I grew up loving every goddamned minute I spent with Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball on my Super Nintendo. Before that, I fondly remember playing RBI Baseball on my NES. Baseball games and I have always been friends, but as I grew older I veered more towards the simulation/realistic games and away from the arcade approachability of the RBIs and Ken Griffey games. Enter RBI Baseball’s revival, which began in 2017 with a new studio and wholly owned by the MLB to be a baseball videogame to hit every other console where Sony’s “The Show” isn’t. Each game has gotten a bit better than the last, so will 2019’s edition be the one to make me swoon and relive my glorious SNES days?
The answer is both yes and no, but RBI Baseball 19 is by far the best entry in the revived series to date. It’s filled with all the features you really need in a baseball game, but missing a few things like “Create a Player”, for example. It has season mode, franchise, exhibition play, and so forth. Everything you’d expect to find in an MLB title these years without the fluff that simulations like The Show offer in their “story modes”. Some will love that, some will miss the added nuance.
The question is, how does RBI 19 play? It was pitched to us this year as more of an “arcade” take on the baseball game, with a realism coming in the graphics, stadiums, and full rosters. That said, while RBI looks better than ever this year, there’s still something so stilted and odd about its animations. You know that old school baseball game quirk where an outfielder just sort of stands “ready” until the fly ball is on him and then he sort of grabs at it to make a catch? That’s still here. There are lot of missing animations that would be situational and add to the overall presentation.
There are still no announcers in RBI covering the play by play, but there are more sounds effects and a stadium announcer present to make things a bit more authentic. RBI is still missing alternate camera views to make the game feel more polished and visually interesting. Though the title’s come a long way in three years, that ever-important “TV broadcast” presentation is still elusive. That could be personal preference, but without camera views, announcers, and on-screen stats and info, it just feels a little too light in terms of presentation.