RELEASE DATE: 04/05/1991 – (JP), 10/1991 (US)
In February 1991, Sega published The Pro Yakyuu ’91, a surprisingly rich baseball experience for the Game Gear. Not only did the game exceed my expectations, but I declared it the best baseball game I’d played on any Sega console so far. Responsive controls and smooth, fast batting/pitching interface kept me playing. Unfortunately, despite its quality, The Pro Yakyuu ’91 never saw an international release for reasons unknown.
Two months later, in April 1991, Namco published their own baseball hootenanny, Gear Stadium in Japan (known as Batter Up in the States), a spinoff from their World Stadium series. I’ve never played any of Namco’s World Stadium games, except for a little NES game titled R.B.I. Baseball. The latter was a solid, if not particularly groundbreaking baseball game on a console swimming in baseball titles. The Game Gear does not have the baseball game glut problem, so perhaps Gear Stadium can make a name for itself here?
Alas, Gear Stadium is no R.B.I. Baseball. It is a playable Game Gear baseball game that embraces mediocrity. Batting is a crapshoot. Sometimes your player hits the ball, other times he doesn’t, even when it appears like your bat is touching the ball. Pitching is tolerable, but I still couldn’t tell why the computer’s players were more likely to hit the ball than mine. Your fielders are either inept or are weighed down by time and life. Either way, they’re slow and only occasionally do their job.
Running throughout the entire affair is lag, something I never expected from an 8-bit baseball title. Lag occurs in the following places: when a batter is about to hit a ball, right before a pitcher throws the ball, right before an outfielder catches a fly ball, and when your pitcher throws a ball towards a base runner stealing a base. The lag doesn’t make Gear Stadium unplayable, but it does make the gameplay feel stilted, stiff, and uninviting.
If The Pro Yakyuu ’91 didn’t exist, mediocrity is, frankly, all I would expect from a Game Gear baseball game. But The Pro Yakyuu ’91 does exist, and thus I know the Game Gear is capable of more. To add woe upon woe, Gear Stadium was translated into Batter Up and released in the US for a Western audience, while Pro Yakyuu ’91 languished in Japan. Gear Stadium – 1, Pro Yakyuu ’91 – 0. Life isn’t fair.