Retro sports games are a tricky thing. There's this weird balancing act going on between being - for lack of better terms - too retro or too modern. Take for example some of the greats... you've got your NHL 94's and NBA Jams and so on. These games feel retro, yes. They don't have all the modern features or quality of life additions. But they don't feel quite as old and basic as like... y'know, Baseball on NES or something like that.
I guess the thing is this - I can't really describe what makes a retro sports game compelling to me. I just know it when i play it. There are some retro sports games that just feel a little too old to me and make me wish I was playing something newer with better controls or better features or what have you. Others hit the mark, such as the aforementioned NHL 94. That game - I could obviously pick up a far newer hockey title, but why? That game is so perfect.
I fired up Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr today which is a totally different game than Ken Griffey Jr Presents Major League Baseball. Try to wrap your head around that titling convention. Even worse is that there were other games in the series like Ken Griffey Jr's Winning Run or whatever. This was before it was obvious that sports games would end up being annual things so just stick a year after them. Or then again, maybe it wasn't because remember - NHL 94.
Anyway, for clarity here, I'll refer to this N64 game as simply "MLB," but you'll get it. So I fired up MLB today because mostly I wanted to finally get a chance to mess around with this new N64 wireless controller that I got. The Hyperkin Admiral was launched right around Christmas, and I grabbed one with an Amazon gift card. This thing is really sweet. First of all, it ditches the old bulky N64 controller design altogether and instead apes those Hori pads that were released in Japan. If you haven't seen them, they tend to be way closer to something like a Gamecube controller. It is infinitely more comfortable than the stock N64 controller. Also of comfort is that this thing is wireless. That's huge for me. My TV is far enough away from my couch that I'd need to use an extension cable on N64. That's such a pain and makes more of a mess with wires everywhere. So anyway, I will go ahead and recommend the Admiral controller. It's pretty excellent.
MLB on the other hand, it's good. Just good. It's fine. Nothing special. Nothing bad. That sort of fence I talked about between Retro and Modern, it kind of sits on that fence in a frustrating way. It feels retro enough that it's sort of got an arcade feel. But it's not QUITE simple enough to feel charming. The default batting controls are way too tough for me to feel comfortable with so I have to switch it to Classic mode which is a lot easier, but on the other hand pitching feels so over-simplified that it's almost boring to me. Fielding is so so. But also the game also feels kind of modern in the sense that the 3D looks pretty damn good here, and the voice work is actually pretty impressive. The problem there is that if I'm comparing it to a modern baseball game then the presentation leaves a fair amount to be desired.
I guess what I'm saying is that while I can't find any true faults with this game - I actually think it's perfectly competent - it leaves me wishing I was playing something either truly charmingly retro (I always had a soft sport for LJN's MLB game on NES) or something truly realistically modern (was there a good baseball game on Wii U? I don't think so. Wii, though right?). So yeah. I don't know.