Aside from NBA Jam and Street Fighter II, my brother and I spent more time playing this game than any other.
I’ve never been much of a fan of sports games, but Ken Griffey Jr. Presents: Major League Baseball had a certain charm to it that not even Base Wars could surpass. The roar of the crowd, the upbeat 16-bit music, diving catches, bean balls, the funny fake names…this one had it all. Providing a decidedly arcade-like baseball experience, there was still considerable depth to be found, especially if you wanted to play out a full-length season.
Here’s some nostalgia for you…remember that music?
I wouldn’t say this game necessarily required skill, but there were reproducible results to be obtained, depending on how, where, and when you hit certain pitches. You could also significantly alter your chances at hitting homeruns with different teams by changing which stadium you played in, since each one was representative of actual stadium layouts (including things like the “Green Monster” at Fenway, or industrial buildings outside right-field at Camden Yards.) This forced the player to change their strategy depending on a number of factors, including the stats of the players on their team, the stadium they were in, who was pitching…basically, it allowed for the implementation of actual strategy you would normally see in a real-life Baseball game. That’s a tall order for a sports game released in 1994, especially one whose only licensed player appeared in the game’s title.
Of course, that “realism” had nothing to do with why we spent so much time with this game. The sound effects, the music, the noise a batter sometimes makes when they strike out (“AW C’MONNN!!!!”)…it was all great fun, while still maintaining just the right amount of competitiveness. It was also one of the few games where we were evenly matched. My brother used to consistently beat me at Street Fighter II, and I used to consistently beat him at NBA Jam, but this was one of the few games where we never had any clue about who was going to come out on top.
I haven’t played this one in a while, but I have an immense number of memories associated with it. It holds up surprisingly well today, with colorful graphics, a fun soundtrack, and gameplay that’s just as fast-paced and frantic as ever. If you’re looking for a simple yet fast-paced and fun game to play with someone else without worrying about a discrepancy in gaming skill, it’s hard to go wrong with this one.