The Loop

We played (most of) opening day using NES baseball games

March 26, 2018

Baseball’s 2018 opening day is weird: Instead of the traditional method of staggering their first games, all major league teams open on March 29 — the earliest date in MLB history, and one that will probably find you plopped at work understandably believing the season doesn’t start for another four days. But not to worry, baseball friends! You’ll miss nothing, as we have simulated the ENTIRE DAY already, using sabermetrics and psychotropic research and Theo Epstein’s algorithm-spitting robot from the future and TECHNOLOGY, by which we mean 15 baseball games made for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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LET US STOP YOU RIGHT THERE, because we know what you are about to WHINE: Many baseball teams from 30 years ago contained ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PLAYERS! Many of your favorite squads and also the Marlins didn’t even EXIST THEN! And many video game companies didn’t even spring for MLB RIGHTS so your “Pittsburgh Pirates” might actually be VIOLENT DROIDS WITH ARM CANNONS AND TREADS. To all you haterz we say: This is the INTERNET, where facts don’t stand a CHANCE against cheap nostalgia, so of COURSE much of this is wrong. You can shove your facts into the baseball beat writer at your “hometown newspaper,” hahahaha just kidding, you don’t have one.

Now, with that said and a 2-liter Mountain Dew and a sack of Doritos jammed shoved unforgivingly in between the couch cushions, let’s play fake ball. Some takeaways from taking ourselves out to the 8-bit ballgame:

1. This is impossible and you can’t do it.

Yeah, the math doesn’t work. There simply aren’t enough even marginally accurate NES games; to try to cover all 15 Opening Day matchups we ended up with 1. Whitey Ford pitching for the Brewers, 2. Playing Twins/Orioles with a team of Little Leaguers and 3. At least one game in space. BUT…


Matchup: Cardinals vs. Mets

Game: RBI Baseball

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We adjusted as best we could! For instance, we played Cardinals vs. Mets on RBI, which has only a handful of teams but real players. So in a cracking pitcher’s duel between John Tudor and Doc Gooden (represented by a spot-on avatar that was both white and morbidly obese), the Cardinals steamrolled, thanks to Tudor’s nasty heater and how I sucked because I haven’t played this since 9th grade. I did get two hits with Gooden’s equally Caucasian teammate, Darryl Strawberry. Apparently the color brown wasn’t code-able until like 1989. Final score: Cardinals 8, Mets 0

3. Many NES games are nearly as unbearably slow as real baseball.

Matchup: Red Sox at Fake Rays

Game: Bases Loaded

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You may remember Bases Loaded as the game that invented “TV view,” which lets you view your batter from the familiar centerfield angle and also rendered 94% of your screen utterly useless. You may also remember it as taking FOR-F**KING-EVER to do anything. Press A to pitch, and your pitcher leisurely looks back the nobody who’s not on second before gradually loping a six-second fastball toward the 20 distant pixels that constitute the batter. But it gets better — if the batter doesn’t get a hit, you’re treated to the catcher CAUTIOUSLY RETURNING the ball to the pitcher, AND THEN a thrilling shot of the lineup for 24 seconds. (My first inning took 29 minutes, making this the most accurate MLB simulation on the list.) Final score: 6-5 Sox, after nine and a half hours.

4. The best NES baseball game in 1991 is ABSOLUTELY the best NES baseball game in 2018.

Matchup: Cubs at Marlins

Game: Baseball Stars

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Baseball Stars is indisputably the peak NES baseball game, but it doesn’t have real teams, only bizarrely themed simulacrums whose names top out at six letters and can’t be spelled right, which is how you end up with killer pitcher named Sandie. But because I’m a Cubs fan and this story is my stupid conceit, I played the Cubs as the dominant American Dreams vs. the hapless tanking Padres-payroll SNK Crushers. And I demolished them, largely because of the game’s highly exploitable lack of an infield-fly rule, and how a swing-and-a-miss can still be a ball if you pull your bat back fast enough. (ß There’s a rule change to look into, COMMISSIONER.) Final score: Cubs/Dreams 14, Marlins/Crushers 3.

