Ken Griffey, Jr. Presents Major League Baseball was released in 1994 by Sculptured Software and released by Nintendo.
Its spring and with spring comes warmer weather and the beginning of my personal favorite sport, the grand game of baseball (GO BRAVES!). So I figured what would be a better game to review than possibly my favorite baseball game of all time, starring every kid growing up in the '90s favorite player Ken Griffey, Jr.?
Ken Griffey, Jr. is in many ways your standard sports game during the 16-bit era. One part sim and many parts arcadey-simple. In the game your pit your favorite team in a variety of modes, ranging from single games, various sized season modes or if you are that impatient going right to the playoffs. There is also a home run derby for all you people love the long ball and want to see a lot of them very quickly. Alas though the game did not have the MLB Player's Association license so all but Ken Griffey are players based on the players but not named them. It sucks if you are the kind of person who really likes having authentic teams and players. You can rename if you so choose to so if you want to play with the real players you at least have that option.
As a baseball game it plays very fast. When I played as a kid, the average game took maybe 20-30 minutes with little in the way of wasted time. For instance when you pitch, instead of having an animation of the catcher tossing it back to the pitcher the ball just miraculously appears in the pitchers hand and you are ready to pitch again. Or if a ball is put in play once the result is determined the game reverts back to the home plate view. Perfect for those of you without a lot patience for all the minutia that can go on in a baseball game, either in real life or in modern games. Also while the sim aspects of the game are relatively limited you still have options whether on offense or defense. You can bring in relief pitching or defensive substitutes while pitching or pinch hit or run while on offense. It pretty much amounts to the simplest aspects of sim baseball with the rest being very arcade-like in a lot of ways.
The controls are for the most part good. The directions on the d-pad indicate what base your are throwing to and also help you aim your pitches. Though while on defense I recommend having the computer assist your fielding since if you are like me, the screen shifts can be so fast you might react wrong to ball and send your fielder in the wrong direction. For instance: say a hot shot between 3rd and 2nd, you might want to control the shortstop but get the 3rd baseman and sending him in the wrong direction.
Graphically the game is big and bright but not entirely detailed. Some the ballparks are well designed and faithful to their (at the time) real-life counterparts and others are just generic designs but really it should not really matter unless you are obsessed about the details of your team's parks. The player models are matched to their players, so your speedster 2nd baseman is smaller and skinnier than your hulking powerhouse 1st baseman. They add just enough simulator styling while having the arcade feel to them.
The music is pretty good to. The title theme is a guitar heavy rock theme that fits the tone of the game perfectly. The in-game theme is also a nice rock theme that plays throughout the game but never gets tiring. Heck the game even has end of the American National Anthem play before games as well as the Canadian National Anthem as well. How's that for detail? Sound FX give a good atmosphere of a baseball game, nothing special but they do the job.
In the end I can really only recommend this if you are baseball fan like myself. Or if you are a person who likes sports games but thinks that today's game are too complicated to get into. This is a great baseball title on a system not exactly known for sports games and very easy to get into for the uninitiated.
+ Well done graphics.
+ Fast arcade style gameplay with some simulation aspects thrown in.
+ Great music.
+ Ken Griffey, Jr. at his prime.
- No MLBPA license
- Who rendered Griffey's face for the in-game title screen. Gah!