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Super Mega Baseball (PlayStation 4) artwork

Super Mega Baseball (PlayStation 4) review

"Simple and easy to get into, but with enough depth to make you want to keep playing."

As a fan of baseball, having the Major League Baseball season delayed for months and then condensed into 60 games was a tough pill to swallow. As a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates specifically, having the season finally start might have been even worse, as I got to observe my team bumble its way to "boasting" the worst record in the league, at times looking like it was possible they might never win another game, whether we're talking this year or future seasons.

At least I had Super Mega Baseball. Released in 2014 by Metalhead Software, this game started out as a mere diversion to pick up from time to time when I didn't feel like diving into something meatier, but didn't waste any time in being promoted to what I'd be playing any night I had time to sit in front of my PlayStation 4.

If you're looking for a purely serious simulation, this might not be your best choice. Since Metalhead is a smaller, independent company, you're not going to find actual licensing agreements, so you'll get to choose from 12 fictional teams, each with 18 fictional players who tend to possess zany names like "Hammer Longballo" or "Rip Dingers". Those players are designed with the sort of caricature style reminiscent of the avatars you can create for yourself on a Wii, with many possessing over-sized heads and/or goofy facial features.

Seasons will also be far shorter than the normal year's 162-game Major League Baseball go-around (or even 2020’s 60 games), with you getting to choose between 16, 32 or 48. Each team is what it is, too -- no trades, free agency or other busywork attached to this title. You'll simply pick which team you want to control, decide if you want to play a season or exhibition game and get to work.

Well, "work" might be the wrong word, as it's really easy to get into this game. When I first started playing it, I decided to test the waters with a short, five-inning exhibition game. During those innings, I learned nearly everything I needed to know concerning how to play this game. When my first batter stepped up to the plate, the game put up a screen detailing batting controls and then let me learn by doing. Same thing when it came time to pitch or field. Instead of being deluged with tutorials, I was simply being shown what to do and then told to apply that knowledge to the game I was playing.

The game's Ego system also made it easy to get the hang of this game. Before any game, you can set Ego to any number between 0 and 99 to determine how tough it'll be. At low numbers, things will be so easy that the game almost plays itself. In the field, you'll watch your players automatically run to the ball, so all you have to do is throw it to the proper base after it's been fielded. While batting, you'll have an icon that you move to where you want your hitter to swing. When the Ego is low, you'll see that icon move to the the perfect place to put a good crack on the ball. And, man, while you might have to manually swing, when you do, that ball is going to fly. Play at a very low Ego and it's very possible to put 50 runs up on the computer while smashing 20 home runs in just one game.

As the Ego rises, though, things get more difficult. Everyone gets graded in a number of stats, such as power and contact for hitters, fielding and arm for fielders and velocity and accuracy for pitchers. Players with low scores in those stats will find it more and more difficult to be productive players at a high Ego, as the game won't be so helpful in providing assistance, putting all the onus on you to have actual baseball instincts. As a nice touch, if you want, you can even set Ego to different levels for different parts of the game, so if you’re great at hitting, but are struggling on the pitcher’s mound, you can make it so the game’s difficulty reflects that.

However, while this game is pretty casual in a lot of ways, there is a certain amount of depth for those of us who can be a bit more intense when it comes to our sports games. Depth that allows you to improve your players in order to maintain usefulness at higher Egos regardless of what stats they possess.

By doing virtually anything in a game, you'll get experience points which go into gaining levels. As you gain levels, you'll start getting access to various staff members, each of whom offers various benefits. By signing those people to contracts, you'll be able to allocate those benefits to as many as three players, giving them boosts to various stats, while occasionally causing one or two to become a bit lower. In my first season, I used one of the team designated as having good pitching. When it came to my second season, I decided that having a good contact-hitting team might be more important with the increase in Ego I was giving myself, but didn't want to be saddled with inept people on the mound. So, by picking and choosing my staff members carefully, I was able to make my pitching staff a lot better, while also adding a little extra power to my hitters’ contact

Adding those staff members to the formula is one of my favorite aspects in Super Mega Baseball because it gave me some power of customization over my team. When it comes to sports games, I'm happiest when I can spend nearly as much time playing General Manager as I do actually competing because of that long-time-RPG-nerd persona always looking for any excuse to break out and take over. While this game didn't reach the level of true obsession that other sports games have in my life, being able to regularly work to improve my players was a very nice touch.

When it comes to the negatives in this game, most things I could say could be summed up with how it didn’t absolutely perfectly match what I envision in my brain when I think "great baseball game". Which is another way of saying my complaints are mainly tiny things that might not even register for most people. Such as how there were only four stadiums, with two more available as free DLC, so you'll be playing a lot of games in the same surroundings.

One that might have a bit of actual meat to it is that teams would have been better served to have one or two more pitchers because, in a season, it can be tough for a team to turn it around from "one of those days" with the six on roster. The game gives you three starters, who can go 60 to 80 pitches and then need a couple games to rest; as well as three relievers, who can only throw a limited number of pitches per game, but can easily play in multiple games. Maybe it's because I did play a number of games where I was routinely blasting the computer on low Ego while getting the hang of things, but it did seem possible to get the computer to run through all of their pitchers in a single game, leaving them with a bunch of stamina-depleted hurlers for their next outing. Add another pitcher or two and that'd add a safety valve for those games where things just aren't going as intended.

In the grand scheme of things, though, that was a minor concern. I played a couple seasons of Super Mega Baseball and, upon realizing I'd had my fill of video game baseball for the time, put it up for the fall and winter. With how easy it is to pick this game up and jump into it, as well as its charming characters, enjoyable play and easy to manipulate difficulty system, I have a feeling that when spring rolls around again, I'll be ready to jump back into it. Either that or snag one of its sequels, as Metalhead has built upon this game with a pair of follow-ups and after playing this, I think any baseball fan would be interested in at least seeing how successful they were at refining their creation and expanding upon it.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (October 03, 2020)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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