The Super Mega Baseball video games have all the time been bursting with appeal, delivering the trimmings of semipro sports activities with a goofy sandlot spin. The collection drew me in with its foolish fictional athletes and ballclubs, a world of lovable chuckleheads that I received to know over the course of two terrific video video games. I by no means anticipated that Super Mega Baseball 3 would weaponize these emotional ties in the easiest way, turning my attachments to my favourite groups and gamers in opposition to me in its glorious, demanding franchise mode.
With the unique Super Mega Baseball in 2014, and its 2018 follow-up, Canadian indie studio Metalhead Software brilliantly captured the spirit of the easy, enjoyable sports activities video games that many people bear in mind from our childhoods. But reasonably than reviving the exaggerated power-ups of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz, this collection blends the cartoony essence of Backyard Baseball and Power Pros with a sound baseball simulation. Where else are you able to play as a group known as the Sirloins, and mash house runs with a mutton-chopped slugger named Hammer Longballo?
Of course, the Super Mega Baseball video games wouldn’t have succeeded and not using a basis of rock-solid baseball mechanics beneath the floor. But it was the mixture of the motion on the sphere and the humor infused into all the pieces else that turned Super Mega Baseball from a novelty collection into among the finest success tales in sports activities video video games. There’s nothing fairly prefer it in the marketplace today.
Now, Metalhead has upped its sport as soon as once more. Super Mega Baseball 3 is a capstone for the acclaimed collection, the success of a mission that the studio embarked upon nearly a decade in the past, when it started engaged on the primary sport. That’s partly as a result of Metalhead additional refined its simulation of baseball this time round. But the brand new characteristic that ties all the pieces collectively and elevates Super Mega Baseball 3 into an entire bundle is a correct franchise mode, the centerpiece of any long-lasting sports activities title.
The first two video games solely allow you to play by a single season. Franchise permits you to take the group of your alternative — together with ones you’ve created or personalized — by a number of seasons. It’s not as deep because the franchise modes in simulation sports activities titles like NBA 2K or Madden, however that’s for the very best. Instead, its simplified design suits the ethos of Super Mega Baseball: constructing a connection between you and your gamers.
I really like a great steak, so the aforementioned Sirloins had been my group of alternative within the earlier video games. But they’re all the time described as “extreme power hitters.” I believed I’d be higher off with a extra balanced roster within the franchise mode, so I switched my allegiance to the Sawteeth. Thus started my love affair with gamers like Jon Ronero, the power-hitting shortstop with the identical beefy physique as the sport developer he’s named after; DP Turner, his double-play companion at second base; and Slash Trips, the speedy middle fielder who ranked close to the highest of the league in a number of hitting classes throughout my franchise’s first 12 months. (If solely the mode tracked stats from season to season.)
These days, many followers of professional sports activities have resigned themselves to rooting for laundry — that’s, they’ve favourite groups as an alternative of athletes, as a result of gamers transfer round on a regular basis. The Super Mega Baseball video games are as an alternative personality-driven, with gamers who’re characters as a lot as they’re digital athletes. Over the course of my franchise play-through, I turned invested in not simply the Sawteeth as a group, however within the particular person members of its roster, whose abilities naturally progress or regress relying on their age. I ended up agonizing over each personnel resolution.
Two of the Sawteeth are associated: Junior Young Sr., who’s in some way nonetheless taking part in catcher at age 42, and Junior Young Jr., the backup first baseman, who’s 22 years youthful than his dad. With the elder Young’s efficiency flagging and his attributes dropping, it made sense to let him go earlier than he retired within the offseason. I did so, however I waited longer than I in any other case might need, as a result of I used to be saddened by the thought of separating father and son. I not often get that sentimental in MLB The Show, even about my beloved Yankees superstars.
The setup of the franchise mode incentivizes strategic roster strikes like that; it challenged me to place apart my emotional attachments and suppose by the longer-term implications of each resolution. While you may’t make trades, you may change your roster by free company. Signing and releasing gamers is all the time a one-to-one motion, so in case you’re seeking to choose any person up, you’ll have to chop a participant to make room. If you’re chasing a high-priced free agent, you’ll most likely should dump an costly participant to make sure you can afford the signing beneath the onerous wage cap.
There are not any direct negotiations, however free brokers begin the season with absurdly excessive salaries and decrease their expectations over time. A number of coveted gamers slipped by my fingers over the course of the season and offseason, signing with different golf equipment whereas I stored hoping they’d drop their asking costs. There’s one thing thrilling in regards to the drama of the chase, checking after each in-game day to see whether or not a participant stays out there.
Free company isn’t the one manner to enhance your group. Any finances surplus (the hole between the $140 million wage cap and your present payroll) will get doled out to you over time within the type of “player development funds.” You can spend this cash on coaching alternatives that can elevate your gamers’ attributes. The beneficial properties are usually small, and the periods that basically pay dividends are usually costly — usually costing nicely over $1 million — so I selected to give attention to making main upgrades by way of free company reasonably than incremental ones by way of coaching.
Development alternatives generally include the prospect for a participant to achieve a “trait,” a situational buff/debuff. This is among the methods during which Metalhead has deepened the strategic layers of the sport in Super Mega Baseball 3, making me suppose like a supervisor making an attempt to play the chances. I all the time slotted Junior Young Jr. into the lineup when dealing with southpaws, since he has a trait that raises his (already excessive) energy ranking by 10 when batting in opposition to a left-hander.
Metalhead additionally labored to make Super Mega Baseball 3 extra consultant of the game of baseball, bringing in elementary components like pickoff throws, wild pitches and handed balls, and the designated hitter rule. Aside from the DH, I can’t say I actually missed these options within the earlier two video games. But now that they’re right here, I discover myself wishing for finer management choices, like the power to regulate baserunners’ leads or to resolve when and the way they slide — options that will give me extra company within the moment-to-moment gameplay.
Another characteristic that will enhance Super Mega Baseball 3 is further animations, and higher animation mixing, for fielding and throwing. Perhaps that is high of thoughts as a result of there have been upgrades on this space in MLB The Show 20 earlier this 12 months. But I’ve run into cases of gamers taking too lengthy to do away with the ball, since there doesn’t look like a whirl-and-throw animation in Super Mega Baseball 3; as an alternative, the cutoff particular person often has to show after which take a step earlier than firing the ball towards house plate.
Other than these few needs — and, maybe, the choice to allow a touchdown circle for balls within the air — I’d have to actually dig to provide you with complaints in regards to the gameplay in Super Mega Baseball 3. But I’ve had some minor technical issues in 20-ish hours with the Windows PC model of the sport. While I’m typically capable of play on max settings at a stable 60 frames per second in 1920×1200 decision, there appears to be a daily challenge with a momentary dip under 60 fps after a ball is hit into the air. Thankfully, it hasn’t affected any outcomes.
That’s what issues most in any sports activities sport, and Super Mega Baseball 3 continues to be an exciting, partaking, enjoyable baseball expertise on the sphere. I fell in love with Metalhead’s video games from the beginning, having fun with components just like the modern pitching controls — nonetheless one in every of my favourite mechanics in any baseball sport I’ve ever performed — whereas I giggled and smirked on the gamers’ ridiculous names. With its good, engrossing franchise mode bringing it house, Super Mega Baseball 3 is one other unbelievable entry in what has change into one in every of my all-time favourite sports activities collection.
Super Mega Baseball 3 is now out there on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. The sport was reviewed on PC utilizing a Steam obtain code offered by the developer. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought by way of affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.