Home of the red, blue, and yellow.
PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous
DEVELOPER: ADK, Sega
RELEASE DATE: 1983 (JP)
Sega became known for solid sports games on the Genesis with their ‘Sega Sports’ line and in collaboration with Visual Concepts for the fantastic 2K series on the Dreamcast. These early ‘Champion Sports’ outings for the SG-1000, however, have several weak points, and usually, one game-breaking flaw.
For example, putting is impossible in Champion Golf. You could spend upwards of ten strokes attempting to putt the ball into the hole because the swing meter for your golf club has two settings: turbocharged and sleepy time. Champion Tennis was a bit better, though hitting the ball with your player instead of a racket made the game play like Pong rather than tennis.
Champion Baseball is the worst of the ‘Champion’ series by far, and not because the superhuman outfielders make scoring runs impossible. Decent batting mechanics aside, Champion Baseball is boring and tedious – like Nintendo’s Baseball sans reckless charm.
Batter “Tough Marbles” scores a surprising run.
Champion Baseball begins with you and the computer (or a friend) on the field. No picking teams, no choosing a starting lineup, no options of any kind. You’ll notice immediately that the field is tiny, the players are oversized, and the outfielders resemble the guy from the Sega Channel logo.
A rectangular box appears on the left side of the screen, showcasing the pitcher and the batter up close. Your team is up to bat first. Hitting the ball isn’t difficult, but getting to first base certainly is. Hit a ball, the batting box disappears, and your batter starts running, but the outfielders have already caught the ball and thrown it to first place; or they’ve caught the ball and it’s an out; or, if Christopher Lloyd and his cadre of angels are in the outfield, you might have a chance of making it to first.
More than likely, you’re out because your batters are slow, the outfielders are powerful, and, once thrown, the ball can cut across the field like Forrest Gump after his leg braces shattered. At first, I thought the glorified outfielders was just the computer being cheap. Once the teams switched places, however, my outfielders were just as overwhelming as the computer’s, and the computer couldn’t score a single hit. Sega made the outfielders unstoppable giants, while severely limiting the running speed of the batters. What I perceived as cheap AI was actually a developmental flaw that destroyed Champion Baseball’s purpose.
The pitcher is not above hitting the batter with the ball, allowing you to walk. He did it to me three times in a row.
Other Champion Baseball grievances include a nails-on-a-chalkboard screeching noise the batters make when they run. Also, every time a player is out, you have to watch them walk off the field and listen to said screeching noise for seconds longer than is necessary. Occasionally while batting, you’ll see the bat strike the ball, but the ball will sail through the bat, like a ghost.
Yes, Champion Baseball is an arcade port, but you shouldn’t be surprised by that, given the SG-1000’s library thus far. The arcade version is sadly similar to the SG-1000 version, except for better graphics and an exaggerated Japanese announcer who over-pronounces every call. “St-o-rikuuuuu!” “Ow-toooo!” “Bo-ruuuu!” The announcer is hilarious and makes the game that much more bearable to play. According to SegaRetro, there was a Champion Baseball 2, which means the first must have been successful enough to warrant one. Praise be to Sega, the sequel was not ported to the SG-1000.
A lousy ‘Game Over’ is the thanks you get for winning.
Miraculously, in the one game I played (the one game I forced myself to play), I managed to score five runs. Four runs were achieved when I had all bases loaded (an event which never occurred again) and the guy up to bat hit a home run. The fifth run was achieved through another home run on a different inning. But even with these unexpected occurrences, I couldn’t wait to turn the game off. Because the outfielders would catch ninety percent of all hits, I knew more or less how every inning would play out, which made Champion Baseball uninteresting. What’s the point of playing a sports game if the challenge stems not from your opponent, but from the structure of the game itself?