With the world being in the shape it is it was nice to have one of my favorite things come back. Baseball. I love baseball, ever since I was little I’ve loved the game. Watching it, playing it, going to Dodger games on the weekends with my family. Even playing baseball video games was fun for me. In fact it wasn’t just baseball games I played either. I had quite a few sports games that I’ve owned over the years from the silly and wacky to the hyper-realistic. While I was watching the Dodger game the other day it got me thinking about sports games and why for today’s modern sports games they don’t hold the same appeal to my like the older games. I get that it’s mostly due to contracts with players unions, the leagues, and EA being the highest bidder and holding many exclusive contracts with tons of sports leagues. Even though those type of hyper-realistic games come out every year like clock work, I miss the more crazy games. Games like Backyard Baseball or NFL Blitz. Even a round of NBA Jam or NBA Street sounds fun. Now this isn’t me bashing or hating on the newest version of Madden or Fifa. I get it, those games HAVE to come out every year. Rosters change, logos change, and soon (if the NFL season actually starts on time) the Raiders will be playing in Las Vegas and who knows what the Washington team is going to be called. Which at the time of this writing they don’t have a new name yet. This is me just missing when sports games threw caution to the wind, had mechanics that made them different, crazy, and super fun to play.
If I had to pick my favorite sports game it probably would be Backyard Baseball 2001 for the PC. It’s not the most famous sports game out there but here’s why I loved it. The game wasn’t just kids playing baseball in their backyards (there was that) but if memory serves this was the first entry where MLB got involved and put one player from every team into the game. You cold make a dream roster of famous MLB players as well as the Backyard kids who’ve been a part of the series since it’s inception. Also instead of just creating a made up team you could don the uniforms of your favorite MLB team, which is exactly what I did. My roster was crazy, being a born and raised Dodger fan I not only had Shawn Green on my team, but also put Mike Piazza in my lineup since I remembered when he was a Dodger before he got traded to the Mets. For added fun I also had Randy Johnson as my pitcher and even went the extra mile and put famous San Fransico Giants hitter Barry Bonds in a Dodgers uniform. Now besides picking players from other teams to play for yours, what made Backyard Baseball really fun for me was how the game rewarded the player for how they played. Get a double play? Next time you go up to bat you were given a aluminum bat that was an instant home run. You also got pitches like the Crazy Ball, Elevator Pitch, and my personal favorite, the Fireball that were nigh impossible for batters to hit. It was definitely a great game for kids. I currently have the game for the Game Boy Advance and while its still a fun little baseball game, its not the same as the PC version. Mostly because I miss clever and witty commentators and the one liners from the kids.
Besides Backyard Baseball another sports game that I have fond memories of is NBA Street. It was a 3V3 basketball game with outrageous moves and alley-oops that would set the rim on fire. They had the player’s likeness but it was more of a caricature of the players than a spitting image of them. I rented the game from Blockbuster and that weekend my brother and I had a blast playing it. Constantly trying to make 3 pointers and come up with the craziest combos for alley-oops and slam dunks. Anything to set the rims on fire and to break the glass of the backboard. That’s one of the major reasons I’m missing these types of sports games, its the little things they add in like a rim catching on fire that make it just a little bit more fun. Even pseudo sports games can be fun. I was introduced to a game called Windjammers a few years ago and I loved it. I only got to play it for a short while but I was hooked and get excited whenever I see a SNK Neo-Geo cabinet with the game in it. Thankfully you can play Windjammers on the PS4 and its supported with online play last I checked.
Now of course I understand that some gamers want their sports games to be hyper realistic and thats OK. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, its that for me those games get stale pretty quick. I’ve played those types of sports games before. Once I was invested in playing NHL 2K4 and wanted to finish an entire season all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. I stopped playing after 15 games and went on to other games. It’s not that the game wasn’t fun, it was, it just got stale for me. If I dug deeper I probably would’ve found codes or modes to change it up, like NBA Jam’s ‘Big Head’ mode or hitting a slap shot so hard it busts through the net. Stuff like that to keep my interest and wanting to invite my friends over to play some multiplayer. Like I said earlier, I get there are contracts and deals in place so we may never see a NFL Blitz or a Backyard Baseball ever again, but it would be nice to see something a little different come out. A game that does harken back to the multiplayer arcade cabinet madness of the sports games of old. That would be nice.