Being Australian, I don’t have much time for baseball. I find it occupies too similar a place in the sporting landscape to cricket, which I love, to bother with it.
That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy baseball video games, though. Especially when they’re from the future.
Super Baseball 2020 is a game developed by SNK and was first released in 1991 for its Neo Geo platform. It is, as the name suggests, an idea of what baseball may have looked like 30 years in the future, as envisaged not by Major League Baseball executives or TV pundits, but by Japanese video game developers.
Which explains why, instead of Senate hearings, SNK’s idea of future baseball involved games on an enormous field known as Cyber Egg Stadium, which in addition to grass and dirt had stop zones (where the ball would just…stop) and jump zones, which if a fielding player could use properly let them fly into the air and yank a high ball right out of the sky.
Oh, and there are also land mines.
More interesting than SNK’s vision of a future baseball stadium is their idea of a future world baseball league.
The major leagues of the future were not solely the domain of men. Women could play right alongside them, provided they were cool with swapping out the substantial body armour worn by the fellas for some tiny shorts. And both sexes were joined by the game’s most awesome addition, that of beer-can-looking robots, which if you worked them too hard wouldn’t ask to sit out an innings, they’d simply explode.
Baseball fans should note a few slight rules changes, too: foul zones were shortened, home runs could only be scored by hitting a straight drive (peripheral shots would bounce off the glass roof of the spectator area) and you couldn’t steal a base until the ball had left the pitcher’s hand. Oh, and you could also spend money mid-game to augment and improve player’s abilities.
Given these alterations, and given the game’s age, it’s never been the greatest baseball simulation. But you know what, who gives a shit. Baseball could do with more exploding robots and minefields in the outfields, and Super Baseball 2020 delivered that.
In addition to its 1991 Neo Geo release, the game also later appeared on the Super Nintendo and Genesis/Mega Drive.