In 1976, an immodest Reggie Jackson told the Washington Post, "If I played in New York, they'd name a candy bar after me." He was right. The Reggie Jackson Bar premiered with the new season in 1978 at Yankee Stadium. In 1988, Jackson briefly considered playing in Japan, but never said, "If I played in Tokyo, Sega would name a game after me." They did anyway.
Reggie Jackson Baseball is Sega's second effort to bring the pastime to the Master System and it is a vast improvement to the misnomered Great Baseball released a year earlier?a game marred by sluggish control and awful sound. The fielders in Reggie Jackson Baseball are not necessarily swift, but they at least give the player a fighting chance to make outs. Its controls are self-explanatory and easy to learn. An automatic fielder option helps make this game a quick diversion, letting the player concentrate on hitting and pitching. With this helpful option, routine plays don't become inside the park homeruns. Let's face it, no one person should be responsible for an entire team's hitting, pitching, and fielding (though Bugs Bunny once did it in the Looney Toons episode entitled "Baseball Bugs").
Rather than opting for a pitcher's view (popularized by television broadcasts), the game prioritizes hitting by showing the field from behind home plate. Your swing is segmented into several stages, and if you hold down the "B" button, you'll take a full hack. Some pitches, however, come in at speeds excessive of 100 mph, so you may just want to take half-swings, especially with a two-strike count. The changes in speed are wickedly frustrating. One pitcher, for example, can range from 33 to 108 mph. You're not sure whether to stand back or flinch.
While no actual players are used in the game (not even Jackson himself!!), the managers bear resemblance to real skippers, including Jackson's personal favorite, Billy Martin. Most fans will recognize caricatures of Lasorda, LaRussa, and maybe even a bloated looking Jim Fregosi. Martin has a peculiarly worried look that make you wonder if he knows that Dallas Green is waiting in wings ready to take his job.
The game's most glaring problem lies in its colors. You would think the color scheme for a baseball game would be obvious, but fields come in red, yellow, and green. Seeing a red field, you may think you're playing Virtual Boy Baseball. The field color is randomly chosen, so a purist must keep resetting his console until he hits upon the lush verdure he remembers as a boy. A less obvious error in coloring occurs in the title screen: Reggie Jackson's eyes are blue! From Reggie's skin color, you know the game has brown in its color palette, but his eyes are bluer than Sinatra's. Weird.
This baseball simulation does have its share of innovations. Pop-up flies grow in perspective to the point of seeing the stitches rotate on the ball as it approaches the spectator from an aerial view?a nice touch. Cheerleaders spur on the home team to success (despite the fact that no American baseball team has a cheerleading squad.) It also adds an element of violence to the sport: every hit-batter results in an infield brawl while the injured batter is escorted out of the stadium on a stretcher. (The batter's name, however, is not removed from the roster next time through the order.) This garnish seems particularly strange since Jackson, himself, often tried to distance himself from his reputation as a hothead, especially after his ballyhooed encounters with Charlie Finely, Billy North, and Billy Martin.
The game was released outside of the United States as "American Baseball" which is a scary moniker because there might be some kid in Guatemala watching the bench-clearing brawl thinking that all Americans are short-fused lovers of violence with weak constitutions. He might have to play Cal Ripken Jr.'s Baseball just to undo that perception.
Unfortunately, sports games tend to have short lives since they are annually supplanted by superior products. Still, Reggie Jackson Baseball is still better than many 8-bit renditions of this beloved sport, and it may hold the attention of a sentimentalist for at least a couple of innings.