Today in retro gaming, we celebrate the release of Bottom of the 9th ’99. This was the last of Konami’s baseball games released in their ‘XXL Sports’ series. It made its final play for the pennant on August 31st, 1998, the same day Rickey Henderson of the Oakland Athletics scored his 2,000th career home run. Sadly Bottom of the 9th ’99 wasn’t anywhere near as exciting.
Strike one: licensing. Konami had the endorsement of the MLBPA which allowed them to use real player names, but they lacked the license to the actual team names and logos from Major League Baseball. So while they could put Brady Anderson’s name and picture on the cover, they couldn’t reference the fact he played for the Orioles.
Strike two: Bottom of the 9th ’99 was inferior graphically to both of its competitors. It has both a choppier frame rate and lower player polygon count than 989 Studios’ MLB 99 and EA Sports’ Triple Play 99.
Strike three: The AI in Bottom of the 9th ’99 is challenging at lower difficulty levels, and downright ruthless at higher ones. Players new to video game baseball will take a major league shellacking until they get their heads wrapped around the pitching and hitting controls. People who aren’t baseball fans won’t even be able to enjoy it as a respectable diversion with their friends on a rainy day.
But every baseball game can’t be a grand-slam. Konami tried hard with this one, including an announcer who called the plays with a great degree of accuracy, a practice mode to let you get the hang of pitching, hitting and fielding, the full 1998 season starting roster, and even a simulation mode that put you in control of a series of real historical game situations to see if you could make the play. In the end though, it wasn’t enough and the umpires of video gaming sent Konami’s baseball dreams back to the locker room. Here’s the ad promising the power play that ultimately turned into a walk: