Publisher: MLB Advanced Media
Developer: MLB Advanced Media
Release: March 16th, 2021
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PlayStation 4, Android, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One
RBI Baseball 21 has certainly made some improvements from last year, with the inclusion of an announcer and time of day changes. And while the improvements are very welcome, there is still quite a bit that the game struggles with that keeps it from getting a solid A grade.
Let’s start with the positive. As mentioned, this year RBI Baseball 21 includes the voice of Fran Charles of MLB Network, providing commentary on the games. While there are some improvements to be made on this feature (I’ll get to that in a moment) it’s a nice touch to make the game have more of a realistic feel.
Also included in this year’s release is a time of day change feature, which means that the time will progress as you play through a game. If the game starts in late afternoon, by the end of the game, you’ll be in early evening, and the sky reflects the changes in the time of day.
New to this year’s installment are some features around game play as well, a “modern” mode is introduced for pitching, batting and fielding. The modern pitching feature feels good, each pitcher has a certain number of different pitches, and depending on their confidence level for each pitch, they’ll exert different amounts of the pitcher’s energy. Higher confidence levels mean less energy is used. After you select your pitch, you will decide where the pitch should be placed, using one of the joysticks, while holding down the B button on the Switch to determine how much power you will put behind the pitch. The longer you hold down the button, the more the inner circle fills up, reaching the outer ring of the circle will mean that you put forth the most energy on that pitch. For pitches that you have high confidence with, you won’t need to hold down the button as long to reach the outer rim of the circle. By far, the pitching is the best aspect of the game.
Modern batting on the other hand needs some improvements. With the modern batting feature, you utilize three different buttons, B button for “normal swing”, Y button for “power swing”, and X button for “contact swing”. This is all fine except for the fact that you can’t move your batter in the modern batting feature, and this ruined the whole batting experience for me at first. Thank goodness the developers included different gameplay options, and once I found one that best suited my needs (ability to move my batter around, although the feature only allowed for one button instead of all three different types of swings) I found the game to be much more enjoyable.
Another positive aspect is the inclusion of sliders, which is a much needed feature, considering fielding in this game is so slow on the default setting. With the sliders you can make the fielders go much more quickly. Other features that have been included are online capability, home run derby, and exhibition mode. Franchise mode is probably where you are going to spend most of your time with this game. You can adjust how many games will be played in a season. The franchise mode is ten seasons long. Another addition is the ability to create a player, so if you want to play on your favorite team, now you can.
While there are a lot of positives in the game, it’s not without its flaws. I love the fact that there is an inclusion of an announcer, but the announcer feels robotic at times, saying the same phrases over and over. The announcer would even sometimes say things that didn’t make sense. For instance, when the top of the inning ended, the announcer started to talk about how the runner was thrown out at third base, but that wasn’t happening, nor was that the reason the inning ended. Another flaw is the displaying of the stats. Baseball is all about stats and it’s cool to see the stats of the batter display for the game and for the season, but only when it works. Many times, the stats under the batter would just say “season” and nothing else would display.
The animation also feels clunky and overused. Every time I hit a home run, my teammates would point to their elbow for an elbow bump, the same exact animation every single time. After winning a game, the animation would be the same as well, a half hearted fist bump into the air, even after winning a game in extra innings.
Probably the biggest issue of the game is the fielding. Besides the fact that fielders run too slow on the default setting, the animation is just off. There will be many, many times where the ball looks like it should be a line drive past an outfielder, and yet, somehow the fielder magically caught the ball. If the fielder is just near the ball, they will make a catch, but the animation is so clunky that you can’t tell what just happened. It’s too bad too, because while the other glitches in the game can be overlooked, the fielding just feels so off that it can ruin the experience.
Final Grade: C+