Released in 1998, this is the only sports game (other than NCAA Football 2006) that has ever truly kept me coming back for more. How much more? Well, I played a full season every year until 2010… twelve years. So the answer to the question is, A LOT more. This incarnation of Griffey baseball wasn’t as wacky as the SNES games that carried his name, but the gameplay was as good as ever and it featured real baseball players and not simply made up guys. It featured a level of realism and ease of play, without taking itself overly serious and getting bogged down in unnecessary features.
One of the fun things about playing a full season is tampering with the rosters through the draft, trades and free agency. When you play a full season with all the teams, it can be difficult to bring together an all-star team, but with much patience in working the system, I always manage to acquire a team full of the best players in the game as far as hitting and pitching goes. For those wondering, this all-star team is called the Atlanta Braves, the only team I ever play as. By the way, my Braves team went undefeated the last seven years I played.
Gameplay is as simple and easy as one can hope for. The above image shows the four pitches Randy Johnson can throw and how to throw them… simple and effective. See that “Super Fast” pitch there? They’re not lying, as Johnson will sling the ball in the game around 106 MPH, as will a few others. Batting, fielding and running are all also extremely easy to do, so not only does it not take long to get the hang of, but once you do get the hang of it you will never forget it. There’s no re-learning curve to it after not being touched in a year, you just pick it up and you’re right back into it.
Another fun aspect of this game is the Home Run Derby mode, where you take any player and hit as many home runs as you can before you get ten outs. With certain guys, you can easily waste thirty or more minutes just knocking balls out of the park. My favorite hitter in the game is neither Ken Griffey Jr. nor David Justice, despite them both being amongst my favorite players ever. Instead, it’s Andrés Galarraga, who is the only player I hit a home-run with nine out of ten times during a season with. The guy is a beast on the bat and should definitely be on anyones lineup.
It’s not wise to try and rely on one guy though, especially as the heavy hitter, as the players will get injured during the course of a season, which adds a whole new level of awesomeness to the game. It may be a game injury, or it may be a serious season ending injury. Believe me, there’s nothing more painful in this game than being a month into the season and totally dominating the stats with one player, only to see him get hurt and have to sit out for the remainder of the season. Everytime that happens, I’m tempted to reset and start that particular game over, but of course I don’t because that would zap some of the fun out of it.
Graphically the game still looks good enough to enjoy playing every year, although it certainly was never the best looking baseball game made for the N64. There is a certain level of blurriness to the game, but not to the level of making the game look anything other than merely decent, and certainly nothing that’s going to make you not be able to “play the game kid”. The game still looks and sounds good, still plays good, so it all holds up.
If you still have an N64, you should definitely hit up Amazon or Ebay and pick up a copy of this very enjoyable baseball game.
Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. gets a four out of five: GREAT.