History of Baseball Video Games #9 - Sega's Great Baseball

This is a series of blogs based on my own personal game collection. I will attempt to go through them in a chronological order according to their release date. I will also attempt to play then on their original platform using the original controllers the game was designed for. If I am unable to get the system or the game working then I will use PC emulation or another platform emulation like the Intellivision Lives! game for the gamecube

Previous entries

  1. Videocart 12 - Baseball (1977)
  2. Astrocade's Tornado Baseball (1977)
  3. Atari 2600's Home Run (1978)
  4. Intellivision's Major League Baseball (1980)

5. Microvision's Baseball (1980)

6. Atari 2600's RealSports Baseball (1982)

7. Nintendo's Baseball (1983)

8. Intellivision's World Championship Baseball (1983)

Great Baseball for Sega's Master System (1987)

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In 1983, Intellivision released one last baseball game, World Series Baseball, before the video game crash and the end of the Intellivision system. The game was a graphic milestone with picture in picture and camera views much like how the sport is shown on TV as well as play by play voice work. You can only buy the game via mail order and hard to find these days. Colecovision also released a baseball game towards the end of the system's life, Super Action Baseball, in 1983 as well. Like Intellivision's World Series Baseball the graphics was ahead of the time but the game was doomed because it required Coleco's Super Action controllers which were not very popular and not included with the system. After the video game crash, the country wanted to play baseball video games again, in 1987 Sega pleased the masses and released Great Baseball. There is a theory out there that any game that includes the words 'Great' in the title is anything but. Does this game break the curse? Let's play ball!.


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From the start you can tell that this game is going to be enjoyable to look at based on the title screen alone. The title screen contains a nice rendering of a base runner about to get tagged out at home. We begin to truly see 8-bit graphics and what they could look like . When you start the game a detailed view of pitcher, batter, and umpire are displayed. The game info is located at the bottom of the screen in an organized fashion and readable. The text is simple white on a solid black background. To help the user see the base runners, a bird's eye view of the field is also displayed in a picture in picture format.


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I have a confession to make; I love 80's sports fashion. I love baseball's stirrups, colors and stripes of the 80's. This game renders this 80's style of the uniform pretty good. This advancement in player graphics is due to the change of focus and ability to show different views of the game. Now we can zoom in on the pitcher and the batter during pitches. The pitcher/batter combo easily takes up majority of the screen. When the ball is hit the camera zooms out and we get the typical overview of the entire field and the player size is reduced as well as the details of their uniforms. The animations have really advanced as well. The swing of the bat and pitch are really smooth. We get to see the pitcher kick his leg out like how you pitch a baseball in real life.


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The field and stadium in general remind me a lot like Nintendo's first Baseball game for the NES. It is slightly more detailed and wider. The scoreboard is in the center, the shape of the outfield wall is the same. Both have batter boxes, scoreboard, and foul poles. The scoreboard during the play includes initials of each team, summary of each inning as well as total runs and hits. The Nintendo game did not include hits. This wasn't the only advancement of the scoreboard in Great Base however, between innings the scoreboard is takes up the entire screen and is more detailed and pretty impressive. For the first time we get to see a small video clip of baseball players as it would be displayed on a jumbotron. The animation was not of an FMV quality, more of a cartoon look to it. This expanded view we see a running game time, current count and flags waving in the air. The animations cycle through 3-4 different ones at random.

Sega's 'Great Baseball' (1987)Nintendo's 'Baseball' (193)
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The crowd is displayed and also more detailed then NES's Baseball. I can tell that the crowd is still nothing more then a repeated pattern but when they get excited during a big play they have more animations besides a rapid change of color. During the scoreboard view, the crowd is even further detail and we begin to see individual people in the stands.

Home Run Celebration

When I first witnessed the jumbotron in this game, I couldn't wait to see how they incorporate it during home runs. I was left pretty disappointed; the jumbotron isn't even used, there is no cool animation shown and feel like it was a huge mistake not to include it. Sure the crowd goes nuts and moves around and the words 'Home Run' appears below in the scoreboard in outfield view but that is about it. It does have a nice melody to help with the celebration.


