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The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) became the phenomenon of the 1980s because of its great graphics and arcade-style game action. Games such as Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, both big hits, helped Nintendo's sales reach $2.7 billion last year.
Fortunately, if you're not into rescuing Zelda, there are a number of baseball games for the Nintendo system. The best is Jaleco's Bases Loaded (Jaleco USA, Inc., 310 Era Drive, North-brook, Ill. 60062; $44.95). The screen shows a realistic view of a pitcher winding up as he faces a determined batter, and has full-screen animated shots for baserunning. Pitching is the key to any good baseball game, and in Bases Loaded you control the ball's speed and placement. You can decide whether or not you want the batter to hug home plate, and whether he should bunt, steal or even be replaced by a pinch hitter. This month Jaleco is introducing Bases Loaded II: Second Season, a faster-playing version with better, more detailed graphics.
If you want even more excitement, look into the newest generation of video game machines. These feature state-of-the-art, 16-bit graphics processors that take the video game experience a step further. The graphics are crisp, the color palette has 512 colors (as compared with 53 in Nintendo), and many more sprites—moving computer images—can move simultaneously.
NEC made a splash with its powerful game machine, the TurboGrafx-16 system. And last November they released World Class Baseball (NEC Technologies, Inc., 1255 Michael Drive, Wood Dale, Ill. 60191; $42), a terrific game with detail so sharp that on some plays you can read the label on the ball. In this game the umpire calls players safe or out. There are insert screens that show base runners, and a small window in the corner lets you see where fly balls are headed and keep track of base runners.
One drawback of World Class Baseball is that it uses imaginary teams and players. Still, the fast-paced action, with runners daring the pitcher to try a pickoff, can be exciting. If you don't need the actual stats of real players to manage a team, World Class Baseball is arcade baseball at its best.
Then there's Game Boy Baseball ( Nintendo of America Inc., 4820 150th Ave. N.E., Redmond, Wash. 980525111; $19.95), the hand-held game from Nintendo, with as much power as Nintendo's full-size game system. It's about the size of a paperback book, and it features a 2�-inch liquid crystal display screen, as well as stereo sound through headphones. Though the monochrome screen isn't backlighted, the games are fine, especially when you consider their portability, which allows you to play them almost anywhere.
Each side has four pitchers, with the familiar Nintendo names of Mario, Luigi, etc. There are only two teams to field, but you have remarkable control of pitching and batting. Smash the ball to leftfield, and the screen scrolls to show the cartoon outfielders scrambling to make the play. You can relieve your pitcher, steal a base (and try for a pickoff) and bunt. The speed of your pitches and batting stats for every player are displayed. The drawbacks to the system are that there are only two teams and four pitchers, and the screen is hard to see in poor light.
Main Street Baseball (Main Street Toy Company, Inc., 540 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury, Conn. 06070; $59) is the definitive tabletop baseball game. The main screen displays the field from the batter's perspective, and another, smaller screen shows the batter's stats and the score. Your team consists of players on baseball cards. Each card has a sticker with lines, similar to UPC codes; you move a card through a slot every time a player comes up to bat, thereby entering the player's stats. The game comes with 24 cards and 104 stickers for other players, so you can use your own cards. New stickers are available for both active and former players.
If these games don't get you through the gaps in the season, try ticktacktoe.