Friday, April 22, 2011

Famicom Baseball! Reflections on the Art and More Japanese Video Game Slang

Spring is my favorite season of all. Mainly for the warm weather. But also because it is when my favorite sport of all starts up again: baseball!

The Famicom has an awful lot of baseball games for it. I'm pretty sure there are more Famicom baseball games than any other single type of game. This makes sense as Baseball is definitely the most popular sport in this country (yet another reason why I like living here).

In the comments section of my last post on Ice Climber Nate astutely pointed out that there are a lot of interesting Famicom slang related to Namco's Family Stadium series of baseball games, which were the most popular baseball games on the Famicom (Jaleco's Moero Pro Yakyuu was also popular though). So I thought I would do a post here about Famicom baseball. In the first part of this post I offer some thoughts on the genre of Famicom baseball games and their artistic qualities. In the second part I offer a continuation of my series on Japanese Famicom slang with some entries on baseball games.

First, a little word about Famicom baseball and Family Stadiumin particular:
If you were a baseball loving kid in the English speaking world in the 80s as I was, you probably longed to play this game's American release, Tengen's R. B.I. Baseball. This is a really great game, partly because it just plays well, but also because it was the game that used actual Major League player names rather than just generic ones.

I didn't have this game as a kid. Instead I had Bases Loaded 3, which used generic teams and player names, much to my disappointment. That game had its predecessor on the Famicom in Jaleco's Moero Pro Yakyuu:Not a bad game. This one holds the record for being the cheapest Famicom game I have ever purchased: 10 yen. It actually had a "10 yen" price tag on it and everything.

Anyway, a lot of people criticize older Baseball (and other sports games) for not aging well. The clumsy graphics and controls are no match for today's games. I have to admit that this is one of the few genres (along with racing games) where I fully acknowledge and embrace the newer consoles. About the only games I play on my PS2 are Baseball and racing games. Still though, I could never completely abandon my old Famicom baseball games.

One of the main points of brilliance in the early baseball video games is their coincidental similarities with American folk artist's rendering of baseball games. Look at this painting by the brilliant Ralph Fasanella ("Night Game - 'tis a bunt"):
Doesn't that field with those players bear a strong resemblance to the way early baseball video game designers made their field's look? The simplicity brings to mind Nintendo's first baseball game on the Famicom (the descriptively titled "Baseball"):The elements of folk art aren't just found in the games but on their labels as well. Probably the best in my opinion is an obscure old game called Chounin Ultra Baseball:
The use of color is perfectly balanced on that cover art. The simplicity of the background and the bold, yellow letters perfectly compliments the detail on the player's jersey and the look of determination on his face. I really love this cart.

OK, now on with the baseball slang. Courtesy of Tatta Hitori no Famicom Shonen's excellent glossary of terms. In no particular order:

コントローラー落とし ("Controller Otoshi") - when you are about to lose, you drop your controller on the Famicom, causing it to stop working, thus nullifying the game's results. Literally "Controller drop".

侍打法 ("Samurai Dahou") - I have a little trouble understanding the precise meaning of this as it is written, but basically this is a type of hit where you stop the bat at one of the corners of the plate. Literally "Samurai hit".

ハットリ打法 ("Hattori Dahou") - another name for a hit similar to Samurai Dahou. The name comes from the game Ninja Hattori Kun.

ピッピ ("Pi-pi") - The sound the pitcher makes in Family Stadium. Can be used in a sentence like "Does anyone want to Pi-pi?" (ie does anyone want to pitch?). Of course in English if you ask that it sounds like you are asking if anyone wants to urinate, so you should probably use this with extreme caution.

武士なさ (Bushi nasa") - This took me a bit of time to figure out, but basically it means to have mercy on your opponent. Like if it is the 9th inning with two outs and your opponent hits a fly ball to right that will end the game, you might choose to let it drop instead. Comes from an old Samurai expression ("Bushi" is another word for Samurai).

雨天中止 ("Utenchuushi") - literally "game called due to rain". Use this phrase when you are losing (and frustrated) and hit the "reset" button. Can also use "teiden" (blackout), "Bochittona" (a word that mimics the sound of a button being pushed) or "hekkushon" (Achooooo!).

Related Posts

Dining a la carte: Ice Climber Famicom Japanese

Famicom History Part 2: Japanese Famicom Slang 101


  1. I have to admit that I'm not the biggest baseball fan in the world. That said, I do like the labels on these games! The one on Chounin Ultra Baseball is my favorite.

    Also, I love the slang related to these games. I *totally* would have used "utenchuushi" on my friends back in the day :)

    BTW, I recently ordered CIB copies of the Pulse Line versions of Baseball and Golf, so soon my Pulse Line collection will be complete!

  2. Yeah, that Chounin Ultra baseball one is pretty cool!

    Great to hear that you will finally be completing the Pulse line collection! Well done!!

  3. Baseball fro NES is will always be special to me. I always mimic the sound when you get three strikes...Woop-woo, woop-woo, Waorm-wout!

  4. BTW, Sean: Is Chounin Ultra baseball actually any good as a game?

  5. Jason - yeah, that is a sweet sound! I love how they try to replicate the human voice of the umpire!

    Bryan - yes, it is a pretty decent baseball game actually. Its one of the better Famicom ones out there, very similar to Family Stadium actually. You can choose the type of stadium you play in, which is a nice bonus.

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  7. I've never gotten into baseball despite an attempt to do so. I did have World Series Baseball '97 on my Saturn though :) I definitely agree with you regarding the racing games though, as you probably know. I love these slangs as well, highly amusing :)

  8. LOL, yes I 've noticed you put up a lot of racing game related reviews!

    Baseball is a sport that is more of an acquired taste rather than something people will instinctively like the first time they see it. This goes for video game versions of the sport as well, so I'm not surprised that it didn't take with you!