funny ideas along those lines. There are even two female teams to break up the monotony of identical male players.

This game does seem to be a bit harder than normal, however, unless you’re using an especially good team like the American Dreams. Pitching’s no problem, just pipe fastballs over the inside corner most of the time and never, ever throw your slowest pitch, or else the computer will knock it out of the park three times out of four. When hitting, I can’t seem to do much more than get consistent contact, grounding or popping out virtually every time up. This leads to a lot of games in which the computer beats me 1-0 with a single home run, and I hardly get three guys on base at once. It’s frustrating, and maybe the issue is the learning curve, but I certainly haven’t worked it out to this point.

That’s why this game is a lot better when played with two people. Maybe neither of you can really hit, but you’re certainly not perfect fielding automatons like the computer, so there are enough mistakes made to lead to a decent amount of scoring over a full nine-inning game.

Fielding the ball is almost always tough in this genre of baseball game because the camera tends to stay in very close to the ball, so you really have no idea where the fielder you’re controlling will be until the ball is already right on him. This introduces a realistic amount of reflexes to a baseball game, except that easy grounders straight to the shortstop can be missed entirely because you might have expected your shortstop wouldn’t be in the perfect position, so you moved and missed the catch. There’s no way of telling, and worse, your movements move every player on the field at once. So if a grounder goes just by the pitcher for the second baseman to pick up you’ll often find that when you move your pitcher to try and catch it, should you miss your second baseman will have moved miles away. The fielding’s irritating, but two player games needs that dose of chaos to remain interesting. Online two player is also available if that’s something you’re interested in.

Baseball Stars Professional not really worth the asking price, but it’s not a terrible game either. On the off-chance you want arcade old-school baseball action on your PS3, this is your product. Throw in some hokey Japanese humor, and it’s all the better.

Baseball Stars Professional is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.  This game can also be found on the PSP.

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