Welcome to my review of Super Mega Baseball 2 on the Nintendo Switch.
If you have seen the brilliant Baseball movie Moneyball, you will be aware of the technique of the owner of the team featured in the film, of trying to replace a single star player with several lesser players that combined, fulfil the same results as the expensive megastar. They may not have star power, but each has an element in their game that contributes to getting the same results on a smaller budget.
It kinda dawned on me that as Super Mega Baseball 2 arrived on the Switch, making it the 3rd big Baseball game of the 5 or 6 already available on the system, that combined these somewhat smaller games were trying to be the Scott Hatteberg’s and David Justiceâ€™s on the Switch to the PS4s Johnny Damon sized MLB The Show.
Whilst The Show remains a PS4 exclusive and is the diamond standard of sports simulation video games, there is a nice range of Baseball games on the Switch now which do a decent job covering all the bases. You have RBI 19 which brings the full MLB license to the plate, the Japanese exclusive Jikkyou Powerful Pro Baseball which has gameplay to die for and now we have Super Mega Baseball 2 which brings a great all-round game, Stella online performance with cross-play and deep customisation of its fictional teams and characters.
But does it do enough to get on first base more than Jason Giambi and what are its freakish faults that other teams have overlooked? Let’s find out!
What is Super Mega Baseball anyways?
Despite my rough and ready British Essex accent, Iâ€™ve been a huge fan of Americaâ€™s pastime for as long as I can remember. The first baseball game I played was probably something on the Atari 2600 home console, but the game that really hooked me in was the 1985 game Hardball on the C64, which for the time was an excellent simulation of Baseball.
Since then its a genre of game I will always pick up and play and that brings us right up to this most recent game, which arrives on the Switch from Metalhead Software. Incidentally, the name of the developer resonates through the game with lots of heavy metal-inspired music chugging away in the background, which I found was a nice touch!
The first version of Super Mega Baseball came out in 2014 on the PS3 before arriving on other systems over the following year and was very much an over the top arcade-y take on the sport. Iâ€™ll be honest, I tried it and it wasnâ€™t for me. The characters being a bit too cartoon-y for my tastes and whilst the game received critical acclaim, I drifted away from the series.
That experience caused me to not look too closely at the sequel initially although my interest was piqued when I saw the revised graphical look, where the art style was tightened up a bit and made a tad more realistic – losing the oversized bats and gloves in favour of something more like the real gear. I eventually played it once it went onto the Xbox GamePass system and enjoyed it immensely and like many others, felt it would be a perfect fit for the Switch.
Despite many tweets and Reddit posts begging for a port from fans, the developers always denied it was being worked on, until a couple of weeks ago when from out of nowhere SMB2 was finally announced for Switch and the best news of all, it was going to be with us within a week!
And what a job Metalhead has done, bringing across a fully-featured experience that also includes one of the best online implementations of any Switch game to date. But Iâ€™ll get to that shortly.
The game gives you a few modes to start with, the main one being a Season mode where you play as one of 16 fictional teams trying to make it out of your 4 team division and into the playoffs hoping to be Crowned eventual champions. Its a solid mode, but lacking too much in the way of any depth. That said, its a nice mode and can be played in multiplayer locally or online and even in co-op. You can also play with the standard teams provided or play a custom season with teams you have fully edited.
Alongside a customisable tournament mode and standard exhibition games – where again, both modes can be played on or offline, the mode I enjoy the most is called Pennant Mode. This is an online-only affair and in this mode, you can even play cross-platform with Xbox and PC gamers which is a superb inclusion. After being matched with another player, you play out a 5 inning game with the winner collecting points that count towards their Pennant Race total and at the end of a weekly period, the current Pennant race champ is declared and the scores are reset for the next race.
Once you get onto the diamond to play any game, you may look at the slightly cartoonish looking players and dismiss SMB2 as a strictly over the top arcade affair but never judge a book by its cover. Just underneath this colourful aesthetic is a nicely detailed baseball simulation with enough depth to keep you engaged for game after game.
The controls will be familiar to most fans of baseball video games, but SMB2 does add in some nice wrinkles. I like the power swing mechanic when batting, where instead of just tapping A to swing like with the basic hitting mechanic, a power swing tasks you to hold down Y to start a backswing and release it to swing forward with the right timing to make contact with the ball. This is brilliant as it makes it just different enough to the standard swing to make it feel like you are engaging in a risk/reward system. Hitting the ball in this mode will pretty much guarantee a monster hit, but you will only hit perhaps 1 in 10 tries.
