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Ninja Baseball Bat Man

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Released: 1993

Genre: Beat-’em-up

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Irem

Developer: Irem

Submitted by: Robert Frazer

I’m fortunate enough to live in a town with a genuine arcade – a Sega Park. Yes, those inexorable slot machines are steadily encroaching across the floor like Japanese knotweed, but they haven’t throttled the games entirely, and there’s a fair range of shooters, racers and mechanical games to satisfy a variety of tastes and keep the coins clinking. I’m compelled to spend a pound for a quick blast on Outrun 2 or Time Crisis whenever I pass by. At times it feels like an offering to my second church, if that doesn’t sound too blasphemous; others, tossing over a chit of charity to help a desperate man struggle on a few steps further. Either way, whenever I’m there my gaming is enhanced by the sensation that I’m contributing, participating in something a little grander than my own idle entertainment.

I get rewarded for my faithfulness as well. Despite my frequent visits, I don’t get bored – mainly because, thanks to that amazing magic of Retro Gaming (i.e., its low memory requirements compared to the resource-guzzling graphical fests of today), the selection is gargantuan! In the corner of the arcade is a sit-down universal Naomi-DX cabinet, containing a straining library of literally over a thousand titles.  I didn’t even think that so many Nineties arcade titles existed, let alone be able to play them all! It’s a magical mystery tour of classic gaming whenever I sit down to the machine, and this time I struck a home run with Ninja Baseball Bat Man.

NBBM is pretty unsophisticated technically – there’s no catalogue of combos and specials to master – but it succeeds with a wonderfully imaginative sense of quirky style.  It may look ‘merely’ cartoony, but NBBM is effusive with character; the primary colours are not garish, because great detail has been lavished on the game-world to give the graphics depth. The foe design is vivid, and they even show declining conditions as you beat them up – something that not even the ‘mature’ brawlers consider – and it makes the boss battles in particular, already impressive thanks to the giant sprites, gripping and stimulating confrontations.