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Hands-on: Gekikuukan Pro Baseball

TOKYO - We've got screens and impressions on Square's baseball game for the Sony PlayStation2.


TOKYO - As one of Square's only titles on display at this spring's Tokyo Game Show, we had high hopes for Gekikuukan Pro Baseball: End of the Century 1999 – the company's big leap into the world of simulation baseball. While the game certainly looks good, upon starting up some bona fide gameplay, I realized just how much I know about sports titles and baseball titles in particular. In short, the title is a decidedly flawed game that I think anyone used to the luxuries of World Series Baseball or All-Star Baseball would find abhorrent.

For starters, little things like not being able to take some tentative warm-up swings or move around and position yourself in the batters' box is definitely annoying. When you discover that changing pitch velocity and affecting the curve of the ball in mid-flight is next to impossible, the game's limitations rear their ugly head.

Graphically, the game can be amazingly beautiful, running at a fairly consistent 60fps, while offering some of the most realistic animations I've ever seen in a game. However, I began to get the idea that Square concentrated directly on the motion-capture routines and less on the playability and authenticity of the gameplay. While it isn't one of those super-deformed b-ball games like those that are quite popular in Japan, why does almost every throw from the outfield to the infield ride on an arc that would make McDonald's proud? Other details like the jumpy transition animations are also of concern, as a first baseman in this game, for example, will wait for the ball to come his way like any first baseman would. However, his change in stance from when he's waiting for the ball to when he actually catches it is abrupt and lacks finesse.

If the other offerings at Square's booth had been of greater value, then perhaps Gekikuukan Pro Baseball: End of the Century 1999 wouldn't have been so aggravating. As it stands, EotC 1999 is another example of why Square should stick to RPG's. You can't blame a publisher for trying new things, but when Driving Emotion Type-S and both its baseball and wrestling games are of questionable to almost unplayable quality, I have to wonder what's wrong. Let's hope Square irons this one out before the game ships.

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