Ninja Baseball Batman: The Best Sports Game You’ve Never Played

And that’s a damn shame

Javier Reyes
PopCandie

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In an age where the sports video game market is almost exclusively comprised of annual simulation titles like Madden and NBA 2K, it’s a shame, from my perspective, that there aren’t more creative ideas being tossed around for sports games. For someone who loves both sports and video games you’d think that I’d be unapologetically and hopelessly addicted to those aforementioned titles.

But the opposite couldn’t ring more true, as my disdain for their inability (Madden especially) to break out of their recycling-features tendency truly frustrates me. Yes, I know, not having friends tends to detract from these said titles’ value, but it’s still disappointing. I want something clever or more innovative, is that too much to ask?

(It is)

I recently wrote about some high-profile sports figures (working on part 2, it’s like 80% complete, I promise) and how they would operate as fighting game characters — which, obviously, is an idea that’s easily thwarted by simple PR (pretty sure we can’t have Bryce Harper impaling people with baseballs) and copyright legalities (duh) — but I’m unequivocally proud of the piece.

Then I started getting really proud of the piece; and then I started getting so proud of the piece that I slowly started to lose my mind; and then I started getting so antsy that I questioned all the societal norms we have today that piss me off; and then I started getting so pissed off that I threw my phone through the wall.

Okay, so I might’ve made some of that overly-acrimonious banter up, but my main point is: Copyright and legal mumbo-jumbo is depressing stuff, when you think about it. It’s like that feeling you get when you wake up from a majestic dream; like where you got the dream girl, or have Spider-Man’s super powers, or win the lottery, or something equally fantastic — and they all have something in common: They’re utterly ridiculous and unrealistic.

Although, just as Jay Cutler occasionally has a great game, there are sometimes an exception for even the most rigid of standards. An example of this is a game I once played on my friend’s emulator that was astutely titled Ninja Baseball Batman — and it’s my favorite sports game ever.


Say that out loud to yourself right now.

It sounds heavenly, right? Has there ever been a more perfect, swag-tastical, or auspicious title for anything in history? Let’s break it down:

1) Ninja — Ninjas are, quite possibly, the purest and simplest forms of badassery. When I was a kid, these guys were my role models; I wanted to be just like them; I wanted to be on their level of badassery. Whether it’s the Ninja Turtles, Ninja Gaiden, or the endless swarms of them from Jackie Chan Adventures: Ninjas are awesome, and the crazy part is they’re only the first piece of the title.

2) Baseball — If you got bored or exhausted just reading the word “Baseball” — which I certainly can’t blame you for — I urge you to hear me out. Baseball is definitely the weakest of the three major sports — football and basketball being the other two — in terms of cultural relevance, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a platform for video games. Think about it: People use bats and crush baseballs at god-like distances, so it’s the perfect weapon in a video game for dismantling your enemies.

3) Batman — No, it’s not the Batman you’re thinking of. You might think the developers probably intended to use the name more literally—just simply as people who hold bats. But that’s not true, we all knew what they were going for, because they knew exactly what they were doing. I’m pretty sure it’s written in the constitution that whenever you have the opportunity to put the Batman name on something, you do it. If you ever meet someone who says they don’t like Batman, you must immediately leave them and never talk to them again.


If the title somehow hasn’t sold you yet then you’re either lying to yourself or can’t wait to hear more. Either way, it means that you (I hope) will continue to read on as I explain this game’s level of brilliance.

Ninja Baseball Batman is a side-scrolling beat ’em up arcade game that was released way back in 1993. It’s not, singularly, any of the things indicated by the title, just a mixture of each — and in the best way possible. You choose from four separate ninja-esque characters and beat the crap out of everything in sight. It plays just like those classic X-Men and Simpsons arcade games. One of the main difference between Ninja Baseball Batman and those games — besides it clearly being the superior title — is the creativity with it’s visual design.

EXHIBIT A

That’s right, folks, you’re literally fighting against baseballs. Aside from the terrifying stances they’re in, these are some of the most hilariously spot-on introductory enemies I’ve ever seen in a game. I remember laughing uncontrollably when I first played, as it was clear the developers were wasting no time with unleashing their insanity upon us. Also, yes, the playable characters look awesome too.

EXHIBIT B

Here’s a picture of the other two characters you play as — and just before they start fighting the other quintessential baseball item: The gloves.

EXHIBIT C

I want everyone to take this in for a second: You’re playing as ninja-batman characters using baseball bats to fight baseball bats that are holding baseball bats. When the developers were discussing enemy designs, I’m certain this is the exact moment the drugs kicked in.

EXHIBIT D

You’re fighting an evil airplane……INSIDE OF AN AIRPLANE.

EXHIBIT E

So I was wrong about what I said from Exhibit C — THIS is where the drugs kicked in. I can’t even begin to describe this, uh, thing. The first time I encountered this heinous monstrosity, I could’ve sworn I was high on quaaludes.

EXHIBIT F

You know how Bowser is considered the pinnacle of video game final bosses? I have another contender of my own: It’s “The King Babe” from Ninja Baseball Batman — and he’s as menacing and vicious as the name sounds. He’s tough, intimidating, and gloriously-evil at the same time. Not only that, but the stage is a baseball stadium — which brings home the point that the developers are completely self-aware of the masterpiece they’ve created.


As much fun it is to talk about the absurdity of Ninja Baseball Batman, I must say it’s somewhat futile to try and convey all of it’s charm and entrainment value through mere writing. Most of the time, from the brief play sessions I had, my brain couldn’t even process what the hell was going on — probably similar to the feeling that Cleveland fans recently felt after winning a championship for the first time in a thousand years.

It’s one of those games you have to try for yourself, except that’s where the problem arises: Ninja Baseball Batman is one of the most criminally under-produced games ever made, as only 43 of the 1042 units sold were in North America. It’s one of the greatest tragedies in American history, because the game is better than almost any beat ’em up I’ve played, even in the current generation of consoles — and that’s saying something.

When I started writing this article I didn’t realize how bittersweet it would feel. This game was awesome, and I hate when awesome things don’t get the awesome love they deserve. Why can’t this be brought back to the current generation of consoles? Hey, if they can bring back the NES, I’m sure there’s some way to reintroduce the greatest baseball game ever made to a new era of gaming. But, as gut-wrenchingly unfortunate as this may be, it doesn’t look like there’s any signs of the property being rebooted or remastered — which is, second only to the game being under-sold in the first place, the most depressing sub-plot in my video game-related lifestyle.

I wish more chances were taken, more ridiculous ideas turned into reality, and more sports games that aren’t straight-forward simulations. Whatever happened to the zany, balls-to-the-wall, and illustrious style from back in the day? I’ll stop now, sorry, this is the nostalgia-preaching Javier talking now.

Well, I guess there’s always the chance I become a millionaire and purchase the rights to the game, isn’t there? Even the worst of players can knock one out of the park every now and then, so here’s to the ones that try breaking the mold.

May the spirit and charisma of Ninja Baseball Batman live on in all of us.

Originally published at popcandieent.blogspot.com on July 29, 2016.

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