Baseball Superstars 2021 for Android
By Philip Orona
I have fond memories of Baseball Stars for the original NES from SNK. I loved the ability to tweak and improve your players as well as sign new players to the roster. It was the first time I had seen this type of custom team building feature in a game. Given the emphasis of super realism and MLB licensing for most modern baseball games, I have not had much fun with one in a while, in-fact, the last game was Baseball Superstars 2013 by Gamevil (or Gam-Evil?). I noticed a new version was released late last year in the form of Baseball Superstars 2021. I downloaded Baseball Stars 2021 on my Android phone to see if it still had the replayability and addictive nature of the old 2013 release.
From the initial launch of the game, you are greeted with an animated intro of bigheaded chibi baseball players facing off on the field. Suddenly we see the players transformation into sci-fi super forms to unleash hidden abilities while jamming to an upbeat rock soundtrack that would feel at home on a Dragon Ball animated series intro. The game continues this bombastic anime feel into the rest of the play through experience. There are several game modes to choose from at the home menu. You have your online play, single player season, daily and weekly challenges and the meat of the game, your build-a-player mode.
The build-a-player is the most important part as you can carry your built characters into your online or single player mode games. Without your custom players, you are started with low rated (mostly F rated) generic players with almost no extra skills or super abilities. In the player development mode, you name your character, choose the look and position that the player will have. Being a pitcher is different from being an ordinary fielder as they require a different set of skills. Once you have built your character, you choose a team scenario and play through a shortened season of 7 weeks while going through training exercises with trainers of various shapes and sizes in a small mini-game type hub that represents the teams HQ.
The training parts of the game play out like an anime light novel. Each week is represented by 4 turns for an activity. Each activity can give your player various stat boosts and you can tailor your character towards a specific build if desired. You can also use money and skill points from the activities to purchase custom gear and learn new skills that the trainers can make available. There are a few rival teams in the league you play against. One of the teams you are pitted against is River City High, from River City Ransom. Once you unlock their team to play as, the scenario consists of battling other school bullies during the game season. The River City scenario even plays the music from Double Dragon at one point while working with the trainers!
Speaking of the trainers, the term various does not cover the strangeness of the assisting cast. Not all are available at first but as you recruit them through random loot chests\surprise mechanics, you can build a trainer deck for each new player scenario. These trainers include a man-tiger, a zombie, a kendo warrior, a space police agent and an assassin, just to name a few. As you go through the training weeks and play a game at the end of each week, you can develop a rapport\relationship with your trainers which increases their training effectiveness. When the relationship hits 100%, after a story beat or 2, your player learns that trainer’s specific special ability. The learned superability is what invokes the transformation when activated during a ballgame. The transformation only lasts for that one play and you are given a limited amount of times to trigger it during a game, so use them wisely!
After the 7 weeks of training, your character is given a rating of A through F (F being the weakest) and can be assigned to a team outside of the build-a-player mode. The more times you go through the player building mode, the more items you get to recruit better trainers and items to increase the level of the trainers. Meaning, the more you play through the character creation story, the better the resulting players should be. This mechanic adds to the replayability of the game as you may want to build out an entire team stacked with A rating players.
When it comes to gameplay within an actual baseball game, it’s typical fanfare for the most part and easy to figure out. At bat, you have your strike zone, a touch button to swing, a button to bunt and a little command section at the bottom to indicate to any active runners to steal a base. You also have your limited use super move icon above the swing function. This must also be hit at the right time to connect with the ball during the super move attempt. Things are a little more complex from the pitcher’s mound. As a pitcher, you have your specific types of throws (four seam, curveball, slider, etc.) which can be learned through the build-a-player mode. Then you aim your ball to a section of the strike zone (or choose to bean the opposing batter) and then a quick accuracy meter appears and you must tap on it in the correct section in order to accurately toss the ball to the chosen area. Just like the batting section, you also have a limited use super pitch move that can make the ball that much harder to hit. Fielding is done all by the AI and I am fine with that. Having to move outfield players and tossing a ball between players on a touch screen can be quite annoying and difficult.
The overall interface is a little busy but it is easy to learn. The upgrade system with the player and trainers takes a little longer to figure out, but once you do, it’s not hard to crank out super star players provided you recruit and upgrade to better trainers. The overall sound is decent with its upbeat music and cutesy voice acting to go with the chibi designed players. The sound effects work well with visual effects but I was experiencing some performance stutter\lag at times. For a game being played on fairly recent hardware (Samsung A51 5G), no other mobile game does this on my device and I hope this gets resolved soon as it certainly affects gameplay. There were also times when I hit the batting button and a swing didn’t occur. This may be a minor glitch or just my thumb not getting enough pressure on to the screen. Typically, switching over to my index finger resolves my button pressing issue.
Overall Baseball Superstars 2021 is a fun and addictive game, more so than its 2013 iteration. There are more story beats to hit with the various trainers and filling out a team with super star sluggers is fun and rewarding despite the usual free to play trappings popping up constantly when starting up the game. The pay to win loot boxes are not required to enjoy this game and that seems to be the best part of all.
Easy to pick up and put down
Fun and addictive
Light presentation with good gameplay mechanics
Loot boxes while present, are not required
Occasional slowdowns are majorly annoying when at bat
Baseball Superstars 2013 (Mobile)
Baseball Stars Arcade (SNK Playmore via the Amazon game store)
MLB the show 21′