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All Star Baseball 2003 Package Art
†GENRE
††Sports
†DEVELOPER
††Acclaim
†PUBLISHER
††Acclaim
†NUMBER OF PLAYERS
††1-4
†CONNECTIVITY
††no
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All Star Baseball 2003

This game is serious. From the symphonic and broadcast quality opening music, played against scenes of baseballís most professional player (Derek Jeter), you know that ASB treats the sport of baseball with reverence and pride. I hate to say this, but I really wish that ASB 2002 never happened. That installment was a hiccup in what Acclaim has established as a premiere sports trophy piece for your game collection. ASB 2003 is the true next generation installment of an awesome game for your GameCube.

Yes, the series does have room for improvement, but I can state with certainty that this game is way more fun to play than the last installment. Overall, with improved options, gameplay mechanics and more, ASB 2003 is a great baseball/sports game for your Cube. Find out why I suggest you buy this game faster than Ricky Henderson stealing second by reading all about ASB 2003 below.

visuals

I turned on the N64 version of this game today and compared it to ASB 2003. I just want to repeat what I said a few years ago. The N64 version of this game is still a beauty to behold even in this era of Flipper chips and 128 processing. The GameCube installment goes a long way in living up to the visual excellence that its predecessor established.

Compared to ASB 2002, this installment has a lot more character. Players have more movement as they approach the plate, there are better animations -- and 500 new ones -- crisper fielding options, and the like. You can look through player stats at the beginning of the game in a quick and easy drag-down menu. Overall, the game has an improved graphical feel to it.

Iíve been hassling the boys at Acclaim to have some specific in-game stat graphics for a long time now. Well, they blew my damned socks off. When youíre batting, hit the Z button and a hitting percentage graph, hot/cold chart, pitch history are all displayed for you. The hitting percentage breaks the field down into sections and shows the percentage of hits into the three different fields. Hot damn! This is great! Acclaim did a great thing here.

Now, I think that it may be in the works for next year but thereís two things that are bugging me. First and foremost, in the pause menu I want the option to change batting/pitching camera angles like in the N64 version. While the current one is adequate, it gets stale over a season. Having the different angles keeps things fresh and I know that Acclaim is hard at work with this idea. The second item is that the ball has to leave the bat in one smooth graphical transition. The cut scene where the batting visual is CUT and then a fielding camera comes up creates a disjointed feeling and things would be much more fluid with a constant ďball leaving the bat into the fieldĒ viewpoint.

This has been, continues to be and will be one of the prettiest and stunning graphical tour de forces on any system. ASB 2003 proves this. Just look at the player ďskinsĒ on their faces! I can almost see the snot in A Rodís nose!

audio

Yet another huge improvement from last year. The commentary is incredibly in-depth. It gets involved in players' stats, different highlights of the playersí careers and previous year and of course, insightful in-game commentary. The crowd comes alive more accurately this time around as well, with some heckling and most importantly, accurate crowd response to the play on the field.

Everything about ASB exudes class. I love the smoothness of Bob Brenly, Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons (are his pants on?). The three man commentary is excellent and really befits baseball with insightful play by play that follows the true thread of the sport, the numbers and the players. Great job here.

The one thing that I think needs to be developed are the sound effects. In a way, I want my video game baseball to sound like a Fox Sports baseball broadcast: a lot of swoosh, thud, pop, slides and umphs! The sound effects in ASB need to be enhanced and brought to the forefront. For instance, when a player slides you canít really hear the action on the field. Audio is crucial to complete a perception. Without this component, the action just doesnít seem as thrilling. Something to think about for next year?

gameplay

Vastly improved from ASB 2002. Thatís the bottom line. This is the ASB that you NEED to buy for your GameCube! The most important element of any baseball game is the pitching/batting interface. The batting feels more fluid, you can follow the pitches in a much more accurate way. I canít really put my finger on it but this game just feels good. It feels fun. It feels right. Now I know as an objective reviewer that isnít an acceptable comment but I really do mean it. ASB 2003 feels like baseball. Itís an outstanding improvement from its predecessor and if Acclaim continues to make quantum leaps between installments than this game is going to get scary.

In terms of batting, I was lead to a good tip by one of the Acclaim team. Press and hold the R button and guess the location using the control pad rather than the actual pitch type using the buttons. This will increase your power icon if you get the guess right and increase your chances of going yard. Now, if you can combine a proper pitch type and location guess togetherÖ.BANG!

While this game can be picked up and enjoyed. I strongly advise that you go through the manual properly. This is a simulation of a sophisticated strategic sport and if you really want to take advantage of the gameplay excellence here, you should really dig into the manual.

New game modes for this year are the expansion and franchise modes, you can even choose to strictly manage a game, you can collect player cards, or how about a round of trivia? You want to talk about the numbers of the game? The franchise mode goes above and beyond the call of duty here. Itís incredibly deep!

Some folks have been snapping that the amount of blocks the franchise uses is way too much. Wrong perspective folks. Itís Nintendoís memory card thatís too small and not a mode thatís too big. I applaud Acclaim for taking this risk and doing the franchise mode properly. Hey, this June weíll have a bigger memory card from Nintendo so sit tight. Youíll be able to really dig into your copy of ASB 2003 just in time for Summer!

The gameplay in ASB is the brightest part of the game. Baseball purists and casual fans alike will take real pleasure in playing through the different modes of this game. Mastering Acclaimís batting interface is a real pleasure. With its directional 3D icon, a power and contact mode, matching pitch aid cursor and the entire pitch guess strategy, baseball fans donít need to go any further when you want a realistic simulation of Americaís pastime.

I know Iíll be throwing more than a few games of ASB 2003 in my backyard this summer with my good buddy Remo (great ball player) and a cold beer.

multiplayer

The only four player baseball game that I know of. The dynamics of playing against a human opponent rather than playing the AI really brings out the joy of baseball. Guessing your opponentís next move; playing your field to his tendencies and wiping the floor with his useless ass as you send a homer right into the MATTEI sign at Yankee stadium! HOT DAMN!

I have two suggestions for multiplayer though. First, donít let your opponent see your controller numb nuts! Second, turn off the rumble feature. The damn Cube controller vibrates so loudly that your opponent will certainly know when youíre dragging your cursor out of the strike zone. So keep it quiet!

overall

Most long time Dojo Disciples know that I love sports and furthermore that I love this franchise. I hate to reiterate this, but it was painful for me to see ASB 2002 stumble as it did. It wasnít a horrible game but I have such a high standard and regard for the series that I expect perfection. While the different batting camera angles are missing, ASB 2003 is outstanding. Sports lovers and those that appreciate quality-crafted video games alike should give this game a chance. Forget the rental. The sport of baseball is methodical and a simulation of this depth really deserves your long term dedication and attention.

It will be my pleasure to follow the hard work and improvements that Acclaim makes to this series. ASB 2003 can definitely be improved via new camera angles, audio improvements and more fielding controls. But at least we know that the series is back on the right track and gathering a full head of steam.

By the way, what a month itís been for sports on the Cube, with the likes of NBA 2K2 and then this outstanding effort from Acclaim and a few other sports titlesÖ Fantastic! Keep emí coming publishers, the sports heads love their Cube when thereís titles like ASB to play on it!

final score 9.0/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Eric Mattei
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"Lost like tears in rain"


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