Sega’s World Series baseball lineup, until now, always appeared a sure thing to me. It all started when I played the original World Series for the Genesis, which was developed by Blue Sky. This company was also responsible for great Genesis classics such as the Vectorman series.
When the Saturn was released in 95, a new Japanese-based development house released their smash hit Greatest Nine to the states, naming it again World Series Baseball. It was one of the earlier launches capable of stealing some thunder from the EA Sports titles released for the PlayStation. As each year passed, the World Series lineup continued to improve. That is, until Sega pulled the plug on the Saturn in 1998.
As a result, I had to resort to lower quality baseball titles, namely the lackluster Triple Play series by EA Sports. As I played these titles, I wanted so badly to see a newer version of World Series to come out. I even decided to give another series a try. That series was 3DO’s High Heat Baseball.
As a result, I became quickly addicted to High Heat, playing it non-stop, and making everybody sick of hearing me talk about it. If you don’t believe me, ask Senior Writer Jevon Jenkins. Heck, even at E3 I spent over an hour with the 3DO staff praising them for such a superb title and giving suggestions to make their game even better.
However, High Heat’s superior gameplay can be traced back to the original Saturn series, and 3DO’s development staff even said that. So, with High Heat at the top of my baseball collection, the following day at E3 I took a glance at Sega’s World Series for the Dreamcast.
At first, hearing these glorious words made me giddy, finally getting a chance to play what I thought would be the next step in a great series. In fact, for a time I considered World Series 2K1 as the game that might pull me away from the godlike High Heat 2001.
As development took place, I’ve had even been hearing rumors about the game being designed by the Saturn development staff (Yes!), but having gamplay similar to last year’s arcade attempt (Ugh!). Even worse, delay after countless delay kept pushing the game back, and it missed the planned All-Star break launch. Sega’s claim for the delays was to make the game ready for a true launch.
Well, let’s just say the launch is a flub, and World Series does something that makes even I, an admittedly biased Segaphile, not regret doing, and that is playing a baseball game on another console!
I don’t know what the deal is with the gameplay here, but as everyone mentioned many times before, there is no fielding at all! Fielding is done automatically. Normally I wouldn’t complain about this feature (I use autofielding all the time in High Heat), but considering how deadpan the AI is, it’s nothing but frustrating.
Take this for instance, a batter hits a fly ball into center field. Rather than chasing after the ball in an attempt to catch it, WSB’s fielder stands there for about 2-3 seconds before going for the catch. Infielding isn’t any better, as players just stand idle and let ground balls past them!
I should correct myself just a little. There is some fielding, but only in the case of throwing the ball to the base you want. Even worse, when you want to run with the ball, you can only run to the base you select; there is no freedom of fielder movement at all.
Pitching is also confusing. Just as in the arcade, a diagram shows the pitches available and their appropriate power levels. However, the pitch names aren’t displayed on the diagram, so a constant lookup of the control list, or a darn good memory, is absolutely necessary. Even worse, after making your pitch, you need to select the power at which your pitch will go. But the problem is getting the pitch to execute takes a lot of time and patience.
As for batting, the game does take the spring-bat concept of the arcade game, using the R trigger to control batting while L is for bunting. It is very easy to get used to, but I’ve not been particularly fond of the cursor on the ball schemes. If it’s perfected, games will constantly be hitfests, and I prefer realism, which includes a few strikeouts.
I am also not impressed with the sound, particularly in the commentary. It might be me, but the commentary sounds like it was ripped right off of the Saturn. (It is also the same announcer!) Now these sound bites would be appropriate for a 32-bit system, but this is the Dreamcast for crying out loud! After the excellence that is NFL2K and NBA2K (with NHL a close third), we should expect more than what we are given here.
The only good thing that WSB has, the graphics, also has its share of problems. First of all, all the stadiums are nicely detailed, as are all the players. In addition, most of the time the game runs at 60 frames per second. I say most of the time because at times, especially during stolen base attempts, there is some drastic slowdown, which I find to be inexcusable. Not only that, but the crowd is sub-par, with 2-D sprites running with only 3 frames of animation! I thought this was Dreamcast, not Genesis! Surely there should not be a problem replicating the crowd. After all, NHL did that, and it looked good.
In summary, this is definitely Sega’s biggest disappointment since the 32X. I know it’s important to get the game out before the season ends, but when it’s as bad as WSB is, why bother? Sega should take Konami’s idea to heart, scrap the current version, and plan a much better, more thorough release for next year. Or better yet, have Visual Concepts work on the next release, because not only did they make the best football and basketball games for the Dreamcast, they also helped make NHL a better game than it could have been.
Once again, as a Segaphile, it really hurts me to do this, but World Series 2K1 deserves its appalling 1 1/2 Gem rating and I am certain next year’s version can’t be any worse. Until then, it looks like I’m going back to High Heat Baseball on my PC.