Ninja Baseball Bat Man, known in Japan as Yakyū Kakutō League Man (野球格闘リーグマンYakyū Kakutō Rīgu Man?, "Baseball Hand-to-Hand Fighting League Man"), is a 1993 belt scrolling beat 'em up developed and published by Irem exclusively as an arcade game. It is the fourth arcade game by IREM to use a belt scroll perspective, following Blade Master, Hook and Undercover Cops.
[hide] *1 Gameplay
The game allows up to four players to play simultaneously. Each player chooses from among four characters. The object of the game is to recover various artifacts stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame, a task prescribed to them by the Commissioner of Baseball. Each stage takes place in several parts of the United States, while a boss character will appear at the end of each stage, which requires player(s) to defeat it. Like in most video games, whether the player fails or successfully beats the game, he or she will type in three letters or other text characters in to record their score.
Like Irem's previous beat 'em up arcade Undercover Cops, Ninja Baseball Bat Man features playable characters with several different fighting moves performed by inputting several commands using an 8-way joystick and two buttons (attack and jump), including "smart bomb" or "screen zapper" moves that sacrifices health in order to annihilate every enemy on the screen. The game also allows players to perform combos, throws and dash attacks against several enemies. When a player's health bar flashes red, more moves can be performed as long as the player does not restore or completely lose health. There are items throughout the game that include American and Japanese food for restoring health, alternate weapons such as baseballs and shurikens, or items that call cheerleaders to either obliterate enemies on screen or drop a large amount of food. There are also mini-games after each boss before the final one is defeated.
- Captain Jose (6'1", 174 lbs), known in Japan as Captain Red - The head of the team and a "technician". He is well-balanced, making him the best choice for beginners. His hat has a letter "I".
- Twinbats Ryno (5'7", 145 lbs), known in Japan as Twinbats Green - He is a "speedy attacker" that wields two bats, but is the weakest of the four. His hat has a letter "R".
- Beanball Roger (5'9", 240 lbs), known in Japan as Beanball Yellow - He is a "powerful buster", but not as fast as others. His hat has a letter "E".
- Stick Straw (7'2", 194 lbs), known in Japan as Stick Blue - He is a "long-reach hitter", making him the best choice for players who want to fight with long-range moves. His hat has a letter "M".
Irem America opened its U.S. office in 1988 in Redmond, Washington, headed up by Frank Ballouz (founder of FABTEK, a thriving video kit company and former North American publisher of several arcades by Seibu Kaihatsu and TAD Corporation) and National Sales Manager Drew Maniscalco. During this time, Drew created the "Ninja Baseball Bat Man" video game concept (including the English title, plot and characters) and licensed it to Irem America in 1991. To illustrate the characters' sketches, Drew hired Gottlieb's well-known pinball artist, Gordon Morison.
Drew's concept came up after he read the top grossing films during its time in a USA Today newspaper. One was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the other was one of the Batman films (possibly Batman Returns). After that, he started creating his own superhero influenced by what he saw in the USA Today newspaper. During the development of his concept, he liked the word "ninja", because of it sounding mysterious to him. He gave the protagonists baseball bats and baseballs as their main weapons, as well as dressing them in baseball uniforms, because Drew is a baseball fan. Drew thought the baseball bat idea was also probably an influence from the 1973 film Walking Tall. The word "Man" in the title comes from an actor who starred in the film known as Joe Don Baker, who's superhero was a man. This was also how he came up with the game's English title. In Japan however, Irem of Japan's staff came up with the game's Japanese name as a reference to numerous tokusatsutelevision shows, most notably the Super Sentai series. Drew later created the concept for the other characters such as enemies. To illustrate the characters' sketches, Drew hired Gottlieb's well-known pinball artist, Gordon Morison.
Drew's original gameplay ideas for the video game was for a 1-player, adventure-based, platform game similar to Nintendo's "Super Mario Bros.". However, due to the very successful game sales of several 4-player games (most of them being beat 'em ups), Drew added 3-players in an effort to compete with the 4-player games. While the title and characters were Drew's concept, Irem Japan programmed the arcade game, and modified the look of its prototype. Drew did not mind it being different, as he was thrilled about it being programmed by them.
During the development of the two-player platform version, the two main characters were named "Willie" and "Mickey", named after Drew's two favorite baseball players of his childhood, Willie Mays andMickey Mantle. During the development of the 4-player beat 'em up version, the prototype names of the four main characters were Captain Jeff (red), Nunchaks Sugar (green), Hammer' Eddy (yellow) and Naginata Jimmy (blue). Drew later came up with the final names of the four protagonists that are currently used in the finished version today, which the names are references to the four baseball stars during the arcade game's release: Jose Canseco (red), Ryne Sandberg (green), Roger Clemens (yellow) and Darryl Strawberry (blue). In Japan, their last names were changed to the names of their colors.
A year after its concept was created and a year before it was released, despite it being interesting in his opinion, Drew left the company in 1992 and moved to Data East USA. Because of that, he was unable to market nor manage any other input related to the game. However, according to his interview with Gameroom magazine, he now owns the rights to Ninja Baseball Bat Man's non-video game products, while Irem Japan owns the rights to its video game content.
During its release in 1993, despite being one of the top arcade hits of Japan while receiving good reviews from critics, when compared to the sales of other kits sold at the time, it sold poorly in theFar East and especially North America. Of the 1042 units sold, only 43 units were sold in North America, making "Ninja Baseball Bat Man" quite rare (especially in the U.S.). Drew "was very disappointed with the effort by the US office." Despite all of this, the popularity of the arcade emulator created four years later in 1997 titled MAME caused Ninja Baseball Bat Man to gain more popularity than the arcade game's original release. Unfortunately, it isn't completely accurate to the arcade version when comparing it to video recordings of one of its PCBs.
The arcade flyers for Ninja Baseball Bat Man has advertisements for Irem's three other video games and franchises: Hammerin' Harry, Undercover Cops and R-Type III: The Third Lightning. An advertisement poster for Mahou Keibitai Gun Hoki (known as Mystic Riders outside of Japan), another arcade game by Irem, appears in the first stage of Ninja Baseball Bat Man.
- ^ Game profile at MAWS
- ^ Gameroom magazine 22: 19–21. September 2010.
- ^ Gameroom magazine 22: 20–21. September 2010.
- ^ a b Gameroom magazine 22: 20–21. September 2010.
- ^ Gameroom magazine 22: 21–22. September 2010.
- ^ a b c d Gameroom magazine 22: 22. September 2010.
- ^ Gameroom magazine 22: 20. September 2010.
- ^ Gameroom magazine 22: 22–23. September 2010.
- ^ Game Machine Magazine. January 1, 1994.
- ^ Gameroom magazine 22: 23. September 2010.