Triple Play 97


Review by Matt Paprocki

EA Sports


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tripleplay971ps1.jpg (17753 bytes)There’s a little boy in each of us that wants to be out there on the baseball diamond. To run and do cartwheels in the outfield, make sand castles near second base, and throw that white chalky foul-line stuff up into the air, let it come raining down on us, and shout “how I love you, sweet chalky rain!”. OK so maybe MY little boy dreams are different than yours, but I had them, and that’s my point. Baseball is a part of all of us. It’s no surprise then, that video game companies continually try to cash in on that, seeing that most of us gamers are, in fact, little boys.

The latest (though probably not so in about ten minutes) installment in the video game baseball niche is called Triple Play ‘97 by Electronic Arts. Remember Electronic Arts? They revolutionized home sports games with Madden Football and the NHL series, did a wonderful job with NBA Live, but really never mastered our national pastime. I’ve played an awful lot of baseball games over the years, far more than I’d have space to mention, and I’ll put Triple Play ‘97 near the top of the list. It’s still far from perfect, but it’s taken the game to a new level.

TP97 features all of the trappings you’d expect from a baseball sim: all the real MLB teams, players, stats, and stadiums (complete stadium inclusion is not “a given” in baseball sims although it should be), exhibition, season, playoff, and World Series play, and it also features an All-Star Game mode and a terrific Home Run Derby. There are options to affect the wind, time of day, and sky conditions. It tracks season stats very well, and features a “top 20” in several batting and pitching categories, allows multi-player capability (up to eight can play at the same time!), and has the best play-by-play announcing I’ve heard in any sport game. It even has that chalky foul-line stuff in every game. Ah, heaven. But these are all things that I expect to get from a 32-bit system game. What makes TP97 special?

tripleplay972ps1.jpg (12575 bytes)First and foremost, it captures the spirit of the game. The opening moments of each game begin with a fly-by of the stadium to the last bit of the National Anthem, which sounds a little different in each stadium. At first I thought that perhaps this was a sampled version from each stadium’s “signature” singer, but Robert Merrill does NOT sing the Yankee Stadium anthem so that ain’t it. Still, it’s an exhilirating opening. You have view options aplenty, from behind the pitcher or behind the plate, several heights for each. Players are announced by name, and the crowd responds. Cheers erupt when rallies are starting, players charge and make diving catches and headfirst slides into home, and there’s an unusual “crunch” sound when the ball is CRUSHED. It doesn’t sound realistic at all, but it sounds great anyway.

Players can get hurt by diving... pitchers can get hurt by throwing pitches they’re not accustomed to, and player performance suffers if the injury is minor and you opt to keep them in the game! Players go on hot or cold streaks, they can hit “behind the runner”, leap to snag a potential home run from the top of the wall... whew! There’s a LOT to like, here. But still I maintain that it is imperfect in many ways as well. As good as all of that sounds, there are a few problems. The biggest one for me is the fact that the pitchers are at a constant disadvantage. It’s offensive baseball all the way. The ability to hit opposite field or pull, hit a grounder or a fly ball almost at command is a bit unrealistic. Only the greatest hitters (guys like Boggs or Gwynn) can do this and even then it’s not as regularly as the Orsulak’s and Renteria’s of the world do it in this game. By the same token, there are no “dominant” pitchers in TP97. If Randy Johnson truly throws the league’s hardest fastball, you’d never know it. The only pitches that are hard to hit are the ones outside of the strike zone.

tripleplay973ps1.jpg (18467 bytes)The graphics could have used some work as well. The batters up close are a little pixelly, as are the fielders when viewing a replay. The stadiums are gorgeous in the intros and adequate if you’re not looking too closely, but when you DO look closely there are many details missing. I also would have expected a “draft” style game like World Series ‘95 had for the Genesis. I’m in a Rotisserie league with seven other guys and it would have been neat to simulate our teams, or draft against the computer and see how my team would fare, but alas, this is not available. You CAN trade players, however. And you CAN create players, which leads me back to the finer points of the game which you may have guessed by now definitely outnumbers the bad.

The final analysis on this game is that it’s simply the best baseball sim out there right now. Keep in mind that Sony’s MLB Pennant Race hasn’t been released at the time of this writing, but even Sony will have to pull out all of the stops to top Triple Play ‘97. I have played Hardball ‘97 (slow and unrealistic piece of crap), Bottom of the 9th (lacking options but otherwise OK), and this game is clearly the superior of the pack. You owe it to that “little boy” in you to check this one out.


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Last updated: Sunday, October 16, 2005 03:31 PM