The MLB has long held a presence in video gaming, even in the mobile market. However, this piece aims to discuss a similar game that is able to distinguish, and perhaps even exceed, professional baseball.
Baseball 9 is a very loose mobile game which is essentially a more customizable version of MLB The Show. But is it worth playing in this day and age? Let’s talk about the pros and cons to the game, starting with what works.
The power is in the hands of the player
In MLB The Show, you can’t suddenly decide that Jacob DeGrom throws a 65 MPH knuckle ball, nor can you twirl a wand and make Tommy La Stella into a 40 home run hitter.
Here, however, you can construct your roster literally however you want. You want to make every one of your hitters into a slugger? Maybe you dislike how homer heavy baseball is today, so you decide you want to develop a team full of Tony Gwynn Jr inspired batters. Maybe you want a mix, to provide your team with a balanced attack. It’s up to you.
But I don’t just mean in the field, I also mean off of it as well. You have the option to name your players whatever you want, you can alter their appearance down to their very facial hair at will, and you can customize their batting and pitching stances as well.
This gives the player a significant degree of identity, ensuring that nobody will experience this game quite the same as one another. This is definitely a leg up it has against MLB games as well, which have a tendency to lock player identities, probably to maintain the use of their player likenesses.
The game is very casual
You can play as many games as you want per day. Having a busy day? No problem, the game will not punish you at all if life gets in the way for awhile. If you’re the type who wants to play ten 9 inning games in a single day, that’s fine too. Play at your own pace.
You are not required to engage in micro transactions to enjoy the game
Almost everything in this game can be obtained at a reasonable pace by simply playing the game. The player does have the option to purchase gems in order to speed up the process, but doing so is not in anyway compulsory, and you can definitely enjoy the game if you’re on a tight budget just as much as someone who puts some money into it.
Unfortunately, Baseball 9 is predictably not at all perfect. Let’s evaluate its shortcomings.
Gameplay is very unrealistic
Wait, why did my first baseman just dive to get a ball that was headed over towards my second baseman? What made my player think they could possibly make it from second to third when the shortstop simply fumbles the ball a little bit? And the classic, why is my pitcher randomly wildly inaccurate when he’s only thrown two innings, 20 pitches?
Unfortunately, MLB The Show’s main advantage over this game at the end of the day is that it portrays actual baseball much more realistically. Here, the player is left constantly wondering if Baseball 9 is also trying to emulate how the pros do it, or if it’s trying to reflect some kind of adult softball league of some kind. There are stadiums that are always packed with fans like in the pros, but the gameplay is very erratic sometimes that can make this distinction confusing.
Also, there is an irritating RNG element to playing as a pitcher; at random, when trying to throw a pitch, your pitcher may sometimes have an exclamation point appear over their head, and the pitch will either be a meatball right down the middle, or it will end up nailing the opposing batter straight in the head and giving them first base for free. This aspect removes player autonomy entirely and can punish the player for… being a little unlucky? This unnecessary mechanic can really undermine games if it kicks in at inopportune moments.
Finally, the most unrealistic aspect of this game stems from how the bullpen is handled. In real life, if a team in the MLB is losing an extremely lopsided affair, they aren’t going to burn their relief corps by having each reliever throw 20-30 pitches in an outing. They might opt to send in a position player to pitch as to best ensure their bullpen is ready to go for the next game.
Here, however, once your team reaches their last reliever, you’d better hope they can finish the game. There is no option to send in a position player or one of your starters out for relief. This can lead to relievers having comically poor outings because they had to throw over a hundred pitches and sometimes several innings, where they might give up 20, 30 or even 40 earned runs.
Gameplay is astoundingly trivial
Even at the so called “Pro League level”, where there is naturally an expectation for particularly challenging play, AI opponents are extremely simple to defeat.
To give an example, my team, the Roughriders, has won 271 consecutive games by an average of 26.8 runs per game. The team’s top batter, Tim Anderson, has 62 homers and 204 RBI in the particular season they’re in, and the team has played just 33 games in this season.
As such, if you know even the slightest bit about relatively complex baseball, this game will not challenge you. It can still be entertaining, especially if you enjoy stat padding, but don’t expect the AI to put up a fight at all.
And that’s it. Does Baseball 9 stand up to MLB The Show? Realistically probably not, but the game itself is free for all mobile devices, and it is still at least comparable graphically, which is quite astounding for a free mobile app. I’d give the game a solid B. It’s a decent time sink and can be really good for those on a budget, unlike the MLB yearly releases which cost $70+.