Monday, June 1, 2020

Super Mega Baseball 3 (PS4, XB1, NSW, PC) Review

Fresh off the heels of last month's Review Round-Up, SuperPhillip Central has the first review of June for you. It's for the third installment of a fantastic baseball series that strikes a nice balance between sim and arcade sports game. It's Super Mega Baseball 3 from Metalhead. Here's my review, which is based off of the PlayStation 4 version of the game.

When you can't take yourself out to the ballgame, stay in and let the ballgame come to you.

Major League Baseball has been postponed from its April season debut to at least July, and there's plenty of disappointed baseballs fans out there feeling the pain of the current missed season. Thankfully, video games come in when real life sports are unable to be played. PlayStation's MLB The Show continually does well for itself on an annual basis, but that's far from the lone quality baseball game series on the diamond. Metalhead's Super Mega Baseball series sees its third installment walk up to the batter's box. Does it strike out or score a grand slam?

Super Mega Baseball 3 returns with a lot of familiarity with its accessible sim-like approach, but an approach that doesn't get nearly as involved or as complicated as Sony's MLB The Show series. This is a great thing for a rookie to the sport like myself who just knows the basics of baseball and little else. That said, there's still more than enough depth here to keep the most hardened of baseball fanatics enjoying the game.

Metalhead's third offering for the series brings with it the return of the Mojo system, where as individual teammates do well, their abilities and performance in the game will increase. Meanwhile, players who continually strike out or otherwise play poorly will find themselves tensing up more on the field, dropping easily-made catches, among other relatively unforced errors. The game also has a fitness system, which starts at Fit and goes down from there. Generally, pushing a particular player more than required will result in them becoming more susceptible to an injury, such as performing frivolous dives for errant baseballs.

Super Mega Baseball 3 brings with it a brilliant balance of accessible fun
and simulation-like qualities to make for one terrific game of baseball.
Alongside the Mojo system making its grand return, so does the Ego system, where you can set an Ego number from 1 to 99 to determine how difficult your Super Mega Baseball 3 experience will be. Like past games, you can either set a number for the entirety of the experience or set an Ego number for individual categories, such as making pitching and batting easier or more challenging on you, the player. To get back into the swing of things, I found myself starting at the easiest of Ego numbers, 1, which saw me effortlessly wiping out my AI opponents with endgame scores that looked more like an football game than a baseball one. I finally found the right balance for me where the AI gave me a run for my money (and some genuine soul-crushing losses here and there).

Pitching, batting, and fielding are relatively unchanged from Super Mega Baseball 2. With pitching, you target a spot and when a type of pitch is made, you try to aim the cursor as close that targeted spot as possible within a strict amount of time so your pitch isn't off the mark, or worse off, an easy pitch for the batter to knock a multi-run ding-dong from. A key difference here in Super Mega Baseball 3 is the addition of being able to step off the pitcher's mound to pick off potential base stealers. When batting, you can either perform a normal swing or a contact swing that requires you to hold down the leftmost face button with proper timing and a required increased level of precision to successfully hit the ball.

No matter where you are on or off the diamond, Super Mega Baseball 3 delivers.
Base-running has been improved since Super Mega Baseball 2, offering both simple controls to send every runner forward and backward by holding down one set of shoulder buttons, as well as individual base running. Both old school "retro-style" base-running controls, where a shoulder button and a D-Pad direction corresponding to the base you want a runner to rush to, and traditional controls are available. Like base-running, stealing is as easy as pressing the D-Pad to the corresponding base you want to attempt to steal. It took a few innings to get the controls situated in my head, but once I was returned to a state of being accustomed to them, I was playing baseball like I belonged in the majors.

The most anticipated and advertised feature to Super Mega Baseball 3 is the addition of a Franchise mode. In this mode, you take a team through at minimum a 16-game season. Unlike Season mode, Franchise mode is meant to be played multiple seasons, and as seasons end, players grow older (thus losing their youthful playing abilities and are more susceptible to injuries), some retire, while others become free agents. It's during the off-season where big moves can be made--signing new players to fill in gaps left by players that retire or otherwise vamoose from your ball club, and formulating a winning lineup to hopefully go for the championship next season.

Even during the regular season there are ample opportunities to develop your players--for a price, of course--giving them new traits and temporary stat increases and decreases. While one developmental opportunity may strengthen one's batting capabilities, it might also weaken their ability to make proper contact with the ball. Traits are a new component to the Super Mega Baseball series, offering conditional abilities at given times during ballgames. For example, an RBI Dud negative trait will more likely result in that player leaving their teammate stranded on base, while the Tough Out positive trait will allow a batter with two strikes to stay in the batter's box longer, doing a war of attrition with foul balls.

The crowd is ready for this batter to give them something to celebrate.
Each mode, including Franchise, comes in two varieties: Standard and Custom. With the latter, you can freely simulate games, edit stats of your entire team, decide on how many innings each game is, how many games are played, and so forth, whereas with Standard rules, you're locked into playing the entirety of the season with little wiggle room for customization. Apart from Franchise, there is the Season mode, Exhibition for casual games, Pennant Chase for online players to compete against one another, and the round robin-style Elimination mode.

Speaking of which, the customization options go deep in Super Mega Baseball 3, allowing you to create your own team, logo, roster of players, uniforms, and much more. Every facet of your custom team can be tinkered with to your delight.

If I had to consider a controversial point to Super Mega Baseball 3, that would easily be its asking price. Past games in the series had a price point of around $20 or so, while Super Mega Baseball 3 has a $45 price tag to it. Quite the hefty upheaval of price. Whether it's worth the newfound asking price really has to do with how much you consider the major new addition of the Franchise mode to be. You'll definitely get a lot of play time out of Franchise mode, especially if you're one to enjoy tracking stats, changing up your lineup, increasing your players' abilities, and attempting to build your own multi-season-winning dynasty. Thus, for me, Super Mega Baseball 3 is something I can easily see worth its jump in price compared to previous SMB installments, and I'm a passing fan of stuff like that.

...And that's the game with a sensational walk-off home run!
The Super Mega Baseball series is known for both its entertaining and accessible gameplay, and now Super Mega Baseball 3 further hammers this point home like a long, powerful drive over the center field wall. It makes even finagling with team budgets, lineups, and free agency--stuff that I found difficult to wrap my head around in more sim-like games--to be incredibly approachable and dare I say, fun. While the high cost of entry robs the game from being a complete grand slam, as it might be a barrier of entry for some prospective players, the welcoming gameplay and robust lineup of modes gives Super Mega Baseball 3 the walk-off home run all the same.

[SPC Says: B+]

Metalhead provided a code for the purpose of this review.

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