playstation homepage   Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review
PlayStation Game and Hardware Reviews

A.P.I Review: VR BASEBALL 99
Developer: VR Sports OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: VR Sports 1-2 Player
Game Type: Sports Sim Memory Card
Review Date: August 1998 Standard Joypad

Setting the Scene

Before I begin this review I have to get something out of the way. I am a
fan of Baseball and my favourite team is the Cleveland Indians (even back
when they were a really bad team). The problem is I live in Australia and
we're lucky to get five minutes of news about the World Series when it is
on, so I have seen very little of the game being actually played. In fact,
I would go so far as to say that I have probably played more virtual
baseball than I have seen actually played. So I am coming at this review
from the point of view of a baseball fan (not fanatic) that has very
little experience with the actual game but likes watching (when I can) and
playing the odd virtual game. Now that we have that out of the way, let's
get on with the details.

Let's face it, baseball is a pretty simple game.  Someone throws a ball 
and a guy with a chunk of wood in his hands tries to strike it.  Should 
this prove successful, he must then run around a diamond shaped playing 
field before a member of the opposition throws the ball to a fielder 
situated at each of the four bases.

Baseball games have been around as long as home computers. I remember
Hardball, the first one I ever played.  It had 16 colour sprites,
representing the players on the screen and it was good fun to play. 
In Hardball you had a set of keys allowing you to pitch, hit and field. 
You could throw a fastball, a curve, do a powerhit or a bunt - the usual 
sort of baseball moves.  Nothing much has changed really.  Sure the 
modern breed of baseball games have significantly improved graphics, 
great sound effects and music, but the underlying game has not changed 
one little but. That's fair enough really since Baseball hasn't changed 
in all those years either.

If we forget about the graphics and sound, what is it that will make us
pick up a modern baseball title over the older ones, since they are
essentially exactly the same?  In a word (or two), it's Artificial 
Intelligence.  All of the modern games are claiming improved and more 
accurate AI.  The ability to play against a virtual team and have them 
react exactly as a real team would is the big attraction. VR Sports 
Baseball 99 is using this accuracy and realism as the main selling point. 
So the big questions are - has it succeeded, is this like the real thing 
and what's in it for people who don't care if Kenny Loften should score 
from 2nd on a gapper to the wall?


A simulation of the popular sport of baseball.


The game opens up with a neat cut scene of a game in progress. Darin Erstad 
takes the plate and awaits the pitch. The runner at 1st base makes a break 
for 2nd just as the ball leaves the pitchers hand.  Erstad strikes the 
ball sweetly and it flies over the pitchers' head towards an outfielder. 
Erstad makes it to first and keeps up his momentum to arrive at 2nd just 
as the baseman takes the ball.  The call is 'SAFE'.  The cries ring out 
'home, send it home'.  The second baseman launched the ball towards home 
forcing the short-stop to leave the plate and stand in the path of the 
runner to receive the ball.  Going flat out the runner slams into the 
short-stop knocking them both to the ground and the ball falls from the 
short-stops' hand.  The runner is 'SAFE' too.  A very exciting and 
graphically impressive intro, which sets the scene and really gives the 
player an preview of what is about to come.

The graphics on VR Baseball are Grade A.  Very impressive.  If that's 
all you needed to know then you can now skip to the next section of the 
review.  If you want more details, read on.

The menu system is usually the second visual element you see in a game.  
The quality of the graphics and navigation of the menu system is top 
quality in VR Baseball 99.  They are easy to read, simple to navigate, 
cleanly laid out and intuitive.

The two most prominent graphical ingredients within most team base games 
will be the stadiums and the players.  In VR Baseball '99 both are 
incredibly accurate and realistic.  The players are HUGE.  In fact, 
when batting your player takes up half the screen.  You can actually 
see the ripples in his uniform and the smile on his face (if he's a happy 
player).  You can even see his body heave as he breaths in and out. 
According to the developers, each player is accurately modelled of their 
real-life counterpart for height and weight.  It also seem like each one 
is represented accurately right down to the details of which stance they 
would take when batting or whether they are left or right handers.

The stadiums, likewise, are very impressive.  30 Major League stadiums 
have been accurately represented in the game.  Since I definitely haven't 
seen all thirty I'll just have to take VR's word for that, but since each 
stadium has a different look and feel it seems like a reasonable claim. 
In most of the stadiums you can even see the buildings and surrounding 
outside of the stadium.

The only area where I think could use a little improvement is the movement 
of the players. While they move with a reasonable amount of realism, they 
can be a little jerky at times and as usual they could always use a few 
more polygons to smooth out the sharp edges. Another missing element is 
some kind of graphical fanfare for the winner of a game.  As it is, all 
you get is a little menu asking if you want to play again.  A little 
disappointing but only a nit-pick.

Sounds and Effects

 Most people tend to notice when the developers make an effort to deliver 
more than is expected from a game.  For me that is usually represented 
by the small, but significant, endeavour required to add Dolby Surround 
to the package.  Nothing beats being surrounded by the sound effects and 
baseball is probably one of the finest examples of this bonus feature.

While realism is a big selling point of games like this, it is important to
have all the fundamentals present that make up a 'real' game.  VR Baseball 
99 has all of those elements.  It could be the National Anthem at the 
beginning, the heckling crowds throughout, the announcer calling out 
the player names or the short-stop giving friendly advice to the pitcher, 
it's all here and very well done. 

