Regardless of a sports game's features, it lives or dies by two things: play control and graphics. All-Star Baseball '97 Featuring Frank Thomas is a good example of a feature-heavy game that has adequate play control and adequate graphics. The end result: an adequate game that lacks the polish and finesse needed to be great.
All-Star Baseball features all 30 Major League teams, including the new Tampa Bay and Arizona teams; over seven hundred real MLB players; 28 stadiums to play in; the complete 1997 schedule, including the new interleague games; player trades; and 27 category statistics from STATS, Inc. In addition, there are six modes of gameplay: exhibition, season, playoffs, all-star game, home run derby, and batting practice. In terms of features it is definitely on par with the other titles out there.
Rendered in 3-D with motion-captured players, All-Star Baseball looks good, although there are a couple of flaws. For instance, entire transitions are missing, so players jump around while batting. Player movements are jagged, giving the game a delayed time-warp feel. The play-by-play calls, voiced by Jon Miller, also suffer from imperfection; it is quite common for the strung-together phrases to sound completely wrong. On the plus side, the calls of hot dog vendors were good.
When it comes to gameplay, All-Star Baseball '97 works, but that's all it does. The batting and pitching interface are completely old-school - no pointers or meters, you just swing the bat or throw the pitch. While this basic approach is refreshing, hitting the ball is awkward; the split-second delay before the ball takes flight makes you feel like you're batting with a plastic Wiffle bat. The fielding uses a basic approach as well, making defense quite simple. In one-player mode you can expect a fairly quick game, although the computer AI can be tough at times.
With so many baseball games coming out for the PlayStation this year, the battle for stickball supremacy is cutthroat. Is All-Star Baseball '97 Featuring Frank Thomas a good baseball title? Yes. Is it the best one on the market? No. Should you buy it? Sure - but only if you're buying two baseball titles this year because this game is really second best.