Super Mega Baseball has come a long way since its successful debut back in late 2014. Indie Development company, MetalHead Software, hit a home run with their original Super Mega Baseball game in a genre that was truly non-existent at the time and had lost its lust, so to speak. Classics from the past like the original RBI baseball series and Baseball Stars from SNK were some of the best titles in this sport. Nowadays, in an era where licensed sports games dominate the marketplace and make unlicensed sports titles seem like a high risk for game developers, Super Mega Baseball 2 has once again hit the mark with simulation gameplay mixed with "good ole fashion" arcade fun!
Super Mega Baseball 2 has stayed true to its award-winning formula from the original. The game feels very familiar to its predecessor, but adds more of what we love as sports fans and doesn't detract from the good that came with the original. The game adds an all new Online Multiplayer mode and a complete Graphics overhaul across the entire game has taken place.
In addition, Customizations are abundant and offer a sweet level of depth to an already limited and unlicensed title such as this one. Although the focus seems to have been more on cosmetics and multiplayer, the gameplay feels quite familiar, which is a good thing, combined with sprinkles of improvements scattered across the field.
On the surface, "Super Mega Baseball 2" might appear as just another simple arcade game, but make no mistake about it... the game is a pure simulation when it comes to replicating its sport. There aren't any powerups, cheat codes, or super hero antics going on around these parts. The pitching and batting mechanics are "second to none" and the controls just feel like the perfect fit.
The ingenious Ego system makes its return with even more tweakable options than last time. Users now have the ability to select different Ego ratings (1 - 99) for batting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning. This gives a bit more control to difficulty in the game for those who really want to fine-tune and rival their current skill level. The Ego levels can even be modified during a game if you find yourself hitting too many homeruns or getting bullied around on the mound. Even though the granularity of the Ego system is appealing,
I'm more of a traditionalist when it comes to a game's difficulty levels where Easy, Medium, and Hard are easier to manage. But creating simple difficulty levels takes precision skills to pull off so the game feels balanced and smooth without any over or under powering at play. The Ego system does give back with "Star Points", where you'll get a higher multiplier the higher up you go in Ego points.
Super Mega Baseball 2 has wonderful gameplay mechanics, but they are not perfect in every way and have some minor issues to note. For instance, the fielding "slow down" feature from the original is still here and I love it, but during this camera transition diving for the ball just feels clunky and the timing is erratic to say the least. Making diving catches too often results in balls bouncing off your fielder's body or rolling right past he or she as if they weren't even there. Fielding takes a little getting used where the CPU tries to direct your player towards the ball, but you'll have to take control of the fielder in order to make the play yourself.
The gameplay has a lot to offer... User control becomes more important as you move up in Ego levels, where the CPU does it all for you on the lower levels and the User is almost fully responsible as you move up to the higher Ego levels. This type of User vs. CPU aid is consistent in all levels of the game. Batting and Pitching work this way as well and it feels rewarding the higher you go up in Ego level. But don't go too high! Playing at 99 is almost impossible to hit as pitching ball speeds are lightning fast and user control is imperative at these levels.
Speaking of the batting, let's just say it's the best in the business. You'll have a ball reticle that moves towards the pitch and you'll have to move the cursor and align it to the target in order to make sweet contact. At the lower Ego levels the game will do it for you, but at the the higher ones it's more up to you to locate the ball. The user is presented with two batting options, there's contact and power swings. Contact swings are easier to time and not as penalizing if you don't make perfect contact with the ball. The downside is you'll often times lose power and hit weaker shots that result in pop outs or soft grounders. Although you can still hit the fences with Contact swings, they're just more uncommon. Power swings, however, are the complete opposite. They are more sensitive to timing and provide additional power up to 99 if you time the charge just right. I found them to be more powerful with harder line drives or deep balls as opposed to dingers from my experience. Contact swings seem to be the safer more consistent choice in my opinion. But it's nice to have the option to hit a power swing during certain situations.
Now let's talk about Pitching. And pitching... well let's just say... it's GREAT! It's truly a masterpiece! It works much like the previous game where you have to line up the cursor with the ball's landing point, but it just feels so smooth and it just works compared to other baseball games. You can throw a regular pitch or a power pitch where the power pitch is faster and harder to match the cursor to. If you want to throw a heater, then the Power pitch is the way to go. Just make sure you find the target, because if you miss, then watchout for a possible home run. On the downside, the strike zone is way too forgiving, as pitchers place balls completely outside of the zone and still manage to get strikes. Hopefully, this gets patched soon as batting can be frustrating in the game's current state!
