Time hasn't been kind to World Class Baseball. When it was originally published for the TurboGrafx-16 console way back in 1988, people overlooked the game's pathetic list of features and its unpredictable controls because the graphics were years ahead of the curve. Now that nearly 20 years have passed and World Class Baseball is available again, this time for the Wii's Virtual Console, the leaping players and moonshot hits don't look as impressive as they once did. As a result, the game's shortcomings are tougher to ignore.
You can pick from 12 fictional teams, adjust their lineups, and play games in three different modes. There's the usual exhibition mode, a playoffs mode, and a versus mode that lets you play against a friend by hooking up a second controller. A fourth mode lets you watch two CPU teams play against one another, if you're the voyeuristic sort. Although the lack of a season mode is a shame, the playoffs will tide you over for at least 13 full games, and more than that if you count all the times you lose the password that you need to continue after your last win. The lineup editor is pretty much worthless. You can shuffle the benches, but you can't trade players, edit their names, or create your own custom teams.
The controls and play mechanics have a simple, arcade-like design. When you're batting, you can move the hitter around in the box and press the button to swing. When you're pitching, you can move the pitcher left and right on the pitching rubber, and you can also adjust the break of the pitch by holding a direction on the control pad after the ball is released. If the ball is put into play when you're pitching, you can control the fielder that's closest to the ball by using the directional pad and, if need be, make him dive after the ball.
The arcade-like atmosphere is further reinforced by the circus-style music, acrobatic dives, and moonshot hits that seem to accompany every swing of the bat. Indeed, those tiny little players hoof it and make Superman catches with plenty of grace. The way the ball changes in size as it rises into the air and then falls back toward the field is also pretty sweet, especially when you remember that World Class Baseball originally came out in 1988, a full two years before similar scaling effects would be put to use in other 16-bit baseball video games.
So what's the big problem, apart from the simplistic design? The controls are unpredictable. More accurately, the players don't always do what they're supposed to. On one play, you'll have your fielder throw to a base, at which point he'll get rid of the ball quickly. The next time, he'll delay a couple of seconds, and the lazy toss will let the runner reach safety. Likewise, when a ball is put into play, you'll find that you can't always move your fielder around after the ball is caught. That's only a minor inconvenience in the outfield, where you can make a relay throw, but it makes infield put-outs impossible. Occasionally, you'll pick up a bouncer and watch helplessly as the runner advances because you can't move two steps to touch the bag. Hudson should've fixed these issues for the Virtual Console release. Unfortunately, they didn't, which means you're better off spending your 600 Wii points on something else.