Monday, November 7, 2011

Nintendo Disney Baseball Game (ディズニー野球盤, 1960)

Some time ago, this blog featured a vintage Nintendo sports simulation game, called Nintendo's Baseball Board (任天堂の野球盤), dating from around 1965.

An earlier Nintendo game with the same baseball theme is Disney Baseball Game (ディズニー野球盤, which translates to Disney Baseball Board). Released in 1960, this is a candidate for Nintendo's earliest toy.

Disney Baseball Game by Nintendo (early 60s)

The art on the corrugated cardboard box shows Mickey Mouse in baseball attire, and the slogan「カーブがかかる!」, which means "Catch the curve [ball]!".

Two different models of Disney Baseball Game exist, and the example shown here is 'Version B' (B型). It's retail price was ¥600. The more expensive version A (¥1000) had a more advanced pitching mechanism and a gold coloured metal bat.

The side of the box contains the term「コリント式」, which means "Corinthian". This refers to the earliest pinball games; wooden boards with a playing field shaped by rows of nails (much like pachinko games), which were called Corinthian Bagatelle.

The box does not contain any noticeable Nintendo branding. The fact that this is a Nintendo game, is only apparent from the instruction leaflet, which clearly shows the famous Nintendo kanji (任天堂) as the producer of this game.

Although they may not actually manufactured it themselves, instead possibly subcontracting the work to Epoch, who produced very simliar games at the time. [Does anyone have definitive proof of this?]

Instruction leaflet, back

Disney Baseball Game is a mix between baseball and these early pinball games. It is a game for two players, who take turns batting and pitching. The batter has to aim for pits on the field to score points.

The game is made from plastic and wood, and shows its early 60s pedigree.

The flip-side of the game reveals a quite old-fashioned construction method

The blue "fence" around the playing field is actually nailed to the wooden construction, not something you would expect from a mass produced 60s toy.

Instruction leaflet, front

The field is adorned with a team of (Mickey) mouses playing against a team of (Donald) ducks. At the end of the 1950s, Nintendo had acquired a license from Disney to use their characters.

Initially, this license was used to decorate playing cards, but soon it was extended to (board) games. Disney Baseball Game is one of the early examples of this.

In the middle of the playing field (the pitcher's spot) a small canon-like piece is fixed, which is loaded with a small metal ball bearing. One of the two players will operate this, while the other will have to bat the ball after it has been fired.

The red-colored, spring-powered plastic bat is used to strike the ball.

The pitching device is operated by means of a small lever, which is placed behind the score-board at the far end of the playing field.

Obstructing the view this way, makes it more difficult for the player at the bat to time his shot, adding to the suspense.

The red lever is used to pitch the ball

Points are scored by aiming for the right pits on the field, while preventing the ball to land in either of the two green pits marked "out". Obviously, the value of points is higher for the more difficult to reach pits; from 20 points for the "short stop" pit, to 100 points for making to the "home run" pit.

The little grey metal box contains a magnet, used to curve the ball

The game was not named "catch the curve" for nothing, as a magnet underneath the playing field gives the metal balls a unpredictable swing when they are mid-way rolling to the batter.

Hitting the ball and aiming for the pits with the most points requires good reflexes. All in all a colorful and fun game.

Aiming the bat, ready to strike

For more information about this game, check out this post about Nintendo ads from 1960.

A thank you goes to Florent Gorges of Omake Books for explaining the meaning of the B型 label on the box.

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