Having competition among sports video games can be a healthy way to breed innovation and variety in gameplay. If a game is hoping to stand out from other similar titles, it’s imperative that it offers something that that can’t be found elsewhere. This is certainly the case with Super Mega Baseball 4, which continues to separate itself from the MLB The Show series by leaning into an entirely different aesthetic and style. Partnering with EA for this new entry, Metalhead Software returns three years after the release of Super Mega Baseball 3 with another installment that looks like an arcade game, complete with its usual assortment of players with distorted cartoon features, but still plays more like a baseball simulation than you’d expect. To add to its authenticity, Super Mega Baseball 4 even swipes some signs from MLB The Show by introducing a plethora of MLB legends to populate the game’s fictional teams.
The foundation of Super Mega Baseball 4‘s solid gameplay lies in the cat-and-mouse battle between pitcher and batter, which manages to come with enough wrinkles to make it feel plenty different than MLB The Show. The unique mechanics used to dot a pitch on the corner for a strikeout when on the mound and launch a ball into the seats when at the plate are both fun and challenging. The challenging part of that equation is helped by the game’s “ego” system, which allows for dialing in the ultra-specific difficulty that’s right for you when playing the game’s AI. However you want to play, there are an impressive amount of modes from which to sample, including online ones to test your skills against others and a franchise that requires some tough decisions when managing a team over the course of multiple seasons.
Super Mega Baseball 4 Review
The only areas where the game is lacking is in some of the finer details, such as the absence of an instant replay and the inability to alter the camera angles, which would be especially helpful when batting. It’s disappointing as well to see that there has been little in the way of expanding the customization department, limiting how inventive you can be when creating your own players and teams.
Let’s step between the lines and explore what aspects of Super Mega Baseball 4 have knocked it out of the park and where it could use some patches in the future to avoid striking out.
What I Like
For a game that’s constantly straddling the line between simulation and arcade, it does a commendable if not perfect job of delivering the best of both worlds with gameplay that isn’t a whole lot different from Super Mega Baseball 3. Whether or not you embrace the game’s cartoonish approach, there are quite a few nuances to the controls that you’ll need to master if you want to compete with the best players. A lot of your success though will depend on performing the fundamentals of baseball well. You’ll make a lot of outs by swinging at pitches outside of the zone just as you will give up a lot of hard contact if you live over the heart of the plate as a pitcher or fall into patterns and don’t adequately mix speeds and locations.
When you’re at the plate, there are a few ways that you can swing depending on if you want to prioritize contact (comes in handy with two strikes) or power. The most satisfying way to wield your bat though is by pulling down the right stick to first power your swing and then timing up the pitcher perfectly by pushing the right stick up at peak power when the ball is crossing the plate. It’s also easier to check your swing this way if you want to make a snap decision to not offer at a pitch at the last second.
Pitching works somewhat similarly in that the most effective method involves holding down a button and then releasing it at the right time for peak power. If you don’t hold the button down long enough, you risk a pitch not being powerful enough to get by the hitter. When you hold the button down too long though, you’ll see the pitch go wild and miss your location. It can be difficult to hit your spots consistently on the mound, as controlling the cursor that determines where a pitch ends up can be a bit like riding a wild bull, especially if a pitcher typically struggles with command.
In the field, the most interesting wrinkle aside from the usual jumps and dives that you find in pretty much all baseball games is how there’s no on-field indicator to reveal the location of where the ball will land on fly balls. You’re forced instead to make a read on where you surmise the ball will end up and then watch carefully for your fielder to wave his arms in the air when he’s positioned in a good spot to make the catch.
Characters & Legends
Mileage may vary on the exaggerated look of players that have become a staple of Super Mega Baseball, but it’s impossible to argue with how hard it zags from the emphasis on realism in MLB The Show 23. While the player models are unabashedly goofy and may look a little last gen, they’re also endearing and bursting with their own unique personalities.
A big draw for Super Mega Baseball 4 is the addition of over 200 baseball legends, who have all undergone a slight transformation that might as well have been done by a caricature artist. There’s a fun mixture of big names like Babe Ruth and David Ortiz alongside lesser-known players who are worthy of recognition (like pitcher Jeff Fassero for any old Expos fans like me). That said, there could have been a little more effort on display in having the legends resemble their real-life counterparts, as batting stances and windups are largely generic.
