Super Mega Baseball 3 takes the quirky series forward in an important way while maintaining the style that made its predecessors so unique. The result is something surprisingly close to the real thing in terms of stats and mechanics, in a package that’s familiar to sport sim fans, but with all the looks of a more relaxed, more arcade-like title; and it’s a good combination.
Super Mega Baseball 3 does not have official licensing, players and stadiums, or the visual likeness of anything real-world, instead these are made-up players, combining men and women in the same team – a wonderful inclusion – with cartoony visuals. It looks at first glance like an arcade facsimile of baseball, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Underneath the aesthetic is a true digital version of the sport, one that uses clever mechanics to approach the real thing, and relies heavily on player stats and well-being to inform those mechanics. It sticks closely to the fundamentals and nuances of the sport, but with its own style.
Pitching and batting are where the meat of the game is played and where it’s crucial to master the mechanics. It consists of matching your reticule, with the left analogue stick, to a second moving reticule in pitching, and a short-lived dot in batting, to line up that perfect pitch or swing. And it’s hard going. In pitching it’s important to mix up your pitches and keep away from the centre, so not to give the batter a strong opportunity to hit it, and in batting, it’s hugely important to connect solidly with the ball and at the right angle so not to send it too short or directly into a fielder’s hands.
Any lapse in concentration can cost you dearly, and this is especially so when the bases start to get filled and every hit counts for a potential point. And your player’s stats as well as how you’ve performed and the importance of the shot all come into play in how easy it is to make those pitches and swings, modifying how the reticules move, the shake on the controller, and your general accuracy. It’s brilliantly tense, engaging and immersive.
It means you have to get better at the physical act of matching the reticules and reading your player stats and the way the game is playing out, which in turn informs you on what kind of pitches and swings are better for each situation. It becomes truly tactical and mirrors the real thing splendidly.
A new addition to the series is the Franchise mode, which allows you to upgrade and modify your squad. It’s a little restrictive when it comes to buying new players – with its like-for-like player acquisitions – but it’s a mode more commonly seen in sports titles nowadays that’s very much appreciated here.
A unique part of Franchise mode are the player development opportunities (PDOs) that allow you to allocate skill boosts that permanently affect specific players’ attributes, with a little rogue-like randomness thrown in that affects which ones can be purchased, how long they are available for, and how significant the boost and negative side-effects. Furthermore, the money you generate to buy PDOs is tied to your payroll. The less you spend on veteran players with high salaries, the more you can spend on PDOs to develop new talent. It’s a nice trade-off that keeps teams balanced and varied, and there’s plenty of humour and charm in the kind of boost available.
Super Mega Baseball 3 proves a good baseball game doesn’t need official licensing, in fact it has turned its independence into a strength with its charming cartoon aesthetic, mixed sex teams and humorous boosts. There’s room for more complexity to the Franchise mode and the fielding, but overall this is an excellent digital facsimile of baseball that can keep fans of the sport engaged for the long-haul.