Tech News on G4
Super Mega Baseball is mega-surprising
Jan 19, 2015
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
Winter is the pits, and not because of the frigid weather, terrible driving conditions, or the constant need to bundle up every time you leave the house. No - it's because Major League Baseball is on hiatus, its players hibernating in far warmer climes.
As such, new baseball video games typically don't make their appearance until spring training or beyond, but for 2015, there's a treat for gamers in the form of Super Mega Baseball. It may not feature Yankee pinstripes, nor names like Kershaw, Trout, or Bautista, but it more than makes up for a lack of MLB licensing by offering superb gameplay that's matched only by its endlessly fun and goofy aesthetic.
It's clear that the people at Victoria, B.C.-based developer Metalhead Software are big fans of the sport. Super Mega Baseball is a cinch to learn, but is surprisingly deep for those gamers who want to be challenged.
Players choose from one of 12 teams, and right off the bat (no pun intended), it's clear the game isn't taking itself too seriously. Team names include the Sirloins, Wideloads, Platypi, and my personal choice, the Blowfish.
The game features but two modes, each clearly focused on different types of players. Exhibition is as casual as things go, offering any game length you'd like, even a single inning. Season, meanwhile, lets players opt for short, medium, and long seasons, depending on how dedicated you are.
Difficulty (known in Super Mega Baseball as "Ego") can be changed on the fly. Lower the Ego, and most gamers will be easily bashing home runs and whiffing batters, but when you grow tired of crushing opponents, raise the difficulty and Super Mega Baseball becomes a completely different beast.
See, during exhibition matches on easier difficulties, games can essentially be played (and won) using one or two buttons - at its most basic, it's X-button to throw the ball, and X-button to swing. As you increase the Ego, though, you'll need to be far craftier with your pitch choices and swings. All of this, though, is handled masterfully by the developers.
Pitching, for instance, is wonderfully simple and complex at the same time, rewarding those with quick reflexes. You choose one of several pitch types, and press the X-button to throw. A reticle and moveable icon then pop up somewhere near the batter. It's up to you to aim the icon as close to the reticle as possible - the closer you get, the tougher the pitch will be to hit.
You can go even more advanced than that by pressing and holding down the square button for a specific amount of time, still while aiming the icon into the reticle. This makes it tougher to pull off a high-quality pitch - and by extension easier to completely miss your target - but if you do nail things, your pitch will be nearly unhittable. It's brilliant because it offers up an addictive risk/reward system every time the pitcher winds up.
Batting is similar, in that you can aim your swing and hit X, or choose to hold down the square button for more power. Screw up the timing, though, and you'll lose most of your power.
The game can be played using the analog sticks, and while it works very well, I tended to gravitate toward using the face buttons.
Fielding is also fairly straightforward, though I did find that it wasn't as slick as the rest of the game, with players often feeling slow and plodding as they ran toward balls.
The most frustrating aspect was the diving and jumping actions. A fielder would dive for a hotly-hit ball, and while I often lined up and timed it perfectly, the players rarely actually caught the ball. They would simply knock down the ball with their body, slowly run to it and pick it up, then throw it. This mechanic could stand to be a little more forgiving.
Game mechanics aside, Super Mega Baseball offers the highly-invested player some cool customization options. In season mode, you can change the names of your entire lineup, although I couldn't bring myself to change many of the hilarious names, several of which I swear could double as porn star monikers (Rusty Bustum? Rogan Balls? C'mon!).
You can also mix and match several different face and body types, and I guarantee there's at least one team out there featuring gruff, bearded men fitted onto the body of athletic females.
Levelling up also results in the hiring of coaches. At first, I cringed at the idea of having to deal with coaching staff, but the way it works is simple. Coaches are simply there to train players and offer them powerups such as increased pitching accuracy, better luck, and faster baserunning.
This keeps things fresh as seasons go on, and it encourages players to increase the Ego at which they play. Because as I already mentioned, casual players may be happy to keep beating up on the CPU, but Super Mega Baseball truly shines when you're forced to take on a team of aggressive and highly-skilled players.
The game offers local co-op or competitive play, and while some may lament the lack of online play, there are leaderboards that let you see how you stack up against others around the world in numerous.
Some may scoff at Super Mega Baseball's lack of features, but this isn't a $70 title. Besides which, there actually is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Plus, I'd take a game with a few modes featuring superbly-implemented game mechanics, over a title with a ton of features that plays terribly.
Super Mega Baseball is like the 2014 Kansas City Royals - a complete and utter surprise, in the best way possible. The game may have technically been released in 2014, but pound-for-pound, I'd put it up against any of the big hitters that inevitably get released when the weather starts getting warmer in 2015.
Super Mega Baseball
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