24 Mar 2021 7:28 PM +00:00

RBI Baseball 21 Review: Ultimately flawed but fun

RBI Baseball 21 saw a worldwide release on March 16, 2021, and the MLB classic was poised to provide an arcade alternative to the massive MLB The Show 21 due out next month.

RBI Baseball 21 landed with a much more affordable price and more platforms to choose from, but did it ultimately deliver on the quick and fun gameplay that was promised?

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First Impressions

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you can tell right from the beginning that RBI Baseball 21 is a bit of a lesser option when compared to the impending MLB The Show 21.

Even on a base model PS4, the game seems to inexplicably crop the screen, with gameplay existing in a smaller landscape without using the full screen, which the software is able to utilize in some modes.

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UNDERUTILIZED: There was no graphics setting to fix the blank space around the screen

RBI Baseball 21 leads with a tutorial, offering new players an overview of the gameplay mechanics including batting, pitching, and fielding.

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The tutorial itself is understandable and helpful, with the ability to replay each action until you are sure you've got a grasp on it and are ready to move forward.

Players familiar with the title can exit out of it and head right into the action, and it can take less than a minute to go from the main menu to being at bat in an exhibition game.

Gameplay

RBI Baseball 21 absolutely feels like a callback to its arcade roots, with the gameplay feeling simple but challenging at the same time.

Pitching offers a selection of up to eight pitches, depending on the pitcher, and you determine pitching speed and the area you're aiming for.

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FAST START: RBI Baseball 21 doesn't take long to get rolling

Hitting is easy to learn but hard to master, with the use of different buttons for different types of swings, but nailing the timing on them takes time to excel at.

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Fielding is the area where the gameplay suffers a bit, as it is incredibly easy to lose track of who is running for the ball, and the streamlined style makes it so one hiccup in fielding that may not even be the fault of the player can trigger a series of runs from an opponent.

READ MORE: Pinpoint Pitching and PAR ready to impress in MLB The Show 21

While it can be possible to get a basic grasp on the overall gameplay inside of the first inning of an exhibition game, or even only the tutorial, there's definitely more to learn to truly master the title.

Game Modes

On top of the ability to play a pickup exhibition game right from the main menu, RBI Baseball 21 has three different game modes along with the title's creation suite.

Create-A-Player

While not technically a game mode, Create-A-Player was boasted as one of the highlights of the title prior to release.

While it's certainly easy to use, the actual creation options available for your player are more limited than most would hope.

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LIMITED CHOICE: Create-A-Player had disappointingly few options

In Create-A-Player, there are 27 head models to pick from, but just 12 batting stances, 10 facial hair styles, 5 hairstyles, and 5 pitching delivery styles.

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Choices for the gear your player wears aren't too extensive either, but the creation suite does allow an easy to understand mode where players can make themselves, a fictional player, or try to recreate legends of the past.

Speaking of the game's Legends Roster, it is actually fairly extensive when it comes to names and models built into the title, but RBI Baseball 21 didn't apparently get rights to any photos of any of those Legends, so even the pre-built ones end up feeling a bit too generic.

Franchise Mode

One of the highlights of any baseball sim should be the Franchise Mode, and RBI Baseball 21's presentation is simple but fair.

It's not too difficult to get a Franchise started, and you have the option of pursuing the Franchise Mode forward in up to 10 seasons.

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THE LONGHAUL: Franchise Mode offers players a long-term challenge

Upon creation, the length of a season can be made to include all possible games, or shrunk to just 52 games, but there is no clear option to skip or simulate games, and every single one has to be played in full.

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READ MORE: MLB The Show 21 set to bring back March to October

While Franchise Mode could use some more polishing, it would be easy for players to dive into it and really push themselves to provide consistency throughout the duration of a Franchise, and would take a solid time investment.

Home Run Derby

While it may seem like one of the simplest game modes that can be provided, Home Run Derby is absolutely where RBI Baseball 21 starts to shine.

Players have the option of choosing anyone from the current MLB rosters or one of the names from the Legends Roster to take on a single-elimination tournament styled Home Run Derby.

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ENJOY THE VIEW: It never got old to watch a home run fly across the Houston skyline

The game defaults to three rounds, with four minutes each time to hit as many home runs as possible, and it can be incredibly rewarding to start getting into a rhythm and land four or five home runs in a row.

Even with the simple style, it remains challenging as one miss can throw off that rhythm and make the whole thing spiral, but Home Run Derby is without a doubt the most fun I had playing RBI Baseball 21, and a mode I'll continue to come back to for a short and fun challenge.

Online Play

The final Game Mode in RBI Baseball 21 is Online Play, and this is one that really started to struggle before I could even get into a game.

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SEARCHING: Early attempts couldn't find any opponents

In attempts to find an Online Play opponent in the afternoon, evening, and early morning, half a dozen tries found no opponent and couldn't start a game.

When one was finally found for the first time, things started good but went off the rails when some major glitches interfered with the gameplay.

After a whiffed outfield play led my opponent to go up 5-0 in the first inning, the game seemed to think I wanted to quit, and left an inexplicable bar across the screen for the rest of the game while keeping a Quit Game option in the bottom left.

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GLITCH CITY: Multiplayer started to break fairly quickly

This was to be done with the Circle button, which meant all in-game mechanics using the Circle button no longer worked, and the bar impeded vision throughout.

Eventually, I chose to quit the game, but the title froze and had to be force closed to get out of Online Play.

Verdict

RBI Baseball 21 is available for only $29.99, and despite the game's flaws, that feels like a fair price for what remains a really fun arcade-style baseball sim with potential to improve through updates.

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FLAWED BUT FUN: RBI Baseball 21 isn't perfect, but still delivers

The game's issues with Online Play could be helped as more players get the title, and with a future patch, but the title still excels in places like Home Run Derby and easy to understand but difficult to master gameplay.

On top of that, RBI Baseball 21 is currently the only option for players on Nintendo Switch and PC, with MLB The Show 21 not yet announced for those platforms.

RBI Baseball 21 could be better, but it's far from a waste if you're looking for some quick baseball fun to spice up your sports gaming.

RealSport Rating: 3 stars (out of five)

READ MORE: MLB The Show 21 vs. RBI Baseball 21, Make Your Pick

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