What You’ve Missed: King of Pro Baseball

Yes, I usually tell people to stay away from boring, realistic repetitive sports games, but give it a chance, I promise you it will not disappoint.

This is the best sports game you never played.

Game Title: Chōkūkan Night: Pro Yakyū King (The King of Pro Baseball)
Era: The 32-64 Bit Era
Developer: Genki
Publisher: Imagineer
Sales: I have no idea, but chances are, you didn’t buy it, and that’s the problem

Why you missed it:

This isn’t your fault, so don’t be too hard on yourself. You were probably too busy playing on the PSX, seeing as this was a title that came out on the N64. To make matters worse, it was an import title, so chances were that you did not even know it existed. Unless you were heavily into the import scene, this one went right through your fingers, which in turn made you miss out on the most unique experience in video games, regardless of it being a sports game.

Why you need to play it:

Fire!

As stated above, while the game revolves around sports, the entire premise is an experience that can only come from Japan itself. Everything from the environment, to the atmosphere brings out a certain charm and feel to the game that until this day is lacking from our sports games. To be perfectly blunt and straight forward, the game has about a million gallons of charm. Everything about it is (or at the time, was) an original piece of work for those of us who never have seen anything like it before it, from the art direction, down to the amount of modes and activities one can get into within the game. Need pitching practice? It’s there. Need fielding practice? It has it. Batting? you can practice that too. And while some games before it offered you these kinds of modes, King of Pro Baseball was the first one in which I felt did this with style and grace.

Just to get it out of the way: yes, you can play a full season in the game.

With your own original created team.

This is where I spent the majority of my time when I played King of Pro. The time one can spend creating and perfecting your own team to battle against the Japanese teams is staggering, yet in the end, will feel as if you simply can’t get enough of the customization options given to you by the developers. Since we’re in the topic of customization,  lets get this one thing out of the way: the art direction in the game is not what you’re going to expect.

Home Run Strut

And this is what I love about the game. Yes, it’s the big headed baseball style that is popular in the land of the rising sun. In the end though, this is what will make you fall in love with the game. It does nothing to try to be too real, yet it does enough to be fun, and logical.It’s both real, yet exaggerated; Bogus, yet fair. You’ll be able to knock home runs out, and pitch a well thrown game. You’ll also experience getting clobbered and mauled by the AI. Every time, you’ll come out satisfied.

Just so you know, the sound effects you hear in the game, from trumpets to people chanting in unison, is part of the Japanese baseball experience. Because of this, it gives the game a unique vibe you can’t find in any of the American produced counterparts.

On a personal note,the game stirs up some fond memories of 1996 through 2001, when not much in my life was perfect, but I managed to numb the mind with sources that entertained me. Needless to say, Once I saw the FCI logo on the screen (they sponsored the game in one form or another, I wish I could dig more information, but life’s a bitch) the irony that bit me in the face was something that was way sweet, and in no way bitter.You see,  from the span of that timeframe, Cablevision carried a channel that allowed me to enjoy Japanese programming, so the curiosity that ignited through my television carried through my N64, and then back to the TV itself. No longer where the characters in the game just characters, but I also got to see the real teams and players that where a part of the game. From that point on, I really got to relate FCI to lots of fun and entertaining productions, such as Iron Chef, Shomuni and of course, King of Pro Baseball.

Conclusion:

It’s rare to find an import game that works this hard at entertaining a gamer. While getting through the menus will be your most challenging task, make no mistake: This is a game for the ages, and one you should make no excuse to pass off.

If you’re into cult classics like Bad News Baseball, this is the natural progression towards the same amount of fun.

Excellent graphics, fun gameplay and a unique visual style make Chōkūkan Night: Pro Yakyū King a game that should be in your collection. Don’t let the menus intimidate you. Get this game, ASAP.

Oh, before I forget: Play a few games on the beach and UFO stadiums. It’s not to be missed.

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