Baseball isn’t really a game we even speak about or watch here in the UK, which is a sad shame as its American following is quite simply massive. I’m a big sports fan, but my main sport of choice is football or soccer to any American people reading. But I’ve always been intrigued to find out if Baseball games have any legs in the sporting games genre. Some sporting games perform terribly, cricket and rugby titles for instance, never really take off. But football, tennis, American Football, golf and even Olympics/Athletics games always tend to do relatively well in the gaming scene.
Firstly, Super Mega Baseball 3 is the Pro Evolution Soccer of the genre, as in there is no licencing in this game. This may be an issue for some who want all real players, uniforms and suchlike. But don’t let it rule your head and dismiss the game. Now I remember the first game in the series becoming free on games with gold on Xbox One. I downloaded it, but never actually played it as it didn’t interest me in the slightest and that was six years ago. There was another outing in Super Mega Baseball 2 in 2018 which was fairly recent.
I think what separates this series from other baseball games is its charm and wit. It makes the most of not having the licences and its cartoon art style. The first two titles fared exceptionally well, so it was only sense that Canadian indie developers Metalhead Software carried on a good thing. When you look at the screenshots you’re almost expecting something along the lines of NBA Playgrounds.
It’s actually a much deeper experience than you think. There are some solid gameplay mechanics that make it a truly great baseball game. Without the mechanics in a sports game, then it just wouldn’t work. I decided that in order to review this one I would have to go back in time and have a play of the first two. You can truly see that as time has gone, the quality and how the game is refined definitely shows itself.
The first two titles only appeared to allow you to play through one season with a team of your choosing. Super Mega Baseball 3 really differs here as you can allow yourself through a franchise mode. This can include your created and customised teams and play through several seasons. The joy of playing with fictional players is that you can connect with them on a personal level. Whereas in games such as FIFA, you don’t have that as the players are already well known in the public eye. The squads and players have some ridiculously unique names, but this all adds to the humour and class of the game.
Franchise mode doesn’t just end there though. You can manage the aspects of the team such as salary caps and development of players. I wouldn’t say its as in depth as say FIFA career mode for instance. But it’s a good start for a new mode and it still adds a level of fun. This is why you feel like you’re at a personal level with your personnel. You’re calling the shots as well as playing them on the field. Unfortunately there’s no trading options so you do have to pluck your players from a selection of free agents.
The players also have traits which can really put a spin on the gameplay. For instance your star player may underperform in a game due to the pressure along with other similar traits. If you find the game too difficult there is an option to change the level of difficulty. With me being completely new to the game, I set it as low as possible.
I was especially pleased at the level of customisation in the game as I didn’t expect it. You can customise uniforms, logos, team names, league names. The list goes on, it’s really refreshing to see and adds to the longevity of the game. The detail on and off the pitch was visually pleasing. The crowd and atmosphere made it look and feel as if it was an actual baseball match, so top marks for this.
The pitching is great fun as with most bat and ball games, even in real life you always feel like batting is more fun. Whereas I actually had fun pitching the ball and fielding. The control system for this is very simple and not confusing as you’d expect it to be in a game of this type. You actually feel in control when throwing the ball, it’s not all done for you. Though the control system for this is easy to pick up, it’s still important to master how to play. You have to match a reticule with the left analog stick to a second moving reticule in the batters area. This can prove a difficult feat in the higher difficulty modes and the pitchers status can have an effect on this. If their stamina is low or they are nervous and tense due to their poor performance it can lead to an underperformance when you pitch the ball.
You’ll quickly learn that it’s not only about mastering the matching of reticules, but learning to adapt with the players strengths and weaknesses. I particularly enjoyed adjusting to this style of play as in real sport stamina plays a big part. You can pitch in different ways such as trying to put spin on and throw curveballs, power fastballs; all to try and confuse and throw the batter off course. It’s important to note that if you’re customising your own players and team, you will have sliders to level and balance the particular skill sets and strengths/weaknesses of individual players.
During franchise mode the money that you accrue can be used to purchase player development opportunities which are essentially boosts for players. But purchasing these doesn’t always guarantee positive effects and can come with negative factors. They can permanently or temporarily affect a specific players personal attributes. This is where management skills come into play, if you spend less on player salaries you’ll have more money to spend on these development opportunities. What was a bit poor I felt here is that if you want to add a new player to your roster you can do that for sure. The trade off though is you can only swap out one for another. So you can’t get two players in on lower salaries if it equates to the salary of the player you’re shipping out. Also the swap outs must be like for like, so pitcher for pitcher, fielder for fielder and batter for batter. There is no room for flexibility in this area and I feel this could potentially be improved in either an update or maybe the next game should they choose to make a number four. I will add that there is a feature to import your custom teams from Super Mega Baseball 2, so if you played that one to death then this may suit you.
Batting is where I had the most fun in this game. It is genuinely a blast trying to score home runs and score as many points as possible. One laugh out loud moment was when I hit the ball hard and low it actually hit the pitcher in the genitals at such a speed that he obviously fell to the floor in agony. I was impressed that there was a specific animation got this and the ball didn’t just bounce off him and he remained standing. I was that chuffed with the feat that I recorded the moment instantly on my Xbox record feature.
The sound effects are really satisfactory here as the announcements commentate with some funny lines and the crowd noise and general sounds blend in very nicely with the rest of the game.
I had a great time with Super Mega Baseball 3. For a UK player with little understanding of the rules this really taught me a lot about how not only the game of baseball works but how the team combine together and play. The structure and mechanics in turn with the polished cartoony but class visuals make it an exceptionally solid entry into the baseball genre of gaming. You certainly won’t find a better baseball game on the Xbox One, however this can be found on Windows PC, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch as well. I’d say that the casual and hardcore Baseball fans of the world will definitely want to get their hands on this. At half the cost of a triple A title it really is a worthy investment. With its franchise, quickplay, online, crossplay between all four platforms and co-op options the longevity is endless.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Super Mega Baseball 3 Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Super Mega Baseball 3 is a solid entry into a recurring series of baseball titles from Metalhead Software and the addition of franchise mode will please hardcore and casual fans alike.
- Franchise mode is a fantastic addition.
- Customisation is excellent here.
- The mechanics and visuals are very solid and make for a all round great baseball game.
- The player development options and trading players could be more in depth.
- Graphics whilst nice could be further improved.