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All Star Baseball '99

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Reviewed by Mike Wales Superb graphics, tons of general manager options and a nifty Create-A-Player option highlight Acclaim's entry in the N64 diamond Pak pennant race. With All-Star Baseball '99, development house Iguana (Turok, NFL Quarterback Club '98) extends its sterling rep for putting great graphics on the N64. The high-resolution visual feast includes multiple player shadows during night games, digitized photos of most players and extremely detailed texture maps -- just check out the ivy and row houses at Wrigley! In stadiums with Jumbotrons, the action on the big screen replicates that on the field. The athletes are fully articulated, with nice use of shading that gives them a fully rounded look. Batters are graded on multiple characteristics, including whether they are pull, straightaway or opposite-field (push) hitters. Iguana has stacked the lineup with signature stances for everyone from Roberto Alomar to Sammy Sosa. However, swings often lack grace. All-Star Baseball presents you with different batting cursors. For example, the power swing's cursor is smaller than the conventional swing's, while the bunting cursor is wide and flat. Each batter has a unique hot-cold icon that shows the areas of the strike zones he commands and those where he's vulnerable. Most pitchers hurl overhand, three-quarters, sidearm or submarine, but Hideo Nomo and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield have their own oddball motions. Each hurler has four basic pitches, selectable with the C buttons. If you don't want to telegraph your pitch location, you can turn off the pitching cursor and rely on the Rumble Pak to alert you when you're aiming out of the strike zone. You'll need to warm up a pitcher in the bullpen before calling him into the game. You can choose manual or automatic control of fielders, while the assist option gives you a jump on the ball. Before each pitch, you can choose from among seven infield and nine outfield setups. Once a fielder has reached a ball, he can dive or jump for it. All-Star Baseball supports both regular throws and stronger but less accurate aggressive throws. All-Star Baseball includes photo realistic replicas of all 30 big-league parks and options for day, night, twilight, wind and weather conditions. You can also chose from among six camera angles for batting and three angles for tracking the ball. There are three difficulty levels: Rookie, Veteran and All-Star. You can choose between Simulation and fast-paced Arcade mode. Play-by-play is called by Yankees radio announcers Michael Kay and John Sterling, whose New Yawker cadences might rub Red Sox fans (and others) the wrong way. Thanks to Acclaim's proprietary voice-compression technology, you'll hear the names of all 750 big leaguers, plus plenty of color commentary and play descriptions. All-Star Baseball's general manager options are terrific. You can trade, sign and release players. Diamond freaks will especially appreciate the opportunity to dip into the minor leagues to call up an AAA-quality player. The Create-a-Player option allows you to slap your name on a player's jersey and give him just about any appearance you desire. You're limited in the amount of talent you can give your creation, though. If you get tired of current rosters, you can draft players and create your own fantasy league. You get a choice of season, single-game, playoffs, World Series and All-Star game modes and a Home Run Derby. Seasons can range from 13 to 162 games, complete with spring training, playoffs and All-Star balloting. All-Star Baseball maintains accurate in-season stats. You also get each player's actual 1997 and lifetime stats. Play control, especially for batting, can be quite complex, but hey: baseball is a complex game. All in all, this is a highly realistic game that is sure to wow true-blue baseball fans.

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