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Throwback Thursday: Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.

Source: GameFaqs

With MLB The Show 17 under two weeks away, this week’s Throwback Thursday appropriately focuses on one of the inspirations for Retro Mode, Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.

Before we begin, there is an important distinction that must be made. To avoid confusion, this Throwback Thursday covers the 1998 release on Nintendo 64 titled Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. It is not to be confused with the other Nintendo 64 release Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest nor the similarly-titled (and previously covered) Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball for the Super Nintendo. 


Background

After two excellent releases on the Super Nintendo (the other being Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run, which, as mentioned above, is not this week’s focal point), Nintendo turned to Angel Studios for the Nintendo 64 version of the extremely popular baseball series. Angel Studios, the studio would later become a little place called Rockstar San Diego, previously had only one other game under its belt: the bizarre Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn. Nevertheless, the developers slowly but surely delivered a fast-paced, arcade-style classic that boasted considerable depth. 

What Made It Great?

Does the phrase “Call me, call me Junior” mean anything to you? Have entire decades passed since the last time you heard that symphonic masterpiece? Are you momentarily teleported to a lost Gushers and 3-D Doritos-filled summer of playing Nintendo 64? 

Ken Griffey built upon its SNES predecessor and crafted another masterwork of a theme song. Angel Studios made use of a console plagued by its sound limitations and crammed every player’s name into the cart, which was hardly a common experience in 1998. Furthermore, the announcer said the correct name and position when they came up to bat! Hearing “now batting, the second baseman, Craig Biggio” when Craig Biggio actually stepped up to the plate was a remarkable achievement considering the last game in the franchise did not even have real MLB players. 


At the time, improvements reached far beyond the improved audio and licensed players. The game also tracked season stats, had a full season mode and even offered a fantasy draft. Seasons could yield comically unrealistic stats -- over 100 home runs in a single season was a routinely attainable feat for a single player. Stadiums looked good (for the time), and multiple camera angles created an engaging experience. 

Pitching and hitting were entirely new experiences compared to both previous series entries and other baseball titles on the market. Hitting was simple in concept: move the cursor to where the pitch icon moves to, time it correctly and press the hit button. Pitching was just easy: players chose a pitch, moved the desired location, and pressed the pitch button. However, pitchers could dramatically alter the break of their pitches right after they released the ball. To make matters worse, an arsenal of a 106 MPH “Super Fastball” and a 65 MPH “Changeup” were commonplace and difficult to square up, making strikeouts and hits equally rewarding. Ken Griffey aided a host of gamers’ transition from the D-pad to the analog stick, demanding pinpoint accuracy and lightning-fast reflexes.

What Today's Games Could Learn From It

Outside of a delightfully campy theme song, today’s baseball games have built upon all of Ken Griffey's innovations. Arcade-style gameplay, however, is hard to come by in sports titles these days. Thankfully, MLB The Show 17's inclusion of Retro Mode acknowledges that developers hear fans’ nostalgic woes and are taking them into consideration. 

It will be very interesting to see what components and Easter eggs make it into the full Retro Mode. Will there be random quirky cheats and secrets? Can we carry a full season in Retro Mode? Will Ken Griffey, Jr. call me “Kid” every time I get a big strikeout or make an otherworldly diving catch? We can only hope. 


How Does It Hold Up Today?

As with many Throwback Thursday entries, Ken Griffey Jr. still offers players plenty if they have a friend who knows how to play and is available for local multiplayer. Additionally, the unique hitting and pitching have a bit of a learning curve that discourages impatient newcomers. Those who played it back in the day will find it easy to return to once they get their timing down. 

As fun as it would be to take a collection of legends across an entire season, season mode does not allow you to sim games and takes a remarkable amount of time. For those well versed in modern baseball titles, this game is still very easy even on the hardest difficulty and is best served when human error creates opportunities. 

This is best played with a friend in World Series mode. This will provide enough strategy and intensity to keep the gameplay fresh. The joy of going through the teams of legends feels like going through an old stack of baseball cards and is best enjoyed with a fellow baseball fan. Just do not be surprised when your head-to-head battle is 17 to 24 in the 4th inning. Griffey himself might call you “Kid” a dozen times as well, but that is completely fine with us. 

For now, we’ll leave you with this:



Member Comments
# 1 Moose Factory @ 03/17/17 04:55 PM
These throwbacks make me feel old A lot of good times with this game.

I'm not sure if the Retro Mode is quiet what some of us are looking for when it comes to nostalgic woes... though it does look fun. But kind of in a way that NHL 94 anniversary mode looked in the EA series a few years back. In terms of nostalgia I'd like to see a deeper game mode that celebrated the history of the game in a quasi career style mode.

I think back to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14 when they featured Legends of the Majors mode, which I thought was an incredible way to salute the past and celebrate its legends. I'd love to see something along those lines with some major milestones as baseballs storied history. I'm pretty sure people bring up a "Cooperstown" mode every year. I'd still love to see something to that effect.

Can't wait to use Griffey in this years Show though!
 
# 2 noles_fan21 @ 03/17/17 05:43 PM
Wow I missed a gem....
Loved the original on snes
Will look for this one thanks
Love theses tbt
Is it me or games are just not the same
Yea graphics are beautiful
But the old games have the best gameplay
And better modes
 
# 3 ven0m43 @ 03/17/17 08:56 PM
This was the baseball game that i had the most fun playing. It's the only game that I have played every game multiple full seasons 4+
 

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