Released: June 1991
US Cartridge ID: NES-5B-USA
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 2 megabit
Mapper: MMC3 (128k PRG, 128k CHR)
At the turn of the 24th century, American baseball team owners are fed up paying the astronomical salaries demanded by even the worst players on their teams. At a board meeting, the owner of the Boston Banshees suggests robots as a replacement to traditional human participants, confident that cheaply produced players that do battle on the baseball field would reignite interest in the national pastime and pad the wallets of the big wigs; thus, the Cyber League was born.
Standing as the sole title of the ill-fated Cyber Stadium Series, Ultra’s final 8-bit sports title (following Skate or Die!, Kings of the Beach, RollerGames, and Ski or Die), Cyber Stadium Series: Base Wars marries the traditional rules of America’s pastime with the destructive potential of mechanized super-humans. In this reimaging of the classic game, the diamond hosts androids that bat, field, pitch, and catch in a manner similar to their current-day human counterparts; these robots, however, are fully armed and ready to wage war on one another, should the opportunity arise.
This no-holds-barred sporting extravaganza features teams comprised of four different types of robots, including motorcycles, tanks, cyborgs, and flybots. Each type excels at playing certain positions on the field, and all unique advantages over the others in the heat of battle: the motorcycle is extremely fast, but suffers in terms of brute strength due to its exceedingly light frame; the tank is sluggish but strong, making it an ideal hitter but a terrible outfielder; the cyborgs are well-balanced, and are able to play all positions capably, though they never truly excel at any one thing; and the flybot’s hover capabilities make it an excellent fielder, though its batting performance is underwhelming.
Base Wars‘ baseball component is executed in the traditional manner, with batting taking place from a behind-the-batter perspective and fielding from a bird’s-eye view of the field. The main draw of the game, however, is the combat. Tagging a runner will engage both sides in a no-holds-barred brawl: players’ fists, guns, and swords eliminate the need for narcissistic referees, strong language, and handwringing, as the end result of the clash ultimately determines whether or not the runner is safe. Each fight lost reduces the robot’s overall number of hit points, as do errant pitches that strike the batter. If a robot runs completely out of HP, it will explode, damaging everything unlucky enough to be located within the blast radius. Losing more than three robots results in a forfeiture of the game, providing more aggressive players with an alternative means to victory.
Two modes are available to play: open mode and pennant mode. Open mode provides a standard exhibition match, and ends after a single game. Pennant mode pits the selected team against five other clubs in a race to the top of the league across up to ten matches. Player created teams can be used in both modes, though in pennant mode, players’ abilities can be improved by spending winnings to upgrade different parts of each robot’s chassis. Rounding out this mode is a battery-backed save, allowing players to continue without the need of a lengthy password.
The graphics and sound are both top notch for the NES, and are especially impressive considering the cramped confines of the game’s two megabit cartridge ROM. In addition to the numerous voice effects (the grunts that the combatants make when hit are especially nice), the bass-laden music is peppy and upbeat like most Ultra games, and switches often to match the on-screen action. The characters in the batting view are huge and well detailed, and dramatic animated cutscenes punctuate major moments throughout, like the star fighter launch taking place when a homerun is scored. Each of the robot types’ distinct personalities are highlighted in their (often over exaggerated) animations, and in an unexpected twist, all of the players have human names – it’s surprisingly hilarious to play as a blue flying saucer named Daniels, or a pink tank named Sanders. All of these details contribute a great deal to the game’s offbeat atmosphere, allowing Base Wars to stand out prominently against its competition in an already overcrowded genre. Interestingly, the game’s aesthetic and play style is very similar to that of SNK’s 2020 Super Baseball (Neo Geo) released just three months later, though Base Wars is arguably the better of the two, platform differences notwithstanding.
The controls are intuitive, responsive, and will feel familiar to anybody who has any past experience with a baseball game. The menus, though offering an impressive array of options for customization, are logically arranged and unambiguous, making the included instruction manual a needless luxury. Unfortunately, one issue does mar this otherwise excellent game: fielding can feel unfair at times due to the restrictively zoomed-in viewpoint, meaning that player controlled outfielders will often miss a catch because they couldn’t see it.
Innovative and polished gameplay, outstanding presentation and general fun make Cyber Stadium Series: Base Wars well worth playing, especially with two players.
|Cyber Stadium Series: Base Wars