When RBI Baseball made its return a few years ago, there were plenty of skeptics. And although the game has been a fun retro experience overall, RBI 17 proved the developers had to take the series to the next level. With remodeled players, ballparks and the same attention to the classic NES experience they’ve had from the start paid in full, RBI Baseball 18 is the best edition of the game since its heyday.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s found its sweet spot yet. Stuck between arcade fun of yesteryear and an MLB license that you’d expect realism from, this is a rebuilding year for the series, but one that shows it hasn’t discovered its true potential just yet.
The new graphical coat of paint and new batting stances adds a ton of flavor to a series that always played well if you were a retro enthusiast, but it never had an abundance of soul. Although it worked perfectly as a mobile game, on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and even the Switch (a system that is starving for good sports games), it just felt flat. Now, although the game is just as pick up and play and simple as ever, it is at least is trying to behave more like a modern-day baseball sim.
It also helps that with the support of MLB baseball, the rosters are constantly updated and the stat tracking is easily the best in video games today. If you want to play a current game, RBI is always on top of things. That goes a long way with many gamers. Add in a slew of all-time greats in the free-agent pool and a Franchise Mode and a Home Run Derby and there’s plenty of nostalgia and fun to be had.
At the same time, RBI Baseball is a frugal choice for any PS4 gamer that wants to get his game on but doesn’t want to get as serious as The Show. Simply put, it can and will help itself a ton next season with commentary, more sound effects, and animation polish.
In the end, RBI Baseball 18 is the best game in the recent history of the series. Nevertheless, it’ll be best enjoyed by NES baseball fans who are looking or a quick game and not so much by current-gen diehards.
Best Version of the Game to Date: Since the series came back, this is the best version. It has the best visuals, control and is the most fun to play.
More Attention Detail: Custom stances and better-looking ballparks make this year’s version stand out of the crowd a heck of a lot more.
Identity Issues: It’s a pickup and play baseball game, but with so much attention played to up-to-date rosters and stats, it might not be obvious to those who don’t know their baseball video games. This is not a real “current-gen” sports game, but it’s not exactly a retro game anymore either. It would be awesome if next year’s version could have more of an identity, but it’s hard to tear this game down considering how much better it is than last year’s.
Animations Better, But Still Lacking: Collision-detection and throwing are better than year’s past, but still needs to get better.
Overall, this is a huge step in the right direction for one of the most important franchises in baseball video games. While it still has some work to do before it can hold its own with The Show, it’s safe to say that’s not its intention either. However, more than ever, this is a fun game to play by yourself, or with friends that continues to get better.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the upcoming book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.