I know very little about baseball, in all honesty. That said, I was still relatively intrigued at the idea of trying out RBI Baseball 20. Especially in this current world scene of sporting events being nonexistent due to the global pandemic, having video games that simulate the real deal at least allows the fun to continue.
Learning the ropes
RBI Baseball 20 is far more of a simulator than an arcade experience like Wii Sports. Not only are the rosters and teams real, but the mechanics also strive to be realistic. When booting up the game, you’re introduced to a fairly detailed interactive tutorial that will guide you through each aspect of the baseball experience. As someone who just really isn’t into sports, I felt like a preschooler as I tried to grasp all the different terms. But as they say in the world of sports, “Practice makes perfect.”
When I actually started playing the game, the mechanics started to click with me. There are various difficulty settings; you better believe I picked “Easy.” The game does specify that this mode is meant for casual players, and that’s certainly true. The AI is forgiving and also behaves very amateurishly in most cases. For a beginner, this is a good thing, as it gives you an opportunity to hone your skills and gradually ease your way into bumping up the difficulty for more advanced matches.
The game offers Franchise, Exhibition, and Home Run Derby options.
Catch and control
RBI Baseball 20 has two main control modes: Modern and Classic. You can alter every aspect of the gameplay experience between these two main modes. For example, I decided to opt for modern controls for pitching but picked classic controls for batting. Pitching with modern controls involves selecting a different pitching style from a wheel and then aiming using a reticle. With each throw, the pitcher’s stamina decreases, which then makes aiming a little harder. You can swap them out for another pitcher when this happens. Each pitcher knows a different set of techniques. The trick is to keep switching things up.
As for batting with classic controls, you are allowed to move your player around the batting box. I made far more contact with the ball this way and managed to get a few home runs. Modern batting simply involves you powering up your swing and timing your strike. I often missed balls I tried to hit this way.
Seeing that the average game of nine innings last about a half-hour, things can feel like they’re taking forever when you keep missing balls, especially if the score is tied.
As I got more familiar with RBI Baseball 20, my enjoyment rose, but I began to notice its shortcomings. The visuals look pretty decent, mainly the character models of the players (the crowds, not so much). Most of the animations are also nice. But the presentation as a whole isn’t the greatest. Often, players will run in place and the scene will simply cut to the next scene abruptly while models are still moving around. Hitting foul balls that go out into the field usually results in several seconds between the hit and the announcement actually coming. Sometimes the ball will strangely disappear when being thrown to the different bases. The frame rate usually sticks to the 30FPS cap, but in some moments it can chug profusely. These visual oddities aren’t a deal-breaker, but they do stand out.
Overall, RBI Baseball 20 is a neat package for realistic virtual baseball. It’s approachable enough for casual players like myself but can be altered to suit the needs of more experienced players as well. While it does have some odd visual bugs, its gameplay mechanics are engaging enough to offer a solid experience. It doesn’t feature online play, which is a bummer, though it does claim to have two-player support (yet I didn’t find it). Nevertheless, in these times where going outside isn’t an option for some, RBI has the ability to offer a decent virtual baseball experience on a budget that can provide some solid hours of entertainment.
A review code was provided by the publisher.