The other sounds that make baseball are of course the noise as the pitch 
screams past the batter and the whoosh of the bat flying through the air.
Finally, of course, the satisfying 'crack' as the bat connects with the 
ball is all there and all very realistic.

If you ever played Triple Play 99 you will miss the brilliant commentary 
which complemented that game as VR Baseball's calls are restricted to player
name and number.  This doesn't really detract from the game, I just noticed
it missing.

The in-game music is all brilliant. The mid-innings organ music is a
little annoying at time but it wouldn't be baseball without it. The
between innings rendition of Queen's "We Will Rock You' is excellent and
the other music used throughout the game is never annoying or overbearing.


While exploring the menu system in VR Baseball 99, I stumbled across a 
plethora of options, customisations, and amazing range of things can be 
changed and tweaked in this game.  This provides an unlimited playing 
environment and an infinitely changing game.

From the main menu you can choose to play a single exhibition game, a full
season of up to 152 games or a Homerun Derby.

In an exhibition mode you simply select which team you want to play for and 
against then jump right into a single game.  
Season play let's you progress through a full season of between 20 and 152
games.  Here you can select which individual games you wish to take part 
in (even ones your team is not involved in), play out the entire season or
simulate any number of games and play the rest. 
The Homerun Derby is an opportunity for you to show off your big hit prowess 
by competing against a selection of other big hitters in a competition to 
strike the most home runs.

Even the most inept gamers (like me) can compete in VR Baseball since
there are three difficulty settings, Rookie, Pro and All-Star.  The
difficulty setting effects the levels of fielding assistance, pitch speed
and hitting type.  Obviously the lower the difficulty the more assistance
you get from the AI but the less control you tend to have over what is
going on.

In the 'useless but cool' category is the 'Shell' options.  These allow you
to customise settings such as the fade rate while others really add nothing 
to game play but give you the ability to customise the menu system.

Other miscellaneous options allow you to change the number of innings in a
game, whether fielders make errors, turn injuries on and off and alter the
time of day games take place on (Day, Night, Overcast, Dusk or Random).

"What about the gameplay!" I hear you cry. OK, enough with the fiddly
details.  The game itself also includes enough to keep anybody busy for a
long time.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest selling point of this game is the AI and
accuracy of the gameplay.  Just about everything you can do during a real
game of baseball can be done here.  Starting with the pitching side.  As 
the pitcher you can customise your fielders, decide whether it's time for 
a fast slider, a slow curve, medium change up or any other number of pitch
type.  Using the direction pad you can even direct the pitch at any
angle to try and put the batter off and cause a strike.  After the ball
is in the air, fielding is a snap.  Depending on the difficulty setting 
you either have sit back and watch the fielders do their job or you are
responsible for every element of fielding from picking the ball up to
throwing it to the relevant baseman.

During play you have the chance to visit your bullpen at any time and
substitute players in and out of the field.  This is particularly important
for pitchers since the risk of injury is increased the longer your pitcher
in the game without a break.

As the batting team you also need to take control and make decisions on
actions you player must do. The batter can do a power hit, regular hit or
bunt, you can also force your people on bases to attempt a steal during
the pitch.

At any time during the game you can call a time out and inspect your
roster, check out your stats so far, substitute players, check out the
oppositions line-up and a number of other options which allow you to soak
yourself in facts and figures.

VR Baseball has a lot to offer the stats lovers.  Just about very aspect 
of a teams performance is represented in the game, before the game
you can check out the batting and pitching stats of previous games and
after the event you can check out the stats on the performance of your team
during the match.

Overall, it appears like this game is aimed more at gamers looking for an
accurate simulation of baseball than a good time hitting balls around.
There's nothing wrong with that since there are ample alternatives for the
rest of us and VR goes part of the way by offering the different
difficulty levels. With only a few exceptions, the AI in the game is as
brilliant as it is claimed to be.  The players all seem to have
intelligence and tend to act more like a real player would than a
preprogrammed drone would.

Value for Money

It is always hard to gauge the value of a sports game.  If you don't like 
baseball you won't get much play-time from this game, that's pretty obvious 
I suppose. 
If you are really keen and love baseball to death you will get maximum 
value from the game. 
As usual, your mileage may vary, you will either play this game forever (or
at least until the next version arrives) or you won't play it at all, it
all depends on you.
GRAPHICS: 17/20 I reviewed VR Sports Powerboat racing earlier in the year and wasn't very impressed. I now know why Powerboat racing was so bad, those sneaky people at VR Sports have been spending all their time polishing and preening VR Baseball 99, and what a good job they have done.

The only other next-gen Baseball game I have played recently was Triple Play 99. To be quite honest as a non-fanatic, non-statistics obsessed baseball nut, I enjoyed Triple Play more than VR Baseball 99, it's just more fun to play and not as bogged down in stats and accuracy. Don't get me wrong, VR wins on accuracy and realism but that's not what really makes me play most games. On the other hand, VR is a little easier to play and definitely lends itself more to a tactical game than Triple Play.

If I had to make a choice between VR 99 and Triple Play 99, I would chose Triple Play, but that's just my opinion, you should make up your own mind based on the rest of the review, or hire both and make up your own mind.
SOUND: 9/10
VALUE: 14/20


    GAMES        Get your PSX games HERE!