There are four different cameras and different views during the actual gameplay and two additional screens for the information. During the pitch, the camera is positioned behind the pitcher when you pitch as well as hit. Once the ball is hit a bird's eye view of the outfield is displayed that contains the entire field, outfield wall, pitcher’s mound. If a fielder throws to a base, the screen is switched to an infield top-down perspective.

Behind the Pitcher viewBird's eye viewTop down view
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The lack of jumbotron during the home run celebration disappointed me first; a close second was the sound or the lack of sound. I am disappointed mostly because we are now in 1987 and we still have to play baseball in silence. Yes there are melodies before each half inning and during home runs as well as the title screen but that is it. Besides the sound effects and the umpire calling the plays there is nothing else. The sound effect of a strike or a base hit is also really bad, it sounds like my cartridge is busted but it's not. The umpire does speak and has a clear voice but that is the only positive thing I can take away from this game

Gameplay - Modes

There are a grand total of 6 different game modes in this game. With technology advancing, developers are started to add different modes that use the same graphics.

  • 1 player - Level 1 : one player single baseball game, fielders automatically go after the ball.
  • 1 player - Level 2: one player single baseball game, fielders are controlled by the gamer. The fielders who are closest to the ball
  • 2 player - Level 1: two player single baseball game, fielders automatically go after the ball.
  • 2 player - Level 2: two player single baseball game, fielders are controlled by the gamer. The fielders who are closest to the ball
  • Home Run Content 1 player. Try to hit as many home runs in 20 pitches
  • Home Run Contest 2 player. Try to hit as many home runs in 20 pitches each , 2 players alternate swinging after each pitch

Gameplay - Defense

Pun intended when I say the defense in this game isn't great. I had such a hard time controlling the fielders that I switched to level 1. The fielders were running in slow motion and infield home runs were common when I was playing in Level 2 mode. Pitching in this view was a nice change of pace, It was different and because you see the ball hit the glove I had a greater sense of control. As pare for the course these days, the direction of the d-pad controls the pitch type; Up for a fast ball; Left for a left curve; Down for a Change-up. One of the advancements of pitching in video games we are introduced here is the concept of specialty ball and the ability to select a pitcher and stamina. The specialty balls you can select is fastball, slowball, slider, and knuckleball. Finally we can pitch like Tim Wakefield. Regarding controlling the fielder after they collect the ball, standard practice here as well. Press the direction of the base you want to throw to. You can fake a throw by pressing button 1 instead of button 2.

Gameplay - Offense

The offense is par for the course as well. The ability to pitch hit is the biggest innovation on the offensive side of the ball. To bunt the ball is more natural for you just stop pressing the swing button and don't follow through. You do have ability to control any base runner by selecting the base with the direction pad and press button 1. We also have the ability to move the batter around in the box.

Rules of Baseball

I was ready to list all the great things this game includes regarding the sport until I read the last sentence in the manual regarding ties after the 9th inning. "In a 1-player game: The computer wins" What!! Why in the world would they program it this way? In 2 player mode it goes to extra-innings. Baseball never ends in a tie.

Now the positive side; One of the great things this game introduces us to is not more complex rules of baseball but a different aspect of the sport, game management. Here is the first time we begin to see the split between simulation baseball video games and arcade style of the gameplay. We now have control of not just the players on the field but also become the manager of the team. We are able to pitch hit as well a put in a relief pitcher. These rudimentary simple options greatly expand the strategy of the sport. Before each batter, your roster is displayed showing the batting average, number of hits and left or right handed. One thing this game doesn't include is their defensive stats. The game does place a limit of the number pitch hitters during the game.

Video Game Innovations

  • Complete list of baseball teams with two leagues (A and N) . During the selection of team a map of the US is displayed.
  • Select different pitchers, special pitch and stamina
  • Picture-in-picture during the behind the pitcher camera
  • Crowd animated during home run
  • Jumbotron displayed with animations.
  • Crowd more individual appearance
  • Complete roster with names and stats