Review: The title to the sequel of All-Star Baseball 2000, believe it or not, is All-Star Baseball 2001.
After ASB '99 and ASB 2000 had major success as the only well-executed baseball title on the Nintendo 64, the series was bound to have a sequel. While the series is well established, the developer High Voltage had to find some way to make the outstanding game even better for Acclaim to publish a title that gamers would have a reason to buy. While ASB2001 has the same old feel of the old ASB titles, there have been minor additions to the series that will make first time buyers enjoy it greatly, and perhaps give those who own ASB 2000 a reason to buy this title.
Let's start off with the visuals, one of the things that all of my friends immediately remarked on upon seeing the title in action. The most impressive thing about the graphics in this title are the stadiums. While it's still the flat non-detailed crowd, almost all the details of the parks are included. While of course there are not the advertisements in each stadium you can still see all the details. The jumbo-tron shows a slightly hazed view of the same thing that your seeing on the TV, the seats are folded up in Minnesota's stadium, and there are the tarps that are always over the seats in select stadiums that have lesser crowds. All the details are in the stadiums, and every MLB stadium is in there, including the new ones for the Giants, Tigers, and Astros.
The player's are better looking than in the previous games and you can definitely see more distinct features on the faces as well as body types. While of course they don't look exactly like the real players you can pick out Derek Jeter from Nomar Garciaparra. There are over 100 different batting stances from the loose bat grip of Chuck Knoblauch to the over the shoulder stance of Frank Thomas. There are arm-pumping celebrations when players hit home runs, as well as many other new animations. The players and umpires are pulled off well and while there still may be a few graphical glitches here and there all together these are some of the best graphics on Nintendo 64 without a loss of framerate.
As for the audio there are some new things added for ASB2001 but not nearly enough. I'm already sick of hearing "Foul ball, way out of play." However you'll hear the umpire call out if it's a strike or not, and the announcers will say a fair amount, yet still not enough. The crowd noise is nothing that great, and there are some minor stadium sounds you'll hear during the game but nothing spectacular. As far as the title music goes I can't stand it anymore. It would have been nice to have at least two different tracks in the menus so you don't have to listen to the same tune constantly repeating. The audio is okay, but with more sound effects and a variety of music the game could be almost perfect.
As far as the gameplay goes, there is no other better baseball game than ASB2001. The batting system may seem a little complicated at first in simulation play, but you'll quickly get a handle on it. There's a toggle between power and contact hitting, and each batter has his hot and cold zones. You can try to predict the pitch to have a better chance of slamming one out of the park and of course you can use the almighty bunt. However if the batting system becomes too much of a hassle for you, there is easy batting mode that is basically just swinging away. The pitching mechanics are fairly simple, pick a pitch, aim where you want it to go and tap the A button. You can do everything you can do it a regular game including picking off runners at bases, hitting a batter, and managing your bullpen so that they'll be ready when you starter starts to run out of gas. A pitcher's stamina is indicated at the top of the screen and their four pitches will change from white, to yellow, to blue depending on the control and speed they now have on that pitch. There is also an easy pitch mode, which is pick the pitch and tap A. The base running and fielding has many small options that can be confusing, but the basics of throwing, running, diving, and sliding is easy to figure out and all you really need for the game.
There are a few new features in the game, the biggest one being the Cooperstown Legends. This is a team consisting of many old timers that are in the hall of fame. While this is very cool and they have their own cornfield to play in, there is a lack of the really big names that we all know. Where are Ruth and Mantle? Along with the old timers' field there is also a batting practice feature. This feature lets you pick what type of pitches you want thrown to you and you can practice hacking away at them to improve your batting skills. All of the old features are there too, including a vastly improved Arcade Quickplay mode, Quickplay mode, a season mode that includes the entire 2000 season as well as an optional preseason mode. Another fun feature is the Home Run Derby where you can really test the power of your hitter when you have a fastball coming right down the middle. There are tons of customizable options such as weather conditions, injuries, and number of innings to name a few. The game supports the 4MB expansion pak for the amazing graphics, as well as rumble pak and four-player support. Unfortunately the save note is a control pak hog and takes up 121 notes. That is because of the massive amount of information it must store about trades, stats, records, etc. There have been problems before with saving stats and losing seasons so I would suggest using a Nintendo brand memory pak even if it means buying another one, and not using a third-party "four in one" controller pak because those prove often to lose valuable data and you will not want to lose your whole season when you make it to the world series.
There is some good replay value in ASB 2001. With the season realistic to a real season in baseball you know you'll be playing lots of games. Also arcade mode, quick play, Home Run Derby, and batting practice will provide lots of entertainment for you and your friends. The fact that you can spend weeks just looking at stats means you won't want to just turn the game off and go do something else. This is a baseball game with a lot of depth and one that won't get tiring anytime soon.