The last aspect of gameplay we'll discuss is the baserunning. That's the one area I keep finding myself referencing the manual too often because it's a little hard to grasp for some reason. Moving all of your baserunners is easy with the left and right triggers, but controlling one baserunner at a time just hasn't clicked for me yet. I'm not sure if it's just more time with the game or it just doesn't work well with the provided control scheme. Every time I feel I have the hang of it, I make a foolish move and find myself thrown or tagged out. One thing I noticed was baserunners seem to be safe to often on close plays and stealing seems to be a breeze. This should be tightened up in a future update. Time will tell...What is the difference between contact and power swings?
Power swings give more power for those massive dingers, but in exchange the impact of missing the contact sweet-spot is larger. Conversely, contact swings are more limited in power but contact is more forgiving. And you can still hit home runs, they just won't be as long.
Use of contact vs. power is situational and according to your own preference and skill. You are not required to use either type of swing unless you want to.
What is the difference between standard and power pitching?
Much like the corresponding swings, there are two different pitching modes that trade off different skills. Standard pitches are limited in velocity (and junk?), but are more precise - it's easier to control the reticule to get a high pitch value and to control the pitch location, and the impact of a "Missed" score are not as large. (The maximum pitch score is also lower for standard pitches, at 69.)
Power pitches have a maximum pitch score of 99, and, for high-velocity pitchers, can use all available velocity. High-score, high-junk pitches may have a higher likelihood of fooling the batter as well. However, the pitching reticle moves faster and more dramatically, is more difficult to get high pitch values, and the impact of "Missed" scores is greater.
Again, use of one pitch type vs. the other is situational, depending on your own skill and the game situation.
I believe the pitcher's accuracy rating also affects control of the reticle, in both modes.
Power pitches do not affect your pitcher's stamina any differently from standard pitches.
Okay, let's get to the new stuff in Super Mega Baseball 2! The customizations and oh the customizations! The game is loaded with customization options and is not for the faint of heart. For starters, you get to fully customize teams, uniforms, players, and leagues in this game. This isn't for everyone, but fans of the game have done an amazing job recreating both nonfiction and fiction teams, which I happen to LOVE! Only problem is you can't really share these designs online. People have created template spreadsheet with instructions on how to recreate the teams yourselves though. I tried it my making a version of the Pittsburgh Pirates and it actually was pretty simple to follow.
Even though this doesn't truly affect gameplay, it does bring more depth into this Indie title and breathes new air into the series. You have so many choices to choose from when it comes to the uniforms and player options. Things like equipment and batting stances are just a few that I enjoy. The number of head types is limited and don't always fit the bill, but you can easily mask this deficiency with all of the other options available when creating your player. You even have walk up music to tag to a player when walking up to the plate!
The Hardcore designers out there will love the new logo editor in the game. It reminds me of BackBreaker or Forza where you can literally recreate almost any type of logo there is out there. It does have some limitations when it comes to the number of layers, shapes, and logos to choose from, but you can get pretty close to matching whatever design you seek. One thing I wish it had was a way to "Select All" layers, which I couldn't find for some reason, because trying to resize and move a logo without this is mind numbing.
The player models have been fully upgraded and each player's dimensions are now more realistic! You have a plethora of visual options to choose from in order to make the perfect team.
The game looks sharp and colorful and includes some interesting stadium designs. Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro owners will even have the game enhanced for the more powerful hardware but will be limited to 1080p resolution rather than 4K. The umpires and fans look great as well! Overall, the graphics are just beautiful, compared the original! Especially when playing on PC, which is where I played most of the time during this review.
New stadiums have been added to the game. And each stadium in Super Mega Baseball 2 has been fully upgraded across all of the platforms. They now have better lighting and more realistic dimensions than ever before, which creates more spaces and realism in the game. The stadiums are lively as ever with fans animating, props dancing around, and even small drone helicopters flying around the field! Pretty neat stuff.
The audio takes a little bit of a back seat here because the commentary is... well... it's just not there. There's no commentary in the game. There is an announcer and umpires calling plays, but beyond that there's nothing outside of player grunts and noise to make note of. There's the crowd noise I guess, but that becomes silent after a while. Commentary would provide more enjoyment, but might take away from the arcade feel of the game. It would need to be the right commentary to fill the void. Replays are also missing from the game, well except for home runs. Those are the only times where you actually see a replay in the game. It would be nice to have a way to replay with a free roaming camera... but maybe next time.
The next big ticket item that MetalHead software worked on was Online. This is the first year that Online functionality has been introduced to the game and it was needed because last time you could only play locally with your friends. Online is really great in Super Mega Baseball 2 and has performed well during my limited testing, includes the ability to play with or against friends in the traditionally offline Season and Elimination modes. They've also included Cross-platform play where you can play against your friends across XBOX One, Playstation 4, and PC which opens up the competition to a whole new level.
The game includes 4 different games modes, where you have Exhibition, Pennant Race, Elimination, and Season modes. Some of these modes offer both offline and online features while playing.
Exhibition mode pits you into a single online or online party game where you can play head-to-head with 1-4 players.
