Being a child of the 80s the current state of baseball games on the market is a tale of two extremes. Sony continues to dominate the market with MLB: The Show, while the once-great (yes, it really was one of the best) RBI Baseball continues to trot out a half baked attempt on capturing the market. The Nintendo Switch has had an interesting early life as a few titles have graced the NA and EU markets but nothing as complete as the titles that have arrived in Japan. Metalhead Studios saw this void and quietly began work on porting over Super Mega Baseball 2. The question remains, was the secrecy to hide a broken mess of a game or was it to surprise the fans of the National Pastime?
Let’s eliminate this right away, SMBB2 is not MLB the Show. What Sony has carefully crafted in Santa Monica is not in jeopardy of losing market share. SMBB started out in 2014 on the PS3 before moving up to the PS4 and Xbox One a year later. The overly cartoony take on the sport was met with some fanfare as the core mechanics were sound and there was fun to be had. Flash forward to today and SMBB2 has returned after an extended seat on the bench to fine-tune its skillset.
SMBB2 has fully redesigned the player models to more human proportions. Gone are the giant heads, oversized bats and pencil legs. Instead, we have character models that while not accurate representations of people do fall more in line with actual people. The vast colour palette featured here is very noticeable in the many stadiums that a teeming with life. Each stadium is its own world. While there are fewer stadiums than teams (some teams share) this does not deter from the on-field fun.
Audio-wise, SMBB2 needs to spend some more time in the minors. While not as drab the umpires’ calls are just as lifeless as they were in the original. While the overall sound is adequate for an arcade-style baseball game, there is nothing here that grabs the player and transforms the experience into anything other than a video game. The ambience is subtle and really makes other sports titles stand out with added elements like player chatter and crowd NPC interactions.
Thankfully the gameplay is well above the Mendoza line. The key feature here is the EGO level. This system alone changes everything about how you play the game. Before or even during the game players can adjust this level to increase/decrease the AI difficulty while also shortening/widening the margin of error for the player. Piggybacking off of this the EGO is also used to increase your points multiplier so you can show the world that you are a Mike Trout level competitor as opposed to just another Skeeter Barnes. The mojo system returns this year and remains a wonderful indicator as to your players’ current streak. Collecting hits, driving in runs, making diving plays can increase your player’s mojo level which in turn can raise their level of performance. Think of it as a hot or cold streak. Struggling hitters will generate lower mojo thus making it harder to snap out of a slump. Batting has remained unchanged allowing the player to utilise either the right thumbstick (Up for contact, down then up for power) or button inputs to control their swing.
Pitching is handled via selecting a pitch type with the right stick, aiming with the left and using either L or ZL depending on the amount of effort you want in the pitch. Fielding is a mixed bag. Each base is mapped to the corresponding face button and power/accuracy are directly tied to a meter that pops up. The decision to have a pseudo auto field mechanic is puzzling. At any time the player can take full control of their fielder which comes in handy when the AI-controlled defender lazily drifts towards a rocket into the right-centre gap. Equally puzzling is the omission of a pickoff feature. While not 100% vital the lack of inclusion here create a situation where trying to control baserunners is fully reliant on the pitcher opting for a pitchout and thus registering a ball and logging an extra pitch on their pitch count which will deplete their stamina.
While lacking the MLB license is a big turn off for purists, SMBB2 does offer a pretty deep customising suite. Here players have the ability to edit players names, appearances, etc. as well as logos and team names. While not optimal, a die-hard fan can easily create their version of majors with some effort and a bit of time.
So just how do you stack up? Posting your scores on the leaderboard is one way of comparing your skills but for those ready for a true PvP experience, SMBB2 provides its Pennant Mode. Here players utilise the cross-platform matchmaking and battle it out head to head. Points are collected and added to a current pennant season. The gameplay remains as smooth as Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing.
Super Mega Baseball 2 is a great take on the national pastime. The cartoony graphics are a whimsical facade for what truly is at its heart a solid simulation baseball game. The solid depth and decent controls are ultimately let down by lackadaisical soundscape. That aside, SMBB2 is worth your time and money if you are looking for something that doesn’t involve translation keys.
Review code provided
Release Date: 25/07/2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Sports, Simulation, Arcade
Publisher: Metalhead Software Inc
Download link: eShop