Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Super Mega Baseball 2 (PS4, XB1, PC) Review

We're in the midst of baseball season here in parts of North America, and the boys of summer are swinging for the fences, playing their hearts out, going for the pennant... and other baseball jargon that sounds somewhat competent of me. Our first review of June regards a game complete with grand slams, stolen bases, and relief pitchers, it's Metalhead's Super Mega Baseball 2 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Here is the SPC review.

Prime Time Players

Baseball games used to be in great abundance a decade or so ago, and even more common a decade before that. Nowadays, PlayStation's MLB The Show franchise dominates the field of baseball games, and pretty much has the market to itself outside of decidedly far lesser experiences like RBI Baseball. That said, now a returning challenger approaches, eschewing the realistic, lifelike graphics presented by PlayStation's MLB gaming franchise and going with a more cartoony appearance. It's Super Mega Baseball 2, offering a more grounded baseball game than its predecessor. While it doesn't exactly hit a grand slam, Super Mega Baseball 2 knocks one out of the park all the same.

Super Mega Baseball 2 has multiple modes to it, and the main ones for players will be the Season and Elimination modes, which both come in standard and custom varieties. The difference between standard and custom is that the former does not allow you to change players' stats while custom grants you that ability, as well as the option to simulate games. Season mode gives you a choice of how many games the season is, and you play against the teams in the league, trying your best to get a serviceable enough winning record to make the playoffs to try to win the championship. Elimination has you play a number of games and then based on your winning percentage you're placed in an elimination-style tournament to determine the champion.

Keep your eye on the ball and swing for the fences.
These modes could have an infinite amount of features to them, but it wouldn't matter if the actual batting, pitching, and fielding wasn't up to snuff. Fortunately, Super Mega Baseball 2 succeeds at giving players a satisfying baseball experience that can be custom-tailored to each individual playing the game. That comes in the form of an Ego system that ranges from 0-100. The higher you place the number, the more difficult your AI opponents will be, as well as the more challenging pitching and hitting will be, too. Ego can be altered at any time in a game, so if you're easily handing the opposing team's collective butt to them, then you can raise the Ego number. On the other end of the spectrum, if the AI is readily rubbing your face into the dirt, you can lower the number of your Ego.

Pitching is a breeze in Super Mega Baseball 2, having each pitcher in the game equipped with a varying variety of pitch types. You select the pitch by flicking the right analog stick in the direction of the pitch you want to let loose. Then, you can either throw a normal speed pitch with the press of the X button, or throw a stronger, more powerful pitch with the Square button. There's some skill involved in pitching outside of the obvious "should I fool the batter with an outside pitch or not" as you need to center the cursor on top of the spot of your intended pitch to throw with most speed and accuracy. Miss the zone by too much, and your pitch will be an easy hit for the player in the batter's box.

Use the right stick to select a pitch. Just try not to be a belly-itcher in the process. We don't want that.
Similar to pitching, batting uses the X button to swing normally, while pressing the Square button initiates the start of a power swing. Alternately, you can wind the right stick back and thrust it forward to swing, but I found this setup a little too challenging and wonky to consistently make contact with the ball.

On low Ego settings, there is a reticle to display where the baseball is being pitched to.
When you successfully get on base, base-running gets a little more complicated, as I often found myself not being able to always get different base-runners to advance while getting the other to stay put. It's sort of like trying to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time--and if you think that isn't hard to do at all, then imagine trying to do that while plastered.

Meanwhile, fielding is more nuanced, and it's helped by the AI who is pretty good at catching hit baseballs. In my experience, I've never had the AI on my team drop a ball that should have been an easy catch. I did, however, need to hustle them over to a ball's potential drop-in point, and as soon as I got them in vicinity, they were able to take over and catch the ball from there. If a ball does drop in, fielding is as simple as pressing one of the face buttons, each of which is assigned to a base (e.g. the bottom face button for home plate, the top face button for second base, etc.).

Super Mega Baseball 2 possesses a Mojo system with all of its players. When a particular player makes a great play like hitting a home run or striking out a series of batters, their Mojo goes up, granting them more confidence on the field and improved stats. Likewise, Mojo can also go down from poor plays, such as being the pitcher on the receiving end of a home run or a player costing his or her team the inning for the third out. Players who have high Mojo make their performance all the better, able to hit the ball harder, throw the ball faster, and run the bases with more velocity. This Mojo system encourages consistent play with all of your teammates, as it makes competing against more challenging or competent opposing teams and players much more manageable to do. Plus, it's always fun to light up the scoreboard on the competition.

While the players in Super Mega Baseball 2 aren't as deformed as in the original,
they are still quite cartoonish in appearance.
In addition to Mojo, each player has a Fitness level. This doesn't come up too much in single exhibition games, but in Season and Elimination modes where you take a team through a series of games, Fitness is an important stat to take note of. Having players slide into a base, dive for a ball, or any other potentially dangerous maneuver slightly lowers their Fitness level. If it gets too low, they have a high risk of becoming injured. Thankfully, you can substitute players and sit them out for several games to get their levels returned to normal. While most injuries come over time, there is the chance that a player can get injured instantly like in a recurring scenario where the pitcher would throw the ball at the plate and I would hit it right into them, injuring them immediately. That never failed to get a raucous chuckle out of me.

While not having real teams to its name, Super Mega Baseball 2 features a collection of colorful players and teams with creative names and appearances. If you want to go all-in, you can even design your own team, complete with original jerseys, logo, and more. The customization options are much more exhaustive than I was willing to get into, but for those that want to go the distance, you absolutely can and will probably enjoy all the details that can be altered. The creativity continues with the game's nine stadiums, each modeled after real life locations like the New York City-styled Apple Field, the industrial setting of the Detroit-like Motor Yard, or playing long ball in the Pacific Northwest-inspired Emerald Diamond.

A look at one of the nine stadiums to play ball in as featured in Super Mega Baseball 2.
Super Mega Baseball 2 delivers a more than adequate baseball experience that is both thrilling and highly competent. It won't give you real, licensed MLB teams, a simulation-like feel, or lifelike visuals, but what Super Mega Baseball 2 will give you is a terrific party game that is a fantastic complement or even substitute for PlayStation's The Show franchise in case you yearn for a less realistic take of running the bases, throwing a sinker, or hitting one out of the park.

[SPC Says: B+]

Review code provided by Metalhead.

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