The landscape of gaming has changed dramatically over the last five years thanks to the capabilities of indie gaming studios giving us new content that is thoroughly fun and enjoyable. This can be seen in all genres of games, and the sports segment has had some gems come out as well. In December 2014, Metalhead Software released Super Mega Baseball (SMB for short), an ambitious title that looked to take the sport of baseball and make it enjoyable for anybody to jump in and play. The game’s wacky characters, easy pick-up-and-play controls and vintage feel of older arcade-like baseball games (think Backyard Baseball) was a runaway hit and earned Metalhead and its Super Mega Baseball series rave reviews.
Roughly four years later, we’ve now been introduced to the second iteration of the series, Super Mega Baseball 2 (SMB2). After several days of playing through the game and its modes, I can say without question that Metalhead has once again belted another fastball into the steamboat floating just outside of Emerald Diamond Stadium. Let’s take a look at SMB2 and see what makes it another home run smash.
What I Like
- Gameplay – Super Mega Baseball 2 is quite simply a fun game of baseball that anybody can pick up and play. The controls are simple, the silly character models are well done and refined in comparison to Super Mega Baseball, and the atmosphere in games themselves are great. All this being said, you get a surprisingly deep game despite its arcade-ish feel. Metalhead has done a spot-on job of increasing the realism of SMB2 while still allowing players to have lots of fun in the process.
- Controls Are Easy – As mentioned before, anybody can pick up SMB2 and play, and a large reason for that is the simplicity of the controls. Instead of looking around the game when I first got it, I decided to jump right in to an Exhibition game and get my feet wet. As fast as I got into said game, I was already picking up on the gameplay. Players are given quick instructions on how to hit, field and pitch, and the controls really are simple. Fielding is done automatically but still allows the player to take over in big-time moments, giving a slowed-down effect to react to the play at hand. Advanced players can still get a challenge as more refined control options are still accessible without making any changes. This comes into play when dealing with timing, which the sport of baseball relies on in terms of batting and some other areas.
- Don’t Get Fooled by SMB2’s Looks – As we saw in SMB and I’m already seeing quite quickly in SMB2, the game looks great and the stadiums also lend themselves well to the overall feel. The game looks like a great rendition of the next great baseball arcade smash hit. In this respect that’s where things start and end for the game. SMB2 plays a very polished (and surprisingly) realistically solid game of baseball. The ball moves and lofts in realistic fashion thanks to a nicely tuned physics model that mirrors real baseball. My impatience led me (quite a few times) to chop ground balls right to the first baseman as I swung at pitches jamming me inside. Not getting my swing timing right saw me turn a power swing into a wasted high pop up that resulted in easy outs for the CPU. When pitching, I was able to control the game flow (mostly) how I wanted to by working the plate and fooling batters with a mix of off-speed pitches, nasty locations and having the ball drop out with a mean forkball. The variety in the batting and pitching tilted to a much more realistic feel than I expected and I fully embraced this.
- Robust Customization Leads To A Personalized Experience – Sitting 20 games into my customized major league season, my Outlaws were really a team of the ages. Players named after my real-life friends and family members, all pumped up with perfectly molded skills equates to a team that dominates the league. The customization in Super Mega Baseball 2 looks light on the surface, but there is really a surprising amount of depth to this feature of the game. And when I say surprising, looking at each individual team that comes pre-assembled in the game and being able to edit not only those teams in complete fashion, but creating your own teams and editing those completely, was really refreshing for me. Creating a custom season allows all aspects of the league to be customized including teams, divisions, conferences and games in the season; you can have anywhere from 2 to 200 games in a respective season. You can also copy the format of a season you’ve created that works well and start from scratch. Player customization is simple and well handled, and the same can be said for team customization and creation. You can take an existing in-game logo and edit it, or can create your own using elements in the game to have a new, original team logo. The options are vast and makes things fun.
- The Ego System Tailors Game Difficulty Beautifully – One feature in the game that is really a standout is the Ego system. This system allows you to adjust the game difficulty from a beginner level right up to a hardcore level. You can do this either by level as a whole or by “area” of gameplay individually, which is fantastic. If batting is easy for you but pitching is a real challenge, you can tweak the difficulty through the Ego system accordingly. This ties well with the simplicity of playing the game, truly allowing anybody to pick up the sticks and play with you.