Similarly, pitching employs a control scheme that may be tricky to nail at first, but once you have a bit of practice at it, it will feel pretty natural and really reward you for learning its nuances.
Finally, fielding employs the usual run jump and dive mechanics of most games and throwing to a base is done as usual by hitting the corresponding face button. I like there is an accuracy bar when throwing though which means not every throw is a guarantee to find its target and overthrows are common if you mess up the throwing meter mechanic.
Every action you take in the game gets scored and a running total of your score is always visible on the screen. This score is another metric which is tracked and stored in online leaderboards, giving you something to aim for in a game even if the runs on the board arenâ€™t going your way at that time.
You can improve your score by upping your EGO meter. This system determines the difficulty level of the game and can be changed at any time from a value of 0 to a brutal difficulty of 99. Whilst making the game harder and giving you kudos amongst online players, it also serves as a multiplier when getting scored – so a home run at EGO level 75 will score many more arcade points than one hit on EGO level 10 for example.
This is another brilliant addition in this game and one Iâ€™ve not seen employed before in other games. It really means you can just tweak your own difficulty setting in a fine grain way as you improve until you find that sweet spot, but if you want the big scores its worth trying to eek your ego score up a notch or two with each victory.
Mr. Mojo Risin’
Another nice mechanic is the Mojo system, which is a fancy name for confidence or mood of your players I guess. But each good action they complete, their mojo meter will go up and consequently bad actions like pitchers getting hit for home runs, or batters constantly getting caught out, will lower their mojo. The mojo value will then affect how well that player performs, so it’s easy to either get into a downward slump or getting on a roll and in my opinion, does a great job of mimicking the confidence of players that is so vital in the real-life sport of Baseball.
All of these clever little systems add up to give you quite a dynamic gameplay experience and coupled with the decent ball physics mean each match feels very different, especially against human players.
As well as plenty of leaderboards and cross-play for the Pennant Mode, there are other well thought out online offerings here, from voice chat to being able to search for a game in the background whilst you play your single-player season mode – and most impressively, all the online games Iâ€™ve played so far have gone off without a hitch, with no lag or stuttering of any kind. In fact, the online performance is so impressive it’s hard to differentiate when playing online or offline against the AI and thatâ€™s the biggest compliment I can pay the game.
Sound & Vision
Visually the game does a great job and whilst Iâ€™m not a massive fan of the slightly deformed characters, the 60fps performance is pretty solid throughout on both docked and handheld and the colourful stadiums of which there are sadly only 8 available meaning teams share grounds, are different enough in terms of look and feel to give you a unique experience in each.
Each team and player in the game can be customised using a deep editor where everything from team and player name, through to stats, logos, uniforms and visual look of each character can be tweaked. This should more than compensate for the lack of an MLB license as you can let your imagination go wild here – recreating real modern or historical MLB teams, a team of your friends and family or maybe creating Michael Scott and the rest of the Scranton Officeâ€™s softball team.
I love a good editor, so Iâ€™m well in my element here!
A final mention for the audio in the game, which beyond some decent musical interludes is pretty bare bones. A gruff umpire will growl out a variety of calls and whilst these offer a bit more variation than the standard ball and strike of RBI 19, it’s still not the same as having a full-fledged announcer. Basic noises for pitching and hitting are complimented by some muted stadium ambience, but again, its nothing that is going to blow you away, though it does the job.
So in summary, Super Mega Baseball 2 is a deep sports game that belies its colourful arcade looks to deliver an excellent baseball simulation both on and offline.
An expansive customisation suite will allow you to tinker to your heart’s content and then take those edited teams into battle across a good selection of modes, including a quite superbly engineered online offering complete with leaderboards and the compelling Pennant mode which will keep you coming back week after week to rack up some online points.
Whilst graphically and sonically the game isn’t going to win any awards on the Switch particularly, with some slightly smudgy textures and lighting on players faces, they do a good job of conveying plenty of character and charm which is perfect for this sort of game.
It’s easy to pick up but tough to master control scheme also has enough depth to keep games interesting. Add in local vs and co-op modes and you have a superbly rounded package.
Super Mega Baseball 2 is the best arcade sports game on the Switch. Whilst I really enjoy NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, that is a deliberately slimmed down basketball experience, where SMB2 delivers the real deal in an accessible and fun way to casual or hardcore baseball fans alike.
Itâ€™s going to be a niche title especially for many outside of the US, but for baseball fans its an essential purchase.
- RELEASE DATE: July 25th 2019
- PRICE: $29.99 / Â£23.89
- PUBLISHER: Metalhead Software
- DEVELOPER: Metalhead Software
- eShop Link