Rating: Awesome After being disappointed by all three of this season's other major baseball games, I was very surprised to find that unlike all the others, All Star Baseball '99 doesn't suck. As a matter of fact, ASB '99 is the best baseball game released in years for a number of reasons. First, there's the graphics. The graphics in ASB '99 are quite simply the best yet seen in any baseball game on any system, with extremely solid polygonal models and nice-looking stadiums. But as good as the graphics are, they would be meaningless if there were no gameplay to back it up. Fortunately, the gameplay truly shines in this game. In most baseball games, the pitcher/batter interface is just a formality, a way to quickly get to the "real" action of hitting and fielding. This is far from the case in real baseball, where the pitcher/batter showdowns are at the forefront of every game, and it's about freakin' time a baseball game recognized this. The pitcher/batter interface in ASB '99 is cursor-based and somewhat similar to Griffey 64, but it comes across as much more elegant and strategic over time. In Griffey, the ability of the pitcher to move the cursor all over the place even when the ball is on its way to the plate ruined the game for me. In ASB '99, the pitcher can move the cursor slightly during the wind-up, but once the pitch is on its way, it's out of the pitcher's control, which is the way it should be. The only movement after the release of the ball is if it's a breaking ball (so sinkers still sink, curveballs still curve, etc), but the pitcher can't just move the cursor around at will. This allows the batter to line up the cursors, then concentrate completely on the ball itself to get the timing just right, unlike Griffey 64 where the batter had the impossible task of concentrating on the cursors and the ball at the same time. ASB '99's awesome pitcher/batter interface makes for some very strategic showdowns. It also makes for a much slower-paced game than Griffey, but baseball is supposed to be slow-paced. This game manages to be slow-paced and fun at the same time. The fielding control is much easier to get a hang of than other baseball games (especially Triple Play '99), and unfortunately it does get to the point where it's almost too easy (which is still much better than if it were too hard). The base running control is great, and the game has so many stats and options it will make your head spin (including the Create A Player that Griffey 64 doesn't have). As good as this game is, I would be lying if I said it was flawless. The game's offense seems too reliant on seemingly random home runs rather than working the pitcher with base hit after base hit (which is ultimately more satisfying). Sometimes you understand why a home run is hit because it's a fastball and you head it head-on at just the right moment, other times it seems completely luck-based. Also, sometimes the game can be a bit repetitive (though not often). For example, in one game I kept hitting the ball to the same exact spot in the infield, to the point where at least 20 of the 27 times I got out were hit to that spot. It got so bad that I began to wonder if I was really doing something wrong or whether it was just a bug in the game. These flaws were big enough to make me think twice about giving the game an Awesome rating, but small enough that I decided to give it the Awesome rating in the end. All Star Baseball '99 is an outstanding game that is far, far better than any other baseball game released this year.
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