If you’re the proud owner of a PlayStation 4 and you like baseball, your options are great as you have yearly access to what is arguably the best sports game made each year. However, if the Xbox One is your console of choice, the baseball video game landscape is pretty barren, with no games offering the licensed players, teams, or stadiums that MLB: The Show does. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good baseball games for Xbox players to play though, as evidenced by Metalhead’s Super Mega Baseball 2.
Super Mega Baseball 2, like the original, has the look and charm of an arcade sports game. You will find cartoonish players with names like Holder Close and Ella Roids, and team names like the Sirloins, Platypi, and Wideloads. Don’t let the look and feel of Super Mega Baseball 2 fool you, though. Metalhead has once again done a fantastic job of bringing solid gameplay and physics to the game. This cartoonish vibe, when combined with very solid gameplay, makes you still feel the competitive nature of the sport even though you don’t get access to the real players or teams of Major League Baseball.
Since their game doesn’t have the official Major League Baseball license, Metalhead has created unique ballparks that are meant to offer the ambience and uniqueness of real life stadiums, while still maintaining the arcade game feel. Whether you play on Apple Field, a clear representation of a ballpark in New York, Sakura Hills, a completely symmetrical Japanese park, or Swagger Center, which will remind you of Miami, each ballpark has a unique feel to it that gives players a different experience in each one. While each ballpark in Super Mega Baseball 2 is great and unique, there are unfortunately only six of them in the game at launch, which will likely leave players wishing they had more options in terms of parks to play in.
Super Mega Baseball 2 offers more gameplay options than you might expect from an indie title, as there are many ways to play. You can play a standard season consisting of either 48, 32, or 16 games with the pre-established teams in the game, plus a playoff after that. If you enjoy taking complete control and customization however, you’ll likely opt for the custom season. These allow you to completely amend teams, logos, and players, with a season ranging from 2 games to 200 games. With the generous logo customizer, it is completely conceivable that a player could make every Major League Baseball team and play a MLB season on Super Mega Baseball 2. This possibility is reminiscent of the NCAA Football series, when players could apply names and ratings to every team in the NCAA to make the game completely authentic. Unfortunately, there is no file share option in Super Mega Baseball 2 that would allow you to download MLB rosters.
In addition to season mode, you will also have the ability to take part in exhibition games, Pennant Race, and Elimination. Exhibition games allow you to play against either the CPU or a friend, and is an unranked game. Pennant Race meanwhile pits you against other players online with standard teams – no custom teams are allowed to ensure that the competition stays balanced. Finally, Elimination places you in a tournament against CPU teams where you will attempt to emerge victorious. Each of these modes is fun, but they lack replay value due to the lack of significant rewards for achieving success in each one; this is another example of how MLB The Show offers a much more immersive and rewarding experience if you have the choice to play that instead.
Difficulty in Super Mega Baseball 2 is tied to a system called Ego. This is very similar to the first game, as an increased Ego will make the game more difficult but also reward you with a higher score multiplier, which can help you advance up the leaderboard. Players earn points in a game by getting hits, driving in runs, striking out opposing hitters, and much more. The higher the Ego setting, the higher the multiplier for each of these events. A leaderboard, which has all of your friends on it, will show who has the highest score and provide the possibility of bragging rights for you if you sit on top. Aside from Ego, Mojo also plays a large role in how players perform. See, when a player does something well, like get a hit, their Mojo goes up and they are more likely to have success in everything they do. If it goes too far down, the player can enter a massive slump that they will have to endure. This adds another layer of difficulty that also reflects the streaky nature of baseball.
When it comes to gameplay, Super Mega Baseball really shines. The gameplay mechanics and authenticity are where players can really see the love Metalhead has for America’s pastime, as they are both on point in almost every way. Both hitting and pitching are very intuitive, and the results you get for accuracy (or lack thereof) in timing feel deserved. When fielding, if you hold the button to the base you want to throw to for too long, your controlled player will lose significant accuracy on the throw.
Physics plays a huge part in Super Mega Baseball 2 as well, especially for an arcade sports game. Normally in arcade style titles, you will experience over the top movements and actions – but not in this game. A ball hit off of the outfield wall will bounce off and come back at you exactly how you thought it would, so playing the angles and making sound decisions in the outfield about when to go for the spectacular catch and when to limit the damage by only surrendering a single will play a big role in your level of success. In reality, Super Mega Baseball 2 is not considered a simulation game only because of the appearance of the game and the lack of the Major League Baseball license. When it comes to gameplay, Metalhead’s title holds up against most true baseball simulation games.
As for the controls, and they will feel very familiar if you’ve ever played MLB: The Show. Each of the face buttons on the Xbox One controller corresponds to the appropriate base if you look at the button design as a baseball diamond. A will prompt a throw home, B will prompt a throw to first base, and so on. The left stick controls players’ movements defensively, and the bumpers will prompt a throw to the cutoff man from the outfield. As the pitcher, you will use the thumb sticks to select the pitch type and desired location, then use the left stick to get as close to the target as possible when delivering the pitch to the plate. When hitting, the A button will make your player swing the bat, and B sees them play a bunt. You can also power up both a hitter’s swing or the power of a pitch by following button prompts or by using the sticks. The only disappointing aspect in terms of the controls is in baserunning, where you will use LB to advance all runners or the left stick and corresponding button to send a specific runner to a specific base. This second piece of the baserunning control scheme isn’t as responsive or effective as it could be, and it results in some frustration when running the bases.
At the low, low price of zero dollars if you are an Xbox Live Gold member, Super Mega Baseball 2 is a must download. The mechanics and controls take what appears to be a cartoony arcade baseball game and turn it into a legitimate baseball simulation. If you’re an Xbox gamer reading this after May 2018, then the $29.99 USD price tag makes Super Mega Baseball 2 still well worth your time if you’re a sports fan. If you own a PlayStation 4, MLB 18: The Show is an objectively superior game, but there is a significant price difference between the two, and each game is aiming to achieve something different. If you’re a baseball fan and not insistent on having official Major League Baseball players, teams, and stadiums, you will have a lot of fun with Super Mega Baseball 2. Despite the lack of stadiums and somewhat clumsy baserunning mechanics, Metalhead is hitting for power with their latest release.