Blog Games Genesis Sega

Tel-Tel Stadium (Mega Drive, 1990)

Phone a baseball team.

The tel-tel rings for thee.

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous (online, even)


GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 10/21/90 – (JP)

American console gaming wouldn’t go online in any significant fashion until the Dreamcast in late 1999, so the fact that Sega released a modem for the Mega Drive in 1990 is amazing. That it failed to take off, even in a more technologically advanced country like Japan, speaks volumes for how ahead of their time Sega was. Sega’s online game library notwithstanding, only six games sold at Japanese retail – including Tel-Tel Stadium – featured modem support.

A home run for technology.

To play Tel-Tel Stadium as Sunsoft and Sega intended back in 1990, you would need to live in Japan; probably in a city to get a decent connection, though that’s just a speculation. You would also need to own a Mega Drive and a Sega Mega Modem (approx. 30,000 yen for both), subscribe to the Sega Meganet service (4800 yen for 6 months), have a copy of Tel-Tel (6,500 yen), and have a friend with the Sega Meganet service and a Mega Drive/Mega Modem/copy of the game (priceless). If you were able to secure all the aforementioned items, then you would hook it up, cross your fingers and hope the maximum 2400bps connection wouldn’t cut out after you popped a home run with your beloved Excites.

Hopes don’t stand a chance.

Tel-Tel Stadium is one of the stranger baseball games I’ve ever played. Once you make your way to the game, you pitch and bat, not by button inputs, but through a series of menus. For example: let’s say you want your pitcher to throw a strike. You choose ‘Strike’ from the first menu, which leads to another menu that gives you more pitching options. Choosing ‘Straight’ leads to the options ‘Inside’ or ‘Outside.’ After you pick one of these, you can throw the ball.

“What kind of pitch do you, the players at home, think I should throw?”

Even after all that rigamarole, you’re not guaranteed to strike a guy just because you chose ‘Strike’ from the menu. In fact, every time I chose ‘Strike,’ the resulting pitch was actually a ball. I have no idea why.

I had a much more successful time with batting. After wading through several option menus, I would often land a hit. Even if one of the opposing team’s outfielders caught it for an easy out, who cares, at least I accomplished something.

My one and only home run.

Speaking of outfielders: you can’t control them. They will move and catch and flub of their own accord. You’d think this would be infuriating, but I didn’t mind it. Most early baseball games were often plagued with slowdown and awkward camera angles in the outfield anyway. With Tel-Tel, you watch cute sprites chase the ball, and all is well. You can, however, control the outfield camera to keep track of the action, which is a neat, if inessential touch.

I’m controlling none of this, and I don’t care.

If you don’t jump into the batting and pitching menus as quickly as possible, Tel-Tel Stadium will play itself. Like, “Well, you had your chance. Now let us show you how it’s done.” If you allow this, then the entire game will play out for you automatically. As evidenced by the “Watch” option in many sports games, I know there are some sports gamers who enjoy watching the computer play a game against itself. I’m not one of those people, and I found it odd that Tel-Tel only gives you a brief window of time to jump into the menus.

“They’re allll winners, folks! Except for the losers.”

In addition to not letting you play the game, Tel-Tel seems very keen on stat management and team/player data. I say “seems.” My Japanese comprehension only goes so far. Before you start each game, you can assemble your team however you want based on their stats. If the information provided isn’t enough for you to make firm managerial decisions, the ‘Data’ option on the main menu leads to detailed stats for each player on each of the 30 teams. 24 players per team means 720 players’ information to peruse. That’s a lot! Sure, they’re fake players, but that’s almost more impressive. Someone at Sunsoft had to make up a bunch of stats, then program them into the game.

Wonder if Honus Wagner’s Japanese equivalent is on this list?

Never forget: Tel-Tel Stadium was a baseball game that you could play online in 1990. If you were a baseball fan in Japan and wanted to play against your friend in another prefecture, would you really care about the quality of the baseball? If you didn’t mind the cumbersome batting/pitching interface and the connection stayed solid, you would probably just be wowed that you were playing a game against a person that wasn’t next to you. If you wanted more control over the game itself, Sega and Sunsoft’s forward-thinking antics wouldn’t be enough to sell you on this yakyuu curiosity.

1990, IN JAPAN: Holy crap, online baseball!

2017, ON MY COMPUTER: Alright then.

11 replies on “Tel-Tel Stadium (Mega Drive, 1990)”

Maybe actualy action wasn’t so hot online in 1990. But they would have the first “DLC” with the Phantasy Star Titles later on available through the modem service. Seems much more suitable to that kind of thing. I think their is a mahjong or card cage or something’s as well which also seems more suited to dial up online play. Not that you couldn’t have online action play over dialup, it certainly was a thing on Genesis and Saturn and Dreamcast. But maybe not at those lower speeds.

I think it was years later they had the unofficial xband modem you could play actual games with. I’m guessing it used faster internet. I had the Saturn Net Link Modem. Used it to browse the Internet on my Saturn. But never actually played any games online with it. Mainly because I didn’t know anyone else who had their Saturn online. Or had a compatible game. Hell I barely knew anyone else with a Saturn.I suppose I really dug into console online with the Dreamcast. Modem was fine, but I got a broadband adapter and had a lot of fun. Dreamcast was the first really viable online I think. Mainly because every console could go online. I also played my GameCube online and that worked well as well. For the single game that used it. I think if they included a real modem with the GC they could have sold much better.

I remember back when the TeleGenesis was still supposed to come out in the US, the Sega game posters had a game called TeleGenesis Baseball, which I assume was a port of this game. I wonder how far along they were when it got cancelled.

Reflecting on Sean’s comments, I wonder if the menu based game play and lack of direct control over fielders were designed to overcome the bandwidth limitations? It must have been more efficient to mash together the selected pitch and swing, apply some randomness then send that info to each machine as opposed to keeping track of direct inputs in realtime.

Similarly, I wonder if the auto-play was to avoid having players wait a bemused age while somebody they couldn’t otherwise interact with took their time choosing an option. Seems strange that this isn’t togglable for single/local play though (unless it is, but the option is obfuscated by being in Japanese).

This reminds me of stuff like Tony La Russa’s Ultimate Baseball on PC, where it was primarily a simulation game with a lot of stats management, and very little in the way of active game play. This was probably a smart move by Sunsoft, so that the slow modem connection wasn’t trying to send all the active play data across, but instead, short statistical and mathematical stuff relating to the options you and your opponent choose, and then a “roll the dice” probability algorithm to calculate it all. In today’s world of high-impact first-person shooter games with hardcore players expecting 60FPS video with zero lag, and even late 90’s Dreamcast days with early Quake and Unreal games online, it’s amazing to think this kind of thing worked on such a slow modem connection. Still, as you say, Sega was way ahead of their time, and I think that forward-thinking mentality is a percentage, however minor, of what did them in over time.

It’s probably a good thing that the game stayed in Japan, then. Not sure when the first baseball sim was given a worldwide release on a console, but 1990 and even 91 was probably a little too early for that sort of thing.

Bem difícil…rsrs
Eu uso Google Translator…
Uso a câmera e traduz algumas coisas, não fica perfeito a tradução, mas quebra o galho.

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