"Super Mega Baseball" has earned lots of goodwill as a franchise, thanks to consecutive strong releases that appealed to the masses. It offered simple baseball fun and just enough charm to make up for its lack of MLB license. For its third iteration, the franchise takes on a big load of new features and options designed to attract baseball purists and fans looking to dive deeper into the sport. While it remains largely unchanged on the field from its predecessor, "Super Mega Baseball 3's" new Franchise mode promises endless hours of content along with a larger asking price. The value proposition is largely dependent on whether the player wants a full-fledged experience or prefers to keep it simple.
Setting the lineup
When the first "Super Mega Baseball" arrived on the scene back in 2014, it represented a welcome addition to the current console generation that was starved for a simple baseball game. At the time, 2K Sports had recently stopped production of its MLB2K series, leaving Sony's "MLB: The Show" simulation as the only game in town. "Super Mega Baseball" delivered America's pastime in an easy-to-pick-up format for a friendly price, endearing it to players who were uninterested in the mountain of modes and features found in most AAA sports games. In 2018, a sequel followed that upped the ante on virtually every front, resulting in a solid day at the park.
For "Super Mega Baseball 3," Metalhead Software is calling their shot. In contrast to the relative simplicity of the original game, the third entry in the franchise arrives loaded down with additional content, primarily in the form of the new Franchise Mode. Prospective general managers can build the team of their dreams and battle it out with the rest of the league over multiple seasons. Player progression systems are now in place, with older players regressing in skill and retiring and hotshot rookies expanding their skill set while breathing fresh air into a potentially stagnant clubhouse. The solid team and logo creation tools from the last game make a return, allowing you to create some cool custom teams.
Player salaries must now be taken into account as you build and shape your team. Player values are tied to the quality of their skills, with higher-tier players costing much more money. Player acquisition is handled entirely via free agency with no trades. This is unlike real baseball, which features hundreds of trades per season, but perhaps that wrinkle may arrive with "Super Mega Baseball 4." While buying players in their prime requires a big checkbook, you can thankfully develop lower-tier players into all-stars. There is a bit of give and take with player progression, as further developing one skill may cause regression in another, but players also have the potential to earn special traits. These traits can give you an edge in certain game situations and help to differentiate the best prospects from the rank and file.
Perhaps the coolest part of the Franchise Mode is the ability to move your front office online against a friend. You can battle each other for the best free agents and league supremacy, giving the mode some extra legs. Compared to what is available in a competitor like "MLB: The Show," "Super Mega Baseball 3's" Franchise Mode is little more than a drop in the bucket and the omissions of trades, a developmental league, or streaks keep it from being in any serious consideration as a baseball franchise simulation.
A can of corn
On the field, "Super Mega Baseball 3" remains largely unchanged from its predecessor. Big-time fans of the franchise will be happy to hear about the inclusion of wild pitches and the ability to make baserunner pickoff attempts. Their inclusion does add a small wrinkle to the on-field action, but these features were already a surprise omission from "Super Mega Baseball 2." Still, better late than never.
The previously mentioned special player abilities are the only other noteworthy change to minute-to-minute play. These can include temporary boosts to batters with runners in scoring position as well as nerfs to batters in the same situation. While the goofy player avatars and names help to counteract the sameness of a league full of generic rosters, these situational traits are helpful to making the players who have them feel more unique. As a manager, making bullpen calls or subbing in pinch hitters to counteract these traits finally adds some real strategy to in-game roster management.
Slinging the high cheddar
Like the gameplay, the graphical presentation of "Super Mega Baseball 3" remains intact from the previous game. The 14 available stadiums still have charm but aren't pushing any technical boundaries. Player models remain simple, yet effective, retaining the same basic style from "Super Mega Baseball 2" (which was a very noticeable graphical upgrade from the first game). Animations work well enough, but lots of them look half-baked. Admittedly, this is likely by design, but I would have liked to see the development team push further, especially when they lacked the constraint of having to mimic real-life players.
Lots of new audio lines are present for the third go-around, making an already solid commentary presentation that much better. All the ambient sounds needed to immerse you in the game are present and accounted for. The front-end UI has received a major overhaul to accommodate all the information and options required of the Franchise Mode and most things seem to work well on that front.
Playing small ball
Rounding out the selling points for "Super Mega Baseball 3" is the inclusion of cross-platform multiplayer for exhibition games and Pennant Race mode. This expands the player pool and ensures that the title should have longer legs online than its predecessors. It is disappointing that there appears to be no easy way to share or download user-created content like art or rosters, as this would have potentially made Franchise Mode much more compelling.
While this year's new additions add a sweet amount of new things to do for the franchise, they also arrive with a larger price tag. "Super Mega Baseball 3" launched with a 50% price increase over the last game. For players only interested in pick-up-and-play exhibitions, there is little new content available outside of crossplay. Prospective buyers who are intrigued by the Franchise Mode will need to consider the value offered by stepping up to something like "MLB: The Show" for a full-featured experience. For those who don't have access to a PS4, "Super Mega Baseball 3" still offers a solid overall package and will not disappoint anyone looking for a good time.
This review is based on the PC Steam release. For the latest information about videogames, visit http://www.shacknews.com