- Developer: Metalhead Software Inc
- Publisher: Metalhead Software Inc
- Release Date: 13/05/2020
- Price: £34.99 / $44.99
- Review code provided by Metalhead Software Inc
Introducing: Super Mega Baseball 3 Switch Review
Baseball has never really been my thing. Sure if a game is on TV, I won’t turn away in disgust, but I don’t go out of my way to watch nine innings of baseball. Despite this, I enjoy the occasional sports title and a few baseball titles throughout the years have caught my attention; one of those titles was MLB Slugest. To the uninitiated, Slugfest is the baseball equivalent of NFL Blitz or NBA Jam: an over-the-top, always fun and very self-aware version of baseball. When I saw the Super Mega Baseball 3 trailer, the visuals gave me Slugfest vibes all over again and my interest was suddenly at bat. When I started to play Super Mega Baseball 3 (SMB3), I was pleasantly surprised by its depth. Check out our Nintendad review to see if this game will be a home run or just another foul ball.
Like most sports titles, SMB3 lacks a narrative in the traditional sense. Instead, SMB3’s biggest addition is a Franchise mode that lets you play through several consecutive seasons while managing multiple facets of your overall team by serving as general manager, player and skipper. You’ll manage your team by signing free agents, releasing players, managing player progression, handling offseason tasks and juggling the salary cap. This level of control allows you to craft your team’s story in whatever way you wish!
If Franchise is too much commitment SMB3 also features Pennant Race: an online 1v1 mode where you’ll compete in ranked matches over a given period to make your way to #1 on the global rankings. There are also several shorter options such as Season where you play through a single season/post-season, Elimination (tournament), and Exhibition modes. Every mode has unique levels of customization and each can be played alone or via local or online multiplayer which includes cross-platform play.
The variety of game modes in SMB3 caters to everyone from the ultra-casual-baseball-guy type like myself all the way up to the stat-monkey-fantasy-baseball-obsessed dudes I went to college with. If you like baseball even a little, SMB3 has a mode you’ll enjoy. I spent a majority of my time in Franchise mode. As a fan of RPGs, Franchise letting me modify my team over time to adhere to my strengths as a player along with the ability to choose how and when certain players progress compelled me. This mode adds a wrinkle of strategy not found in the simpler Exhibition or Season modes making it feel as much strategy and role playing game as a sports title.
SMB3’s visual style can give the perception that it’s an arcade baseball title but the actual baseball mechanics are closer to a simulation than the aforementioned Slugfest or other similarly arcadey titles. Overall, SMB3 sits somewhere in the middle between true arcade action and hardcore baseball simulation.
Both pitching and batting are almost mini-games of sorts focusing on picking your spots, finding your target and proper button timing. My first game I struggled with getting into a rhythm but in game three I was mixing up my pitches and getting consistent base-hits. By games five and six, I was throwing strike-outs and hitting my first home runs and grand slams.
Fielding in both the in-field and out-field are where SMB3 swings and misses more often than not. Fielding shallow or even deeper pop-flys are almost always done by the AI. This makes leads to many automatic outs depending on defensive positioning, really making it feel more arcade-like than the rest of the game play. However, if your player isn’t immediately within range of a line-drive, getting them in position to make a play or recovering to be able to make a play feels stiff, slow and unresponsive. The general fielding mechanics just can’t seem to decide on if it wants you to take over or not and the gameplay suffers for it.
Fortunately for pitching, batting and everything else like stealing bases, advancing runners and even throwing from the outfield is smooth and a thrill to execute correctly.
Coaching From the Dugout
In terms of the strategy of a baseball match, you’ll need to manage your team as well as play. Each player has various skill ratings specific to their position and context within the current game. Pitchers have velocity, junk and accuracy ratings which determine their pitch speed, ability to curve the ball and how likely they are to hit their targets, respectively. Batters have power, contact and speed ratings which determine how hard they hit the ball, how likely they are to hit their target, and how fast they run the bases.
Other skill ratings to manage are defensive skill traits as well as a player’s Mojo which impacts their confidence and increases as they perform well or decreases as they make mistakes. Managing all of these traits and knowing situationally when to adjust infield/outfield positions, relieve your pitcher, or substitute a player is its own meta-game within SMB3.
The Sights and Sounds of the Ballpark
As stated earlier, SMB3’s visual presentation leans more toward arcade with exaggerated, cartoony player models, over the top player animations and some interesting and futuristic stadium designs. With the gameplay more on the simulation side of things, the visuals cartoony style may confuse the game’s identity and turn some players off. That said, the visuals do pop with great team designs, player models and animations!
The sound throughout the menus and during at-bat entrances is filled with over 100 unlicensed and generic musical tracks to choose from and ensures you’re not likely to get sick of the same song over and over again, but nothing really stands out. In-game sounds such as umpire, bat cracks, crowd noises and announcers all make you feel like you’re really at the ballpark enjoying a game.
Since SMB3 is not a licensed baseball title, players and teams are all created specifically for the game, but many players and teams were brought over from Super Mega Baseball 2 along with some new expansion teams and players. If you’re not interested in the players and team’s provided, SMB3 includes a surprisingly robust creative suite so you can create new players and teams or modify the existing ones to your liking down to even creating custom logos. Considering that even some big, triple-A sports titles don’t even offer the ability to create custom teams or logos, SMB3’s pool of options really make this feel less like an indie title and more like one that can hang in the big leagues.
Technically speaking, SMB3 isn’t a visual powerhouse so it isn’t exactly pushing the Switch’s hardware. The game runs almost identically in both docked and handheld modes and I don’t believe the frame rate ever dipped below 60 FPS in my playing time.
SMB3 isn’t completely flawless however, and once or twice I saw a player advancing to second base who would mysteriously disappear and not because they stole second and advanced to 3rd – they just simply disappeared both from the actual in-field as well as the bases indicator. This happened maybe twice, though and, as this is a review copy it’s possible that this is fixed in a patch.
Bottom of the 9th
While Super Mega Baseball can’t decide if it wants to be an arcade baseball experience or a pure baseball simulation, it does get on base more often than it strikes out when balancing its crazy visual style with its deeper gameplay. There are game modes for everyone from casual to hardcore baseball fans with Franchise mode and the creative suite both giving those who play SMB3 a lot to get their strategic and creative juices flowing! Super Mega Baseball 3 is fun but seems pricier than other baseball titles on the console, especially considering the lack of player and team licenses which tend to drive up the cost. Casual baseball fans may want to wait for an eShop sale, but for hardcore baseball fans looking for a great game to play on the go or at home on their Switch, this is an easy title to recommend.
- Wide variety of single player, local and online modes
- Pitching, Batting and baseball strategy is solid and fun
- Franchise mode provides plenty of replay value
- Surprisingly deep creative suite
- Arcade visuals and sim gameplay don’t always match
- Fielding the ball is inconsistent and sluggish
- Prices itself away from the casual audience
Super Mega Baseball 3 isn’t a Grand Slam but it’s easily a homerun for those hardcore and casual baseball fans looking to steal bases on the go.