Publisher: MLB Advanced Media
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Sports, Arcade & Action
Release Date: March 5, 2019 (EU & NA) / March 7, 2019 (JP)
R.B.I. Baseball is back, but is it better than ever?
First things first, R.B.I. Baseball 19 is in no way, shape, or form trying to be a competitor with PlayStation’s monolithic The Show franchise which is a better sports simulation from almost every technical standpoint. This is simply an arcade offering that just happens to have MLB licenses. The two should not be compared and there still can be enjoyment found in MLB’s offering, as this is the only way to play a major-league baseball title on the Switch as of now.
When you first go into the opening menus, you may notice that R.B.I. 19 does not have any extra modes you may see from some other sports titles. Many of the same modes from R.B.I. 18 return, with your standard Exhibition mode, Franchise mode, Home Run Derby, and Postseason mode, and this is the bare bones of what you would expect from a sports title.
The visuals have seen a slight improvement from last year with the crowds looking much more animated and players looking competently like their real-life counterparts. Lighting and shadow effects were one thing I noticed having the most improvement with dynamic lighting, and just the overall camera and character animations in general, are just a bigger improvement from last year’s game. The graphics are a positive for R.B.I 19 and while they’re not all the way next-gen in presentation, it’s hard to notice the blemishes with the texture of the field and how players react.
In terms of the batter’s stances, they are more appropriate to each specific batter and do a good job of being accurate to how the real player would approach a batting session or when pitching. Some animations can still seem somewhat stiff as players may not turn appropriately or perform some overly wild animations in the field of play. As just an arcade style of baseball game though, it does work and does not detract from the experience. It should be noted though, that with how R.B.I. 19 performs can be iffy at times with some stuttering happening during big events, such as a home run where frames are dropped.
A game can look great, but gameplay is of the utmost importance in R.B.I. Baseball 19 and thankfully it still holds up effectively well. The menus have always been a bright spot and this time around they are slick, quick, and snappy to get through with easy to understand setup options and plenty of customizations to go around. My favorite feature returns of being able to set your favorite team as your background which adds some personalization to the whole package.
The controls are straight forward for the most part, and basically, nothing has changed from last year. With pitching, you’re able to throw a fast or slow ball and you’re able to aim where the pitch finishes by using the analog stick for acceleration and location. As for hitting, you’re able to move your batter around in the batter’s box to reach outside pitches and get around on inside ones and this is all done with an almost top-down camera view which you aren’t able to change.
Making sure your timing is right to hit the ball and you’re able to reach it is part of the fun of judging how the pitcher will throw next. Fielding is probably the most lackluster part of the gameplay as you’re never too sure where your player is going to react. Thankfully, each button corresponds to which base you’ll throw to so it’s easy and simple to learn.
Franchise mode is probably the most important mode to get right and is a staple of every major sports video game series. This year’s iteration is still unfortunately bare-bones in presentation, in that you pick your team, you can adjust the length of the season, and turn injuries and trades on or off. It’s nice to have the option to shorten a season length as instead of facing the same team for a three-game series, you’ll just play against them once and move onto the next team. In terms of customization with options available for Franchise mode, I just feel it’s not quite at the level it should be yet to provide a more fully fleshed out experience.
There are free agents available, which is set from an ever updated roster update for each team during the season. The full list of MLB players is available and if you are a true fan of baseball, this is a great tool at your disposal. Trading is handled just like last year with you being able to trade with every team and you can trade a maximum of three players at a time. I noticed that the AI is somewhat generous with trades and doesn’t feel too realistic in what I was able to pull off. Of course, I wasn’t able to get Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts or Mike Trout for peanuts, but some of the non-star players you can swindle into some deals.
Making a return with R.B.I. 19 is the Home Run Derby mode and much like last year still lacks in some options. You can still choose in which field you want to play in, choose your own batter, and it still uses a standard bracket. There is a way to customize every single batter though, which helps give some authenticity to the event and it’s much easier this time around to get a handle of when to effectively strike the baseball for maximum distance.
As stated before, you still receive roster updates and this is a major bright spot for R.B.I. Baseball 19. It was impressive how well they kept up with making sure certain players were on their respective teams, just as recently when Bryce Harper was signed by the Phillies it was represented in the game and he already had a Phillies hat on. I fully expect the developers at MLB to stay up with the roster updates and it makes for a more authentic experience for fans of baseball.
It can’t be argued that this is meant to be more like a budget baseball arcade experience and the price is represented with that for half of what full AAA experiences costs. One thing I can’t continue to overlook though, and continues to be a major detriment, is the lack of commentary. There is just something lifeless about R.B.I. Baseball 19, and I think even some basic commentary could pull everything together and make the gameplay more interesting. You have some generic words read, like “Strike”, “Ball”, “Out”, “It’s outta here!” etc. and I just wish there was maybe some former players or ESPN analysts brought in to do actual commentary. The budget probably doesn’t allow for it, but it’s a major oversight nonetheless.
R.B.I. Baseball 19 has seen improvements in gameplay, presentation, and graphics, however still seems to be somewhat of a life-less package. It plays well, but by inning four or five you might become bored with the sameness of it all. Since this is the only way to get an MLB fix on the Switch, you sort of have to overlook the faults and enjoy what’s here and it still will satisfy most baseball fans with an extensive up-to-date roster and customizations with teams. If you have a PS4 though, it’s no contest, get The Show.
THE VERDICT: 6/10
*Review Key Provided by MLB Advanced Media
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