Pennant Race mode is a competitive online mode where you play head-to-head using only standard teams and get ranked based on your skills against others. There's a Pennant Race period where you play against others around your same skill level to see how you place before the Pennant Race qualifying time expires. After the race, you'll get ranked as a Junior, Senior, Semi-Pro, Pro, All-Star, or Legendary class level and work your way through these classes over time the more you play this mode.
It's where I spent most of my time because games are short at 5 innings and you can easily get your competitive fix on in a short amount of time. The ranking also gives you a sense of reward and kept me coming back for more. The mode only allows you to play with standard teams though. This keeps things fair and balanced as opposed to creating exploitable custom teams online. There have been exploits found in the game, but MetalHead has been very proactive with updates to resolve these issues in a hurry, which is a good sign of support.
The Elimination mode is a tournament mode that exists where you enter into a tournament with 1-2 players vs CPU and get ranked in online leaderboards based on your scores while playing this mode. This mode allows you to play with Standard or Custom teams where you can customize the tournament to your liking. It's more of a playoff bracket and I really didn't spend much time in this mode.
The Season mode is the final mode and probably the deepest mode in Super Mega Baseball 2. Season mode gives you the option to play in up to 2 conferences, 8 divisions, and 32 teams. The game allows for friends and party members to join you in a game, but there is not true online leagues to speak of here. This is more of a co-op experience online, which was fine for my purposes. It would have been nice to get a full online experience in this mode, but having online capabilities is new to the series so maybe they deserve a break on this one!
The Season mode has a Standard league where you can play with strictly Standard Teams using standard settings. You really only have the option to change the length of the Season from short, medium, and long game lengths. Just as in the Elimination mode, there are ranked leaderboards to see how you measure up based on your performance during the season. You can only play one season at a time, but the game does allow you to view past seasons to see how you faired.
If you choose to create a Custom league, however, you'll be given far more options to structure your league. You can copy an existing league or build your own from scratch. Full control of teams, conferences, divisions, games and playoff lengths are at your disposal as well. The game also comes with the ability to generate new custom teams to fill your league on the fly! It's pretty awesome to use some of the custom teams and can serve for an easy way to copy a team you may want to use without needing to go through the hassle of creating your own. You'll also be able to customize any team to your liking as well, which gives you ultimate control over your league.
In terms of Season play, the game comes equipped with familiar stats for players and teams, but nothing too deep in terms of stat tracking. For example, you don't really have a training or progression system, but rather a "Mojo" attribute where players can improve or decline based on their past performances. Mojo now carries over from game to game, which is new for this year. Injuries are new to the series and are quite a pleasant surprise as players can now get hurt, which affects their "Fitness" attribute and can keep them off the field or playing less like their normal selves. "Pressure" is also included and it changes depending on the current situation your players in and how the outcome plays out. It will heighten or lower the effects of Mojo in the game and alters the way the player plays on the field.
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As far as team personnel goes, you'll want to rotate players as you would in any other sports game to keep player stamina levels up as these can wear throughout the season. Stamina on pitchers, however, does seem to need some tweaking as starting pitchers seem to have the ability to play an entire game without too much penalty to pitch speeds and accuracy. So I'm not sure how much the stamina really affects players. I didn't notice an increased number of injuries and fitness didn't seem to decline the more you abused your player during the season.
The season ends with a typical playoff bracket and will be kept in the League History section for viewing down the road if you want to relive the season. Franchise mode is lacking here though. There's also no Manager to speak of and there's not much done in the area of orchestrating your team. You can't make any trades and there's no free agency or rookie class to utilize. This would be something and could really expand the series if added down the road.Mojo is similar to the feature from SMB1, and will go up and down throughout a game based on performance. For example, after giving up a bunch of hits or runs, your pitcher may become "Rattled" and have difficulty with speed, accuracy, or junk. Mojo used to only matter in games, but now carries over from game to game. Mojo levels, from worst to best, are "Rattled", "Tense", "Neutral", "Locked In", "On Fire", and "Jacked".
Fitness is new in SMB2, and represents the normal wear-and-tear of playing the game. For example, the catcher position is very physically demanding, so you'll need to periodically substitute your lineup. Fitness also covers injuries sustained during the game, such as beanballs, comebacks, pulled muscles/tendons, etc.
There's a new Shop option for those who want to get more in terms of Customizations in the game. These are not necessary, but are a nice addon for those seeking deeper options when designing their teams. There are new Team Designs, Logos, Sleeves, Tattoos, and more!
Super Mega Baseball 2 proves once again that an unlicensed sports game from an Indie developer can be a true success. And Super Mega Baseball 2 is just that... GREAT! It might be considered as the best baseball game of 2018 and will be the baseball I play most this year! Super Mega Baseball 2 was free on XBOX Gold and comes in at a low price tag of $30, there's no excuse not to make it yours as well!