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The Retro Video Game Quarantine Rolls On. Next Up to Bat? NES R.B.I. Baseball

The Deadspin Sports Quarantine Nintendo Club so far has featured Ice Hockey and 10-Yard Fight, both resulting in losses to a computer with varying degrees of enjoyment along the way. Will your humble, terrible-at-video-games correspondent have any better luck with RBI Baseball?

No, but let’s do this thing anyway.

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One of the Internet’s crowning achievements is the RBI Baseball recreation of the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, with Vin Scully’s call overlaid on the action as it unfolds in large video-game pixels. It engenders nostalgic joy on a multitude of levels, and in so doing, makes you forget many of the flaws of the video game itself.

I’m playing with the Mets and taking on the Red Sox, because why not? Well, a good reason why not would be to avoid what’s about to happen, but that’s not really what you think of when you start playing a video game.

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It starts very poorly for the Mets, as Roger Clemens works a 1-2-3 inning. There’s only one strikeout, so at least I’m making contact, which bodes well, or so I think. Then comes the bottom of the inning.

After Dwight Gooden strikes out Marty Barrett leading off, Bill Buckner comes up and hits what appears to be a routine ground ball to shortstop. Rafael Santana fields, throws, and… Buckner is safe at first. Bill Buckner. That Bill Buckner. The Bill Buckner who, in real life, was so physically broken in 1986 that… you know. He’s on first base.

And Buckner can run at whatever speed he wants after that, because Wade Boggs takes Gooden deep. The handy scoreboard clock shows that I’m losing after one minute of gameplay.

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I’m worried that this is going to turn into a blowout without ever having had the chance to score like I did in 10-Yard Fight. But Gooden settles into a groove, and the question becomes whether I’ll be able to get a hit off of Clemens.

Ray Knight becomes the Mets’ first baserunner when Boggs boots a ground ball, but that only leads to a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play due to Rafael Santana being awful and some accidental button mashing to send Knight. The hit does come in the fourth inning, a check swing dribbler off the bat of Keith Hernandez on which he somehow has time to round first base and think about second before the ball is fielded. The left side of the infield is just a funnel for cheap hits in this game, which… did anyone bother to test this game before it was released?

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Illustration for article titled The Retro Video Game Quarantine Rolls On. Next Up to Bat? NES R.B.I. Baseball

It’s not how I wanted to get a hit, but the way things are going, I’ll take it. It’s also, somehow, enough to get Clemens out of the game in the fourth inning. The computer brings in Bruce Hurst, who proves just as dominant.

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Also on the list of nagging annoying things here, Jim Rice leads off the fourth with a single off Gooden, bringing Don Baylor to the plate. Do you notice anything wrong in the realism department here?

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Maybe the technology wasn’t there to assign skin tones to individual players, but making “peachy white dude” the default was a choice on its own. Anyway, I’m just getting grouchy as this game continues to be frustrating. Baylor hits into a 1-6-3 double play, which doesn’t really make the predicament feel any better — how can I turn that, but the routine grounder in the first inning wound up a base hit? That’s why I’m down by two instead of one after that fat pitch to Boggs.

In the seventh, Hurst fades. Is that why Clemens came out so soon? Why would starting pitchers be programmed to fall apart so quickly? This is a game from the ‘80s, and each team only has four pitchers anyway. I took out Gooden after five for a pinch-hitter, but he did seem to still be going well at the time.

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Gary Carter rips a double down the left field line, and Darryl Strawberry follows by blasting a Hurst offering on a line drive all the way to the wall in right-center field. The triple gets the Mets on the board, with the tying run at third base!

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Wally Backman, somehow batting between Strawberry and Knight, pops up in foul territory to end the threat.

Because the universe has a sense of humor, the Red Sox bring in Calvin Schiraldi to face Knight in the eighth inning. Is this my chance? Absolutely not.

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Illustration for article titled The Retro Video Game Quarantine Rolls On. Next Up to Bat? NES R.B.I. Baseball

Schiraldi works a 1-2-3 eighth inning, including a strikeout of Howard Johnson, pinch-hitting for Bobby Ojeda. That’s important, because I only have two pitchers left, Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell. I pick Orosco because, for obvious reasons, he’s always been my favorite. And I’m so sorry about what happens next in this game, although I blame the makers of RBI Baseball entirely, and myself not at all.

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The way it goes down is a blur, but there are pop flies that drop right in front of fielders, an utter biffing of a ball by… you know what, I don’t know whether the game has Mookie Wilson or Dykstra in left field, let’s say Dykstra because he’s been a worse human being over the last 34 years … and then the big blow. There already are two runs in when Dwight Evans hits one way the hell out.

All of this happens — and the next two runs in the seven-run meltdown — because someone made the decision to program Jesse Orosco as a submariner. Orosco wasn’t an over-the-top pitcher, but he definitely was not a submariner!

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Hernandez takes Schiraldi deep as consolation in the top of the ninth. It’s probably enough to get me to come back and play this game again, especially because the emulator site doesn’t have Bad News Baseball, any of the Bases Loaded games, LJN’s Major League Baseball, or Tecmo Baseball, all of which I always liked way more. RBI Baseball gets talked about as the best NES baseball game there was. It doesn’t even crack my top 5.

Cry about it. Like the Mets here.

Illustration for article titled The Retro Video Game Quarantine Rolls On. Next Up to Bat? NES R.B.I. Baseball

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