I’m not the biggest sports player around…Okay, I never play sports. Yet, I have a fondness for baseball, and as such, I have dabbled in baseball video games once before. I figured with RBI Baseball 17, I could bring that experience over to my Switch. Unfortunately, it turned out I was wrong. I never played any of the RBI Baseball games, so I have no opinions on those yet (All I know is that this is the first time I’ve seen an installment in the series on a Nintendo consoles since the NES game). That doesn’t make this one any less of a disappointment, though.
I never really cared too much about how realistic something should look in a game. That said, RBI Baseball 17‘s graphics look vastly undercooked. It’s like if the game was designed with the Nintendo 64’s capabilities in mind and was then ported over to an HD console without actually improving the visual quality. The audience being 2D sprites with minimal frames of animation drives this home.
The player animations look pretty bland, too. Nothing makes each player unique apart from their names and head photographs. The only thing worth noting is that when a batter starts running, the models jarringly pop in and out if the game transitions to the next pitch or a strikeout. This is a baseball game in 2017 that doesn’t even devote time to provide a smooth transition between sequences.
The ambiance is appropriate enough for a day at the ball game. Crowds are cheering and murmuring as the pitcher prepares his throw and the batter gets ready to whack it back. Where’s the announcer? Oh, he’s just busy practicing how silly he can sound when yelling “SAFE!”, “STRIKE!”, or “OUT!”. Is there a better explanation for why the voice clips sound like they intend to distract from the mood?
The jingle for when the teams change sides is catchy, though. I’ll give RBI Baseball that.
On the surface, it’s baseball. You run, you bat, you pitch, you throw, you catch, etc. It seems like it could be great, too, because the action is indeed as quickly paced and arcade-like as advertised. There’s just one little problem, however: RBI Baseball 17 has a hard time working properly.
There are so many times where I thought I hit the ball, but instead it went through the bat and counted as a Strike. The camera doesn’t do a good job at letting you be the judge of that, and the framerate isn’t smooth enough to know when exactly the ball will fly across the batter. Worse, the game itself does a poor job at conveying the bat’s hitboxes! After finally figuring out when to hit the ball, it’s then where you also have to make sure it’s not a fakeout for you to get a Strike on. There sure are a lot of issues for a mechanic in which all you need to do is hit a ball! Don’t even get me started on trying to aim your hit.
Pitching works, but playing on the field can be utterly annoying. I changed the settings so the game would automatically move my catcher towards the ball as it lands into his arms; doing that manually is a nightmare because the reticle is bad at letting you know how much closer the ball is to hitting the ground.
The gameplay also has a weird habit of bending traditional rules every once in a rare while. There were a few times where the batter would hit the ball against the ground so hard it flies back up as if it was any good hit. I also encountered a couple instances where even though my runners had bases secured and were not trying to reach the next base, somehow a catcher would still be able to declare one of them as Out. How do you mess that part up?! How?!
Also, here’s a screenshot of the game not progressing at all until one of the two runners by the second base gets away from it. T’was pretty funny, actually.
When finally grasping an ability to play the game, it does get kind of enjoyable. Hitting the ball does have a sense of satisfaction, and the field play is fairly active when you have the ball in hand. Too bad RBI Baseball 17 doesn’t really have any way of spicing it up from there. All modes (Exhibition, Season, Postseason) in the game consist of the same thing: rounds of baseball. Looking for variety? Tough luck. There isn’t even any online play at the time of this writing. I heard RBI Baseball 16 actually had that feature, too! I also heard whispers that they may include it here in an update, but the point stands – It should have been here to begin with since online play can make or break a game.
Then again, this game is kind of broken regardless of the inclusion of online play. If a baseball game can’t even get its basic gameplay ironed out and made fun, then what good is it? RBI Baseball 17 is not good. It’s a bad Nintendo Switch game, which is currently a rarity in the console’s library. Want a good baseball game on a Nintendo system? Play the Mario ones.