As fun as it is to use these legends in the game, it’s just as enjoyable to have a lineup full of the game’s fictional players who put the series on the map in the first place. Fan favorites like Hammer Longballo and Hack Liner make a triumphant return. Players all come with their own unique traits too, which can either help you (like being a distraction to the pitcher on the basepaths) or hurt you (like choking when the pressure is on). This adds another layer of strategy that needs to be considered with every at-bat.
There are so many different modes in Super Mega Baseball 4 that it’s hard to imagine anyone who likes baseball not finding some way to play that they like. You can jump into a quick exhibition game, play through a season if you want the games to matter more, or start a franchise should you be looking to build a team over the course of multiple seasons. The new shuffle draft allows you to quickly assemble a squad within a league based on whatever strengths (and weaknesses) you feel will yield the best results.
Whenever you feel like you’re ready to take on the rest of the community, you can try out Pennant Race to climb the ranks or even start an online league with a bunch of friends. One of the best things about games in any of these modes is that they’re nice and short, lasting only about 30 minutes typically for a 9-inning game.
In the world of Super Mega Baseball, the game’s difficulty is referred to as ego and you can get awfully precise about how you want to set it. Whereas most games have difficulties like rookie, veteran, superstar, etc., Super Mega Baseball 4 has an ego that you can toggle all the way from 1-100. With some trial and error, you can dial in an exact number where you’re playing a lot of close games vs the AI and winning just as much as you are losing. To give you even more flexibility, the game allows you to set your ego for the individual facets of the game. This way, you can account for perhaps being better at the plate than you are on the mound or vice versa.
What I Don’t Like
Given that it’s been three years since Super Mega Baseball 3, the hope was that there would be more options available to you now when creating teams and players. It can’t help but be disappointing then to find that there hasn’t been much added in the way of jersey templates or fonts, and you’re still not able to to create an alternate third uniform for teams. Despite some new body types and hairstyles, there hasn’t been the kind of huge upgrade to the player creation suite either that would allow for massive differentiation between players.
The news isn’t all bad though as the introduction of six new stadiums that are each impressive in their own right gives you more variety in assigning home stadiums to created teams. You’ll also be able to hear more names of created players from the announcer when they enter the game.
Options & UI
Some valuable in-game options that have long been staples in the MLB The Show games but have been absent from Super Mega Baseball games in the past remain missing in this new entry. These include the ability to access an instant replay feature that would allow you to have another look at any amazing plays or even the more mundane ones as they occur. There’s no opportunity to adjust any of the camera angles to your own preference either, something that’s especially frustrating at the plate where it would be nice if you could push in slightly closer to the action to better gauge the location of pitches. Even something as simple as providing an indication of where your batting reticle made contact with a ball after an at-bat would go a long way in providing feedback that could help your game.
Throughout the menus, the game’s UI can be a little clunky as well, often forcing you to push more buttons than necessary to do things like make simple changes to your lineup. During games, the pitch menus and player information bubbles make the screen seem cluttered and take up space that could be better devoted to the action.
One part of Super Mega Baseball 4 where developers have clearly made the choice to go in more of an arcade direction is with the game’s sounds. From the whoosh of a swing and gunshot crack of the bat to the guitar riff that accompanies with powering up your throws in the field, the atmosphere throughout has been dialed up to comical levels. It’s certainly not entirely out of place within a game that looks like a cartoon and certain additions — like the heckles from the crowd or the musings of the between-innings PA announcer — can be genuinely amusing. It’s just that hearing all of the sounds of the game gets repetitive and increasingly annoying, likely sending you to the menus to turn them down or off entirely eventually.
It’s a bummer that there hasn’t been more done to expand the game’s customization suite for players and teams, depriving the community of the opportunity to let their creativity run wild. Some basic options people have come to expect from sports titles, such as instant replay and your choice of camera angle, remain missing this time around. The game’s UI is overly convoluted at times in menus and the display windows during at-bats take up to much space. All of the sound effects during the game strive for the cartoonish, but they become increasingly grating the more you hear them.
That being said, Super Mega Baseball 4 is another worthy entry in a series that offers a wacky yet surprisingly realistic and rewarding alternative to MLB The Show‘s more polished recreation of baseball’s players and stadiums. The new legends in the game are a fun cross section from different eras of the sport’s history that mix well with game’s fictional roster of players, who come complete with their own distinct appearance, personalities, and traits. There’s an impressive array of ways to play, whether you prefer to play versus the game’s AI or against others online. The game’s “ego” or difficulty allows you to fine-tune every facet of the sport precisely to ensure that you’re finding an adequate challenge when facing the CPU or online opponents.