Cooperstown Ready

HIGH Finally winning it all with my beloved Beewolves!

LOW Blowing a six run lead in the 9th .

WTF The ads on the stadium walls.  Chocolate covered kale?  Really???

It’s the bottom of the 8th at Emerald Diamond Park in Seattle.  The Beewolves are down by three, and they’re in the middle of an eight-game skid that may end their playoff dreams. With the Wild Card looking like a pipe dream, it’s now or never.  Moments later, Martha Hart steps up to the plate. On a three ball, one strike count, she annihilates a hanging curve for her first dinger of the year.  Will the ‘Wolves mange to break the tie and hold on to eke out a playoff berth? 

Welcome to Super Mega Baseball 3.

It’s difficult for me to talk about Super Mega Baseball 3 without gushing, and it’s made me happy during these uncertain times in a way few other games have.  It perfectly blends the excitement and skill requirements of any top-shelf baseball title with gorgeous, stylized visuals, and just enough silliness between innings.  

Previous iterations of Super Mega Baseball relied more heavily on cartoonish player models and exaggerated stadiums, but this one has dialed it back significantly.  Players have slightly elongated features and large eyes, but they’re more proportionally correct and look more realistic, although one won’t confuse it with The Show anytime soon.  The stadiums are lovely, featuring gorgeous fields and eye-catching architecture — the devs have tried to capture the essence of classic parks (such as Fenway in Boston) in their design elements, so each stadium represents the idealized concept of baseball in a way that’s hard to describe or match.

While the aesthetics are stylized, Super Mega Baseball has consistently delivered realistic, surprisingly nuanced play on the diamond.  AI players react appropriately in all situations, moving to receive potential cutoff throws from the outfield or heading to backup infielders when making plays.  They’re capable of making stunning sliding catches or leaping grabs to rob home runs.  They also make errors at a believable rate, with catchers occasionally fumbling a pitch in the dirt, or a 2B letting a grounder eat ’em up, even if the button presses are perfect and the positioning is solid. 

While the player has full control over individuals on the field (including the long overdue ability to switch players on the fly), abilities are partially governed by individual statistics and the mojo rating system.  A player with high mojo receives boosts to speed, pitching, hitting, and fielding as a reward for exceptional play. Slumping players have their mojo decrease, increasing the likelihood of errors or sloppy mechanics. 

On the mound, the human player has control over pitch selection, with each pitcher having an individual arsenal of curves, sliders, and so on. New for pitchers in Super Mega Baseball 3, is the ability for players to manually select a pitch-out (far outside the normal strike zone) when attempting to pick off a runner attempting to steal.  It’s not ground-breaking, but it’s little details like this that add so significantly to the sense of immersion. 

Batting is just as nuanced, with players moving the batter-eye reticle to attempt to guess where a pitch may be headed. Pressing the contact swing button causes the player to swing normally, while holding down the power swing button charges up a swing for greater oomph when trying for a moonshot.  Better hitters have a larger reticle to work with. 

SMB3 attempts to cater to all levels of play with the EGO difficulty selector.  By increasing the EGO setting (anywhere from 1-99), players can set the challenge to their preference.  The system is robust, but touchy.  After handily winning my first few games, I foolishly set my EGO higher and got destroyed eight games in a row — I have no idea how anyone play on EGO 99. 

Players can experience single exhibition games or attempt to take on all comers in Season or Franchise modes where they can use ready-made fictional teams (like my Beewolves) in shortened 32-game seasons, or they can custom create teams to play up to full MLB 162 game schedules. 

In Franchise mode, players must also manage team finances while taking into account fatigue and degeneration of skills as their players age — they even look older in team photos or on baseball cards!  Between games, perks can be purchased to temporarily raise player stats, so managers must decide how to invest their funds. is it wiser to increase a slumping hitter’s batting for a few games, or to bring in a high-priced free agent to salvage a season? 

If one is looking to play with or against others, SMB3 offers online versions of Season and Franchise modes in local/online flavors.  If greater competition is sought, one can enter online Pennant Race modes where players attempt to win as many games as possible over a set time period.  Be warned, the opposition is much tougher against the living!

Overall, Super Mega Baseball 3 is everything I’ve ever wanted in a baseball game.  The jump to triple-A pricing may be a shock for series fans, but SMB3 is worth every penny.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Metalhead Software, Inc., and published by Metalhead Software, Inc.  It is currently available on PC, Switch, XBO and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode (with many, MANY more to come) and a season of Franchise Mode was completed (the game cannot be truly completed as there are continuing seasons and franchises available). 2 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E.  The game features realistic baseball action, albeit with exaggerated character models.  Pitchers can be hit with “comebackers” that knock the player to the ground with injuries represented in a cartoonish manner.  Some players react to bad at bats with mini tantrums, such as breaking a bat over a knee.  

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Most gameplay mechanics have visual and auditory cues, but when an opponent is stealing a base, there is a telltale scrambling sound that does not have a visual cue to the player other than the screen switching to the baserunning/stealing field camera.  Without this cue, precious time can be lost in reacting to the situation.  While there is an HUD showing current game status, there are no subtitles for any voiceover announcements including umpire ball, strike, and out calls, which seriously affects immersion.  The game is NOT fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The camera is fixed for batting, fielding and pitching.  However, the camera axes can’t be switched for fielding/batting/or pitching.

Jeff Ortloff
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