- Great Price Value For What You Get – It’s a simple fact that video games aren’t cheap anymore. Obviously a change in the hardware and its components as well as the power of said hardware has a big part to do with this. You can pick up Super Mega Baseball 2 for $29.99, and the content of the game in tandem with its customization options is super value for that low of a price. You really can’t go wrong and should not feel bad spending $30 on a great game like this.
What I Don’t Like
- Lack Of Commentary Has Game Immersion Falling Just Short – In all of its glory, Super Mega Baseball 2 is an awesome game that has a high replay factor. I can’t see myself getting bored with the game. The sounds on the field are fantastic, fans react accordingly and crisply to great plays and bad ones alike; organs blare, ambient noise is great. The only thing that’s missing is commentary. When playing a baseball video game or any sports game for that matter, the commentary is what solidifies the immersion of the game with the action. It’s what really intensifies those magical moments where you crank home a walk-off home run to win a nail biter. SMB2 has no commentary whatsoever. This might not be a big deal to some, but I find it important in a sports video game. Based on the character models and cartoon look of the game, I think a commentator and color commentator with more of a wacky feel, like the game characters, would have blended well together to really set the game truly above the mark.
- Online Play And Loading Needs Some Work – Having had the game for just under a week, I haven’t been able to load into an online match and face off against anybody. Not a single game. This was pretty frustrating. On top of that, the one instance where I thought I had finally lucked out and got into a game, the little animation on the bottom right side of the screen kept looping with “Connecting”; after five minutes of this I tried to back out by hitting the B button (on my Xbox One X controller) but nothing happened. No matter how many times I mashed the B button, I was stuck. I ended up having to quit the game completely and load back into it. I’m not sure if this is a common problem, but I’ve had it until now and can’t say how an online match really plays out.
- While Helpful, (Auto) Fielding Is The Weakest Link – Fielding is handled by the CPU in-game. That being said, you can take over fielding duties yourself but it can prove to be quite the chore. There’s no on-field marker so you’re left to try and catch fly balls based solely on the shadow of the ball as it sails back down to the field. This can actually be complicated at times, so leaving it up to the CPU is the better play here. Players fully control fielding the ball on pop flyouts or ground balls, so it’s up to you to make the right decision and throw the ball where it needs to go. Jumping and diving for the ball is also user-initiated and requires pinpoint timing. Getting your timing down allows you to witness the awe of robbing a home run or ruining a would-be double into the gap by stretching out and making a beauty of a grab. Throws to a respective base, home plate or your cut-off man also requires the right timing, where a meter is shown above the fielder’s head. Hold the respective button too long and your throw loses accuracy, bouncing away from its intended target and allowing for extra bases to be picked up. While mostly working well, some questionable decisions by the CPU on balls that should be easily played, as well as a real lack of player input in the majority of the fielding, is where Super Mega Baseball 2 falls short.
- Game Modes Are Scarce – Exhibition, Pennant Race (online versus), Elimination and Season are the only modes the game offers. While there is still plenty of fun to be had with these four modes, adding in a Home Run Derby or a couple other mini-game modes would have expanded the depth and longevity of the game as a whole.
- Lack Of A Custom Player/Roster Share Option – Thanks to the deep customization the game offers, a player or roster share option would have been perfect for this game. As the game holds no official MLB/MLBPA license, it was quite clear that Metalhead Software kept full customization in mind for the hardcore designers. Being able to share original creations or re-creations of actual MLB teams, players or logos would have really been a nice touch for the game.
After The Final Pitch
After this second iteration of the Super Mega Baseball franchise, I truly think Metalhead Software has created a very solid foundation to a game the studio could put out on a yearly basis. But I also don’t mind the gap in release time as they tune the game to surpass its predecessor. Super Mega Baseball 2 is a fun and well balanced game of baseball that you can play against your buddies, with your parents, or with your kids and enjoy it time and time again. A near true sim shrouded in an arcade-like look and atmosphere, it’s welcoming to all levels of gamers and sports fans alike, and offers a great time for everyone.