5. Baseball is more fun when it isn’t forced to adhere to the stupid laws of physics.

Matchup: Giants at Dodgers

Game: Bad News Baseball

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Bad News Baseball also doesn’t use legitimate players, but it makes up for it by also not using legitimate physics: My pitcher started out throwing silly 108mph fastballs, but, after a few batters, settled into a groove at 110. Two things to know about Bad News Baseball: Every time a player is called out, he collapses with a crown of blinking crucifixes around his head, and also the umpires are all bunny rabbits. Is Bad News Baseball a surreptitious digital means to indoctrinate kids to Easter? We can’t say for sure, but yes. FINAL SCORE: Dodgers 9, Giants 2.

6. Roger Clemens’ coding team was kind of hilarious.

Matchup: Astros at Rangers

Game: Roger Clemens’ MVP Baseball

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By “Astros at Rangers” we mean “Houston Mustangs at Texas Cowboys,” because Clemens wisely saved the licensing-rights money for future legal fees. But his people did spend a good bit of inventing impressive twists, jokes and puns on real player names, including pitcher R. Nolan, first basemen Jeffwel and legendary catcher Blogio. (Elsewhere, Steve Sax is “Clarinet,” Rob Deer is “Bambi” and Clemens himself is “DisgracedHeroesOfYourChildhood.”) The constantly switching angles make gameplay a mess, but the sweet graphics do enhance your performance. FINAL SCORE: Houston 18, Texas 12.

7. One NES game assumed you were puritanically obsessed about recreating unremarkable MLB lineups.

Matchup: White Sox at Royals

Game: Major League Baseball

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Fun fact about this obnoxious game: Setting your lineup involves the hideously laborious process of going PLAYER BY PLAYER and placing EVERYONE INDIVIDUALLY using uniform numbers. To get around this, I mashed buttons; I am not spending 20 minutes re-creating the lineup of the 1988 Chicago White Sox for you people. Also, I was terrible at this game, served up eight runs in the first inning and then rage-quit. In my defense, I have no idea who I started at pitcher? Might have been Carlton Fisk. Final score: N/A.

8. Someone at Bases Loaded II had a very good sense of humor.

Matchup: Nationals at Fake Reds

Game: Bases Loaded II

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Sadly, the Nationals didn’t exist at the time of Bases Loaded II, and the game has no Reds, much like the postseason, so I played D.C. vs. Jersey, and as the team from the cesspool on the Potomac this was my roster of pitchers: Ford, Nixon, Regan, Bush, Quail, Budgit, Spiro and Duke. BUDGIT! Genius. Naturally, I started Budgit (he has a nasty cutter HEY-O), but the Jersey Reds beat the hell out of the D.C. Dead Presidents, mostly because this game has some wonky side-view that makes fielding stupid. Final score: Jersey Reds 7, D.C. 0.

9. There is one proven, rock-solid way to make baseball less boring.

Matchup: Pirates at Tigers

Game: Base Wars, because whatever

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AND FINALLY, for the broad swath of America (including most of the people in my house) who think baseball is boring, I give you what the lame Pittsburgh/Detroit matchup would look like if played by MURDEROUS DEATHBOTS IN THE YEAR 2401, when there will still be labor disputes and Bob Uecker, probably. These deathbots included CYBORG, a 1250-kg cyborg, and MCYCLE, a 3-meter-tall unicycle-wheeled DEATHBRINGER with 1,250 hit points, a made-up metric only marginally nerdier than actual baseball stats. Whatever. I was just happy to be using arm cannons and robot-punching. Purists may argue the value and worth of limiting pitcher visits, speeding up the pace of play and whatever other idiotic concepts keep being floated, but we can all agree on one thing: Baseball is best when played by self-aware metallic AI future killing machines from space. And Budgit.