There was a point in time when baseball video games for the larger, more powerful console systems made the jump from arcade action based loosely on the sport to more direct simulation. All-Star Baseball 2003 nearly makes that leap for the Game Boy Advance--it's fun, good-looking, and you'll be surprised at how much detail they've packed into the little cart.
If you've played any of the All-Star Baseball games for the consoles, you'll be familiar with the controls. The 3-D batting cursor, which tilts from left to right so you can pull the ball or slap it to the opposite field, is the same, though there's no hit-for-power option. The game also takes on the series' cumbersome baserunning controls. It's difficult to pull off a steal, but it can be done--which is better than on most handheld baseball games. One improvement is the tracking system for fielders, which draws a yellow dotted line between the fly ball and your outfielder. This is a big help, especially for such a small screen. There's also an auto-fielding option for those who would rather not bother.
The game gets a lot of mileage out of the GBA graphics thanks to some nice 2-D backdrops of all the MLB stadiums. Just don't expect Nomar Garciaparra's typical antics in the batter's box or Jeff Nelson's sidearm delivery. You can play and save full or half seasons--simulating any number of these games--or simply play a three-game series. The game even lets you manage your lineups for regular and interleague play and set your pitching rotation.
The game suffers, however, from some poor timing. Like most ASB games, hitters are at a disadvantage, as the pitches come to the plate too quickly to get a good read on them. Also, throws are disproportionately faster than base runners--we were able to turn a double play before we even had the controls down, and numerous shallow outfield hits ended with our runner getting thrown out at first.
Overall, though, this is a great sports game for the GBA--a category that has been poorly served for the unit in the past. --Porter B. Hall
- Great graphics
- Full-season play with auto simulation
- Team management functions, such as lineup cards and pitching rotations
- Cumbersome baserunning
- Odd timing issues
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