In recent years, the Xbox One has offered a limited selection of baseball games to choose from. With the poorly received MLB 2K series ending prior to the launch of the Xbox One, and the always excellent MLB the Show series staying exclusive to the PlayStation console until 2021, there’s wasn’t much for baseball fans to enjoy on the Xbox. Enter Metalhead Studios’ Super Mega Baseball franchise, which looks like an arcade baseball game, but plays with the accuracy, depth, and detail of a true simulation. Six years after the launch of the first game, Metalhead has delivered Super Mega Baseball 3 this spring – but does it preserve the fun and excellence of the first two?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way right away. Super Mega Baseball 3, like the first two games, is not licensed by Major League Baseball, so you will not be able to play as the Yankees, Dodgers, or whoever your favorite team is. Likewise, the game does not contain any actual MLB players or stadiums. This might seem like a detractor to some, but it actually gives Metalhead the ability to be creative and have fun while still providing a great simulation baseball experience. That creativity is what helps Super Mega Baseball stand out.
Player design in the Super Mega Baseball franchise has always been cartoonish, and the player names have always been full of puns. Each team also has its own identity. My favorite, The Wideloads, is heavy on power but not good in speed. They also rely on decent starting pitching because the bullpen is not exactly great. Other teams will have great speed but no power, or great pitching but low contact. There will likely be a team that fits the way you like to play baseball most, and allows you to enjoy the experience.
The creative names given to the fictional players in the Super Mega Baseball universe give them each an identity and character all their own. They also stay on the same teams from game to game, so booting up a sequel for the first time almost feels like visiting some old friends you played past seasons with. Players like Ella Roids, Chugg Boubony, and Hack Liner are standouts on The Wideloads, just like other teams have players named Seymour Socks, Grump Everbright, and much more.
Players in Super Mega Baseball 3 also now have individual traits that will apply in different situations. For example, some players have better contact ratings on outside pitches or better power versus left handed pitchers. On the flip side, the traits can be negative, too. Players can have lowered contact with runners in scoring position because they’re not RBI producers. Pitchers can have lowered strikeout rates because they’re just not good at striking hitters out. These traits add another element of strategy to an already deep simulation experience.
Super Mega Baseball 3 has 14 different stadiums to play games in. Each provides a different aesthetic and feel, with different climates and locales represented. Apple Field clearly is set in New York City, while Sakura Hills is set in Japan, and the Bingata Bowl is completely enclosed. None of the stadiums offers any really significant change to the experience, but they offer a nice change in visuals that can help the experience. Besides, everyone has a favorite stadium, right?
Difficulty in Super Mega Baseball 3 is once again dictated by the EGO you select. EGO is a sliding scale from 1 to 99 that will control the difficulty you experience. Set it too low, and you’ll be crushing home run after home run. Too high, and you’ll be flailing away and humbly adjusting the slider back down. I played my first game at 15 EGO, and scored over 30 runs in nine innings. Anything over 20 is considered at least medium difficulty, but you won’t experience real resistance until you’re at a much higher EGO.
EGO also dictates how many star points you’re awarded for completing different things in-game. Star points are awarded for getting hits, striking out opposing batters, hitting home runs, and virtually anything else you can do on a baseball field. The star points get tallied over the course of a game, and your high score goes on a leaderboard that you can compare to your friends.
Controls in Super Mega Baseball 3 are as simple or complex as you want them to be. Hitting is as simple as pressing A on the Xbox controller to swing once you have moved the reticle to the point of contact. Same with pitching. Use the right stick to select a pitch, and left stick to select a location. Then press A to begin the motion while you land the reticle on the target, then press A one more time to deliver the pitch. If you want more immersion and choice, there’s an entire power pitching and swinging mechanic there too.
You can instruct your players to dive, advance bases or go back to their previous base with simple control schemes too. The newest introduction to Super Mega Baseball 3‘s controls is in the base stealing mechanic. One push of the button now sends your base runner on a steal attempt. This presents a mini game within the game that requires precise timing and execution to be successful, especially on higher EGO settings.
There are a good variety of modes to choose from in Super Mega Baseball 3. If you’re just looking to play one game, jump into Exhibition Mode. Season mode also returns in Super Mega Baseball 3, as does the ability to play a friend. The Elimination mode allows you to play in standard or custom tournaments with both local and online party play. If you’re looking to play online, then Pennant Race is the way to go. Pennant Race offers online competition using standard teams only, and matches players up based on ability. Based on your performance, you’ll earn rewards for your successes.
Franchise Mode, the new mode in Super Mega Baseball 3, is by far the biggest change from previous iterations. Franchise mode gives you the opportunity to scout, find, and develop new talent over numerous seasons. Players that are already developed will cost significantly more than players who need grooming. Player development consists of things like placing them on a red meat only diet – increasing their power but maybe lowering their speed. Players will also have traits to scout and consider when assembling your team.
Sequels to sports games often see fewer additions and innovations with each new iteration. That is true with Super Mega Baseball 3, but the additions in the game are significant and change the experience in a good way. Players, stadiums, and a wealth of modes bring fun to an excellent baseball sim that outshines all competition on the Xbox One. There’s no licensed teams or real MLB players, but you still won’t go wrong with Super Mega Baseball 3.
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Note: Metalhead Studios provided a copy for review purposes.