Review: RBI Baseball 18 (Switch) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Review: RBI Baseball 18 (Switch)

by Danny Bivens

A step closer to a base hit.

The RBI Baseball series hasn’t exactly taken the gaming world by storm. With a string of sub-par titles released over the past few years, MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM, the internet and interactive branch of Major League Baseball) was really looking to turn things around with the 2018 iteration of their baseball title. As opposed to previous years, MLBAM decided to work on the game internally and to completely revamp everything this time around - visuals, animations, hundreds of face scans for character models, licensed music and more. Things sounded promising from the outset, however, for Switch owners, the project started out on the wrong foot - RBI 18 was delayed was delayed for nearly three months on Nintendo’s console. While RBI Baseball 18 is one of the few baseball titles available on Switch, there are still a few things to be apprehensive about.

Right out of the gate, RBI 18 already has a few additional modes that last year’s version didn’t have - a franchise mode and a home run derby. With franchise, you can take control of your favorite team for up to ten seasons in an effort to capture that coveted World Series crown. Players can also make trades, pick up free agents and even call up rookies to join their team. Home Run Derby is just as it sounds. Players take control of a slugger to duke it out in an elimination style tournament trying to hit as many home runs within a time limit. The tournament is customizable and can include up to eight participants (with the ability to play with one other friend). One oddity about the mode is that you are only able to choose from eight pre-selected players. If you don’t like the players that are on offer here, you are out of luck.
Controls are what you would expect from an arcade style baseball game - simple. There's a button for hitting (A), bunting (B) and throwing is all handled with the B button (in classic mode - modern mode maps bases to the face buttons). Getting a big time hit is all about timing and where you make contact with your bat. Still, as with last year, hitting feels a bit off. Fielding has improved this time around, but there are still things in there that grind my gears - automatic dives/jumps for balls and overly realistic animations that sometimes turn easy outs into hits. There are also times on defense where the initial auto-selected player is not the nearest player to the ball. It doesn’t happen every time and you have the ability to change your character, but it is problematic and can cause some headaches.

For a semi-budget baseball game, RBI 18 looks okay visually. The players models are definitely an improvement over last year and some of the dynamic camera angles show this off. All of the players, teams and stadiums are represented here. The stadiums look fairly realistic however, the crowd is just a static grouping of 2D sprites. Sure, you don’t get an up close look at them all that often, but the style clashes with the overall look of the game which is going for a more realistic feel.
I ran into several technical issues throughout my time with the game. My main issue has got to be with the load times. Starting up the game takes upwards of 30 seconds or more. Not only that, but there are several instances where the animations for the load screens chug and occasionally freeze. They eventually get you where you want to go, though. Overall games of baseball also takes longer than necessary due to load times between innings. What should be a quick 15-20 minute game of baseball turns into something that’s 30 minutes or more. It’s nowhere near as long as an actual game of baseball, obviously, but for a game that is aiming to harken back its arcade roots, this is disheartening.

For those keeping score at home, RBI 18 runs at 1080p docked and 720p in handheld with a framerate greater than 30fps. I’ve found that while, yes, the framerate does seem to run over 30 at times, it’s not consistent. Thankfully, it hasn’t hindered the gameplay too much during my time with the game. Regardless, a locked 30 would have been a much better idea here. The sound is also marginally improved, mainly with the addition of licensed music. Outside of the tracks, the sound is pretty bland. RBI 18 only offers what I assume is the PA announcer calling strikes, balls and fouls. It’s all very underwhelming.
RBI Baseball 18 is a lot better than last year’s offering, but that’s not saying much. The addition of a franchise mode and the home run derby were nice but can’t hide the various defects that plague the game. The identity crisis that the series has between being arcadey versus being realistic is still my main gripe of the series. With the technical issues that plague this game, it’s difficult to recommend. However, there is one shinning star in the game for me - the Home Run Derby. It isn’t perfect, but there is some fun to be had there. The rest of the game, not as much.

Final Score: 5.5

Review code provided by the publisher

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