I’ve always been sold on the romantic idea of baseball. Films like “Field of Dreams” and the “The Natural” have previously sold me on an idea that transcends normal sport. The kit looks like they come from a different planet and the diamond representation is the best pitch design in the world. So with Super Mega Baseball 3, I was excited to get out there onto the field and hopefully see my lifetime dream of getting a home run come to fruition. Does it live up to all the expectations?
Super Mega Baseball has become a fan favourite over the last few years, with many preferring it over more serious baseball games like “MLB: The Show”. Gamers have commended it for its colourful world, but also the easy ‘pick up and play’ energy it has grown famous for. That doesn’t mean the game doesn’t take itself seriously though, far from it, and this is a solid representation of the sport and how it plays.
Each game found in Super Mega Baseball 3 is set over nine innings and it’s up to you to score more points than the opposing team – you know, basic sport stuff. You take turns in each inning to bat and to pitch, and when batting you see the pitcher in front of your view; as the ball is thrown you have a very small window to make several options. Do you swing the bat at the right time for a normal hit, hoping for that perfect connection? Do you try to go for a PowerShot which is harder to get right but delivers the opportunity to nail a home run? Or do you take a more tactical approach and punt it out so you can make it to the first base? Running to the bases is very much part of the batting sequence too, and because the batters are quite slow compared to the fielding team who are trying to get you out, timing is everything. When you have multiple batters on the bases you can try to steal a base by running while the pitchers’ backs are turned, but this never ends well and on a personal level causes too much stress.
On the flipside, pitching and fielding can become an art form. When pitching, you are left with choices of styles to choose from, whereby you can throw it straight down the line or curve the ball from left to right. It’s all about mixing the styles up so you keep the batter on their toes – much like in the real-world representation. You also have the ability to action a more powerful throw, but this uses up the stamina of the pitchers so will need to be used wisely. And you don’t need me to tell you the rules of baseball, but if you get three strikes the batter is out, whereas should you deliver three foul balls – dropping it outside of the specified area – the batter gets to walk to first base free of charge.
With the fielding side of things, you can control the formation and placement of where you want your team to stand. When the batter hits the ball, it will go in the direction of the fielders and should it arrive in their area they will automatically go for a catch to secure the batter out. If it’s between them you then have to run and dive to try and stop the ball getting out of reach. Collecting it up, before throwing it back to base, works by pressing one of the face buttons on your controller, with the diamond shape associated with the base you are aiming for. That’s the basics and it is these which work brilliantly. But it’s how you use the nuances and different methods of attack and defense that will make you a champion baller.
In Super Mega Baseball 3 there are the usual options that you’ll find in most other sports titles; the chance to play exhibition games with or against the CPU or friends. There is a season mode too, doing pretty much as you would expect, but the most exciting option with SMB3 is found in the franchise model. Here you can take a team through a season – including the playoffs – but not only do you get to play the matches but you’ll also get to control your team and player stats, developing them through the season. You can’t actually trade players, and that is a huge shame, but after each game you get access to some money and are able to pick new prospects from a bunch of free agents. The real joy is found in being able to drop the losers from your team, replacing them with newbies before turning them into stars.
You can also put them on certain diets, like getting a batter to eat red meat which will increase his power, although the extra weight will slow them down. There are traits too, allowing the player to work on certain aspects. These work like buffs where they can be provided with additional power or an increase to their percentage accuracy. For example, there is a trait which will see them becoming better at hitting left-sided pitches, or one where they are better at pitching with more power down the center. All these traits give an extra bit of strategy that is very welcome indeed.
Throughout Super Mega Baseball 3 all teams, players, and badges are fully customisable, and this is going to appeal massively to those who wish to imbue a bit of personality on the game. And it makes it all the more interesting when you take into account the quality of visuals that the game employs; it’s a very cartoony, caricatured style. I have really enjoyed this graphical look and think that it works brilliantly with the tone of the game. The sound effects are good too, very representative of baseball as a whole, and even though those looking for pure realism will probably find other baseball games more prevalent, it works well here.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with Super Mega Baseball 3 on Xbox One, and even though I’m not a massive fan of the sport it’s been hugely fun to play. The franchise model is great, as is being able to play against friends online. It’s a game that certainly provides a ton of fun for your money and each game you play will feel entirely different, with teams giving you a run for your money and your management decisions always questioned. If you’re after a baseball experience that comes with real-world visuals, the licensed players and teams that you love and all the bells and whistles of an in-depth sim, then you might be disappointed here. But if you’re just looking for a game that gives you thrills, spills, and a lot of fun, then Super Mega Baseball 3 might just be for you.