Super Mega Baseball 3 — The Secret Weapon
Super Mega Baseball 3 is not a total home run, but the franchise and its brand of wacky baseball continue to trend in the right direction.
Growing up as a sports-loving little dork, one of my favorite franchises was the Backyard Sports series. I was also super into NHL Hitz, NBA Street, and Blitz, but the core games in my arcade sports heart were and always will be the Backyard games. Sure, they’re incredibly easy once you’ve played them for a handful of hours, but Humongous did an amazing job integrating personality into their sports franchise.
For me, that’s always been the draw of sports, whether they be digital or real-world. On-field action can be absolutely breathtaking, but if I don’t have a reason to care, I find myself quickly tuning out. I need that drama that’s unlike anything else in the world. And, for my money, Backyard Sports is one of the few series that gave me a similar level of intrigue. I care more about Pete Wheeler and Pablo Sanchez and even that loser Dmitri Petrovich more than I do most other characters in any other medium. No other game has been able to merge that fun (if simplistic) arcade sports action with players that I genuinely care about.
And then I started playing Super Mega Baseball 3. Listen, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s this incredible game that you have to play. Frankly, it isn’t. However, my time with the game has whisked me back to my childhood and brought up some of those same joys I felt knocking the ball out of Eckman Acres.
Opening up Super Mega Baseball 3 for the first time, my eyes were immediately drawn to the team customizer. Given the cartoony graphic style, I instantly knew this was something I could work with. And so, I spent the first few hours of my time with the game recreating some of my favorite Backyard Sports characters and making them into my team. Now, on its own, that’s not too exciting. I could technically do the same thing in plenty of sports games. The difference, at least for me, is that the visual style looks like what you’d imagine a modern Backyard game would look like.
That’s cool and all, but a good character creator is not exactly going to light the world on fire in 2020. Plus, there are only like 20 hairstyles and you can’t even put mutton chops on the ladies. Like, what gives? No, this is a sports game. We need to talk about the on-field action.
Here’s the thing about Super Mega Baseball 3: it’s a pretty simple game. That’s not necessarily a knock on it, but if you’re coming to it looking for a difficult sim to immerse yourself in, this ain’t it. It’s more interested in being goofy and letting you blast bombs to outer space. The game has a solid difficulty system they call “Ego” that’s actually pretty well handled. You can set your overall Ego anywhere from 1-99, but it also lets you break it out further than that. So, if you’re an ace pitcher but can’t swing a bat to save your life, you can adjust your Ego settings to match. However, you really have to crank that Ego setting up if you want a challenge.
See, until you hit roughly 80 Ego, the game still gives you a ton of assists. Let’s look at batting, for example. On lower Ego levels, the game just automatically aims your bat in the right direction. As you move up the Ego scale, the auto-aim lessens, but it doesn’t go away until you bump it up to around 90. Now, the pitches are coming in much faster at higher Ego, but if you pay attention, you’re going to have a stud batting average.
Pitching isn’t quite as simple, but you’ll master it pretty quickly. Basically, you select a pitch and then try to adjust your aim as you go. Imagine you’re playing a dart game in Yakuza and you’re trying to time the cursor in the right place at the right time. That’s basically what this is. It’s a fun way to pitch. Fielding is even easier as the players pretty much just run to the ball on their own with almost no input needed.
Personally, I’m not too fussed about the game feeling more simplistic than most modern sports games. After all, I play a lot of them, and sometimes it feels like there’s just too much going on. Super Mega Baseball does away with that complexity and just focuses on the fun. For baseball fanatics, that might kill the game. For casuals like me, it’s a welcome change of pace.
That said, it’s not all rosy for Super Mega Baseball 3. One of the bigger issues is kind of a weird one to me. Almost without fail when I play sports games, I immediately turn off the sound. The announcers just spout the same crap year after year that there’s really no point in listening. So you would think that Super Mega Baseball’s lack of any kind of broadcast team wouldn’t be a turn-off, but, for whatever reason, it really kills the feel of the game. Maybe it’s because of my fond memories of listening to Sunny Day and Vinnie the Gooch. Maybe I really do like the sultry tones of FIFA‘s Martin Tyler. However, the lack of an announce team is an unfortunate admission. It doesn’t kill the game, by any means. It just makes you realize that this is something of a budget project.
My other problem is a much bigger deal. I don’t want to say the game is full of technical issues, but it did crash every time I tried to alt+tab and respond to someone on Discord. There were a few other small issues that added up to it, again, feeling like a cheaper game. It’s not going to take you out of the game or anything. Well, unless you actually want to get out of the game for a second. Because then it’s going to die and force you to reload your franchise.
Super Mega Baseball 3 is a weird game to review. I can’t, in good conscience, tell you that this is a great game. It’s not. It’s fine. SMB3 is like the ham sandwich of video games. If you don’t want ham, then it’s not for you. It’d be great if you also had some cheese to put on there, but you’re a poor college student and can’t afford that kind of luxury. And then there are people like me who freaking love ham. It’s so good! How could you not like ham! Can you tell I’m writing this right before lunch?
Anyways, that ham sandwich is going to hit the spot perfectly and make you feel like you’re a kid again without a care in the world. You have no group project and the gym is just the place you play dodgeball and not where you force yourself to do cardio. It’s great.
That’s where I’m at with Super Mega Baseball 3. I adore the things it lets me do, but I also recognize that I’m uniquely suited to love this game. SMB3 lets me bring the smoke from the mound with Amir Khan. It lets me rocket line drives with Mikey Thomas. It lets me hose fools from deep center with Keisha Phillips. But it didn’t create any of that. I added all of that personality. I don’t care about the dumb characters SMB3 made, so can I give it full credit for the great time I’m having?
But there is something good here. That can’t be denied. It feels weird to say this because we’re on the third version, but if Metalhead can take the fun, arcade gameplay they’ve put together and really lean into the personality side of sports, Super Mega Baseball 4 is going to be incredible. If they give this franchise a wacky story mode, it’s over. We’ve peaked.
Seriously though, if you’re looking for a baseball game that doesn’t care about the intricacies of the sport, Super Mega Baseball 3 is worth a look. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a good time. And, hopefully, you can become as invested in your squad as I did mine. That player-driven storytelling really makes this game work beautifully for me. Metalhead is also a developer ready and willing to make changes after their games launch. They’ve already committed to adding things like a team import from SMB2 and online mode improvements. That dedication to the franchise and the core fun of the on-field baseball, make this a game I will likely be coming back to quite a bit during the summer doldrums.