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The Console Fight Over Baseball Bragging Rights! Who Takes The Honours?

by Lisa Hayden
Basball Game Player

Since 2014 baseball fans have been able to choose from two different baseball video games, R.B.I Baseball and MLB: The Show. Each of the games targets a different type of player, and only one is available on multiple consoles. The latest iterations of these games were both released in March 2019, with R.B.I Baseball 19 launched a couple of weeks ahead of MLB: The Show 19.

Both games feature all of the MLB teams, including 2019's the Houston Astros and LA Dodgers, who Oddschecker considers to be the close favourites to win the World Series. All the 2019 players and stadiums are also featured in both games, letting you hit home runs at your favourite ball park.

Why Two Games?

In the history of video games, many sports have had competing titles released to the public. One of the most prominent of these is association football (soccer) video games, with annual releases of Electronic Arts’ FIFA Football title, and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). Whilst both of these games have their own separate fanbase, each celebrating the qualities of their preferred title, the games both receive critical acclaim and are both both very popular amongst football and video games fans alike.

The main difference between the FIFA Football series and Pro Evolution Soccer is that the former contains officially licensed players and teams, whilst the latter remains predominantly unlicensed, containing players with similar sounding, but slightly different names. In contrast, the two main baseball games are both officially licensed by Major League Baseball.
This is where the similarities between the R.B.I Baseball 19 and MLB: The Show 19 end. Here is a look at their differences.

R.B.I Baseball 19

R.B.I Baseball is the longest running baseball video game series on the market today. The first version, named just R.B.I Baseball, was launched in 1987 for the Nintendo VS, and later the Nintendo Entertainment System. Updated versions were then released each year between 1991 and 1995, supporting an array of consoles, including the SNES, Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, Amiga and Commodore 64. The series then went quiet until a reboot in 2014.
The reboot, now published by Major League Baseball’s “interactive media arm”, MLB Advanced Media, has received bad reviews for every release to date. 2019’s version is no different. Critics brought out all of their bad baseball puns for the reviews, including Game Informer who described R.B.I Baseball 19 as “another swing and miss” and said that it was MLB Advanced Media’s “sixth strike”.

Console baseball game

The majority of the complaints surround the core gameplay elements of the game. The franchise is designed to be an arcade style game, and therefore not directly comparable to MLB: The Show, which is designed to be more of a simulation. Despite this intention, R.B.I Baseball 19 still falls short. It’s mechanics and features remain firmly rooted in its past, with simple controls and limited range of game modes (just three). This simplicity makes getting started and playing quick and easy, with a clean menu that is easy to navigate, and controls that can be figured out intuitively. However, this simplicity (and imprecision) means you can quickly lose interest in the game.

R.B.I Baseball two major advantages over MLB: The Show. Firstly, it’s price at $29.99 makes it significantly cheaper than it’s rival. Secondly, it is available for the three major consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, as well as a mobile version, meaning it is an accessible and affordable way for baseball fans to get their hands on an officially licensed MLB game.

MLB: The Show 19

MLB: The Show is a games franchise that is exclusive to Sony’s PlayStation range. Developed by SIE San Diego and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, it has been released every year since its debut title “MLB ‘98” in July of 1997 for the original PlayStation. Whilst R.B.I Baseball is very much a traditional, arcade style game, MLB: The Show attempts to be a simulator, replicating as much realism as possible.

For those familiar with other video games, a comparison could be drawn to the difference between Gran Turismo and Need for Speed, the former being a simulator that attempts to replicate as much realism as possible, whilst the latter disregards this to focus on style and entertaining features.

In contrast to R.B.I Baseball, MLB: The Show 19 has received mostly positive reviews, with an average score of 86%. The latest release is praised for making a major step up on previous games, including upgrades to the career mode, “Road to the Show”. Players can now choose which traits they want their player to develop more based on interactions they have with other players. As these traits are strengthened, perks such as less error-prone teammates and a more favourable strike zone get unlocked. Other new features include in-game challenges and the ability to interact with players after the game.

MLB: The Show 19 also has a step up in graphics. It’s graphics were already streets ahead of R.B.I Baseball’s, but the detail in this year’s game mean you sometimes have to look twice at stills to check whether they are actually photographs of real players and not screenshots of the game.

Conclusion

The MLB: The Show series is an asset to the PlayStation consoles. It provides the best baseball video game experience on the market, by far. The difference between it and R.B.I Baseball is enough to leave some Xbox and Switch console owners feeling left out. It is rare to find two officially licensed games to be released simultaneously for such a long time, but Sony’s exclusivity of MLB: The Show means there is room in the market for both games. For hardcore fans of baseball and those looking for a realistic experience, MLB: The Show is the only choice. For more casual fans who are not prepared to buy a PlayStation 4 just for a baseball game, R.B.I Baseball is enough but it remains lacking in many areas. Perhaps next year will be the year R.B.I Baseball makes the step up.

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