All-Star Baseball '97 Featuring Frank Thomas
All-Star Baseball 97 starts off promising enough with MLB and MLBPA licenses, ballparks modeled after their real-life counterparts, complete statistical tracking, and one of the best announcers in baseball, Jon Miller, calling the action from the booth. Yet, something happened on the way to the ballpark.
The problem to ultimately destroys All-Star Baseball 97 is a batter/pitcher interface that makes it nearly impossible to hit based because of poor design. If a pitcher can throw at different locations within the strike zone, then you need a hitting system that allows you to reach them. The system used here is a timing method that lets the batter swing as you press a button. Most baseball games use this style of hitting because it's easy to pick up and let you concentrate on the action. However, the system fails miserably in All-Star Baseball 97 because of poor collision detection, extremely choppy batter animation, and unrealistic pitching. As your digitized batter swings, the bat disappears from view; no matter how close, you can't see the bat cross the plate, making it incredibly difficult to judge when to swing. Adding insult to injury, you can't swing high or low in the strike zone, which wouldn't be an issue if pitchers threw on one plane -- they don't!
You can't even push down on the pad to reach a ball thrown low and away for a strike, an action that would have added an extra frame or two of animation, putting the grand total to four at best! To make matters worse, pitches sail at ridiculous speeds and movement. Prepare for balls thrown well behind the batter to miraculously snap back into the zone at the last second, regardless of who is pitching. All pitchers have unrealistic curve balls, sliders, or forkballs that whip in and out of the box with exaggerated break.
The developers tried to compensate by making the pitches easier to see. So what do they do? They enlarge them to roughly the size of a softball, which makes an already ugly situation uglier. Another feature designed to "help" you is the batting practice mode, where you can select a pitch to work on. Unfortunately, it only makes the flaws in the interface more apparent.
It soon becomes clear that hitting the ball doesn't rely on seeing the pitches and swinging when they reach the plate. In fact, there is success in simply swinging the bat when the pitcher started his motion. My eyes never did see the bat make contact with the ball, but in All-Star Baseball 97, that is an added luxury. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The graphics look very sharp until you see them in action. Considering that Acclaim touted its motion-captured graphics at the time of the game's release, this is very disappointing. The batter doesn't swing with any smoothness, the digitized graphics are the same for every player in the league, and uniforms are a generic white or gray -- no logos or insignias anywhere. Moreover, the fielders sport some ugly pixels when viewed up close. The one bright spot is the color photos of most players (plus statistics) whenever you step up to the plate. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Jon Miller sounds great, although he does lag behind the action on some calls. The music gets really annoying, playing the same tune every time a batter is up. Moreover, some weak sounding vendors yell "hot dogs" or "Cracker Jack" with little enthusiasm. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The batter/pitcher interface is an absolute nightmare, completely wrong from start to finish. The game lacks simulation modes for hardcore fans, and arcade fans won't touch it because of the terrible control. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
If the game isn't fun, there can't be a high replay value. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The manual explains the game's features well enough. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide