Review – Super Mega Baseball 2
It’s a strange market out there for Baseball games. With it being “America’s favorite pastime” there really isn’t all that many options for Baseball sims outside of MLB: The Show. What makes it more strange is that Sony doesn’t even own exclusive licensing with the MLB like EA does with the NFL for its Madden franchise. There is no doubt that MLB: The Show reigns supreme to where even 2K backed out of the race just a few years ago. But that means if you don’t own a PlayStation your options are very limited. The R.B.I Baseball series hasn’t exactly been stellar, but in 2014 a quirky Baseball game hit the market and it turns out to be pretty dang fantastic. Super Mega Baseball is a wonderful blend of arcade and sim, but it lacked a bit in both game modes and features. 4 years later we now have the sequel and not only that, it also debuted as a Games with Gold free title.
With a name like Super Mega Baseball you’d probably venture to guess that it would be a very arcadey game and while it doesn’t feature licensed teams and a pure sim feel, it’s actually much deeper than one would assume. On the surface it may look like a silly arcade game, but thanks to an impressive physics model, you actually get a decent sim feel with the gameplay. Being able to guide where your swing goes you can effectively make hard cuts and place balls where you’d want them. Now that is obviously easier said then done, but the point is, it won’t just be an arcade home run derby due to accurate ball and hit physics.
Where the offense does have an arcadey feel is in the different options to hit. You can hold ‘A’ for a regular hit, or take a chance on building a power meter for a big hit. Holding ‘X’ will build a power meter and letting go will swing, but be careful when you start holding ‘X’. Start too soon and the meter will start decreasing once it hits maximum power. You also have the ability to hold ‘B’ to bunt and moving the bat towards the top of the ball is advantageous to drive the ball into the ground instead of popping it up.
Some actions on offense are handled automatically like running to the next base, but if the hit is caught for an out, you’ll need to tell your players to double back. You’ll be able to advance to a base as well if you hit a perfect line drive, or command a runner to steal a base. You also have the option to substitute players or change your batting order, but the game does a well enough job sorting that automatically.
Where you’ll get a more arcadey feel is when you’re playing defense. Pitching has a bit more flair with the overall ball movement of the types of pitches. You’ll select a type of pitch with the Right Stick, aim it where you want to throw it and then hold ‘X’ or ‘A’ to start the pitch. Unlike batting, where the aim courser will track to the ball a bit, pitching needs to be navigated a lot more. The closer you get to the sweet spot the more power and accuracy you’ll have.
Everything I have talked about so far works very well, it’s fun and uses a bit of skill to get use to, however, the outfield is where it still feels a bit janky. No matter how use to the pitching system you get, there will be times where you mess up and the hitter is going to smack one. When the batter hits a good hit, things will slow down a bit giving you an opportunity to react. You’ll have the option to dive or jump for the ball, but this is where it can get a bit frustrating. There has been multiple times that I have dove for a ball to only miss the ball by it hitting my forearm or chest because there is no way of adjusting dive distance.
The outfielders will auto run to the ball, but in harder difficulties you’ll want to take control because their positioning accuracy and run speed decrease unless you take control of them. The characters will automatically catch the ball, but there are skill variables in play whether they will actually catch the ball or fumble it a little. Much like the batting, you can pre-charge a throw by holding the appropriate base button so when you catch or grab the ball you can immediately throw it with full power. However, charging too soon will cause the power to go down which will ruin your throw and usually let the runner take another base.
Super Mega Baseball 2 offers a few new modes, features and a ton more customization options. You’ll be able to make your own team from scratch, even creating a custom logo and color designs. Like the first game you can edit each of your players appearance and names as well, but there are a lot more options this time around. As far as game modes you can completely customize your league games for total matches, innings, teams, conferences etc. Play online head-to-head exhibition matches, ranked Pennant Race that tracks your online records, or the standard season mode. There are a lot more options this time around, but I feel like it still could have had more. For a game that dances on the line of arcade and sim, why doesn’t it have a home run derby or other fun arcade type modes?
The Ego meter doesn’t seem to have gotten any updates, maybe just some small tweaks, but that is because the system was pretty much flawless already and a fantastic feature of this game. For those who haven’t played the first game, the Ego meter is essentially your difficulty settings. You can set the Ego meter anywhere in between 1-99, 99 obviously being the hardest (and quite frankly seemingly impossible), and 1 being the easiest. As you increase the meter you opponents get tougher, your ball tracking for hits and pitches becomes slower and your outfielders auto run and catching is not as reliable. However, what makes this so unique is the ability to customize your ego to your own personal challenge if you’re hitting too many home runs, raise your batting ego to give yourself more of a challenge without raising your pitching or out fielding ego if your not as good at that. This is also great for new players playing with more experienced players, that way new players can still feel like they’re keeping up. The higher your Ego, the higher your score multiplier goes giving you more points for Pennant Race or to compare against your friends and leaderboards.
The graphics have had a nice overhaul, but still aren’t exactly impressive. The character models have a more realistic body shape and size than the previous game’s dwarf characters. Even with this update, the models still retain their cartoony style which is fine, but I wish there was more work done on their movements as they’re still very stiff. The stadiums are well done with plenty of details and the art design pops with a bright and bold color pallet.
If there is one section that I’m very disappointed in, it’s the sound design. Hitting, pitching, and catching all sound fine, the crack of the bat is satisfying, but everything else is lacking. There isn’t much of a soundtrack, but there are a few intro songs for when a player comes to bat. The only voice over is when the umpire will call a ball or strike and the only time announcing is heard is when a new batter comes to plate and even then, all that is mentioned is the position they play. There isn’t any announcement or big crowd cheer when you hit that long home run, instead it just falls flat and these moments could have had a larger impact with even some basic announcements.
While it may not be able to compete with MLB: The Show in total quality, presentation and features, Super Mega Baseball 2 is a fantastic alternative. There is still plenty it could improve upon that would enhance the overall feel, but it is a solid mix of arcade and sim Baseball. If you don’t have a PS4 and are looking for a Baseball fix, I highly recommend picking this up.
The color pallet is bold and colorful, and while the character models have a deliberate art design, they still look strange and stiff.
The gameplay is largely unchanged from the first game and that isn’t a terrible thing. There have been slight quality of life improvements.
Unfortunately this is one part of the sequel that hasn’t been touched and still needs some major improvements. The lack of even a basic announcer is noticeable.
Fun Factor: 8.5
Returning players will immediately feel at home as not much has changed to the gameplay. But what we did get are some much needed additional options to game modes and customizations.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Reviewed on Xbox One.
Super Mega Baseball 2 is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC