Sports video games are a massive phenomenon. Some of the most popular titles year after year simulate the world’s greatest athletes doing what they do best. However, simulation can feel inaccessible to non-sports fans and a sense of feeling of, well, “inside baseball.” In the case of Super Mega Baseball 3, you’re in for a game that beautifully balances simplicity and lightheartedness with engaging customization, varied difficulty options and satisfying strategic choices both on and off the diamond. As someone who is uninterested in baseball, I still highly recommend Super Mega Baseball 3 for a myriad of reasons.
If you’re like me and don’t particularly take baseball too seriously, you’ll love that Super Mega Baseball 3 does the same. It’s worth noting though that this game isn’t as arcade-like in gameplay as it may appear. Behind the goofy player depictions and hilarious names lies gameplay that genuinely makes you feel skilled once you’ve got the hang it. Unlike arcade contemporaries like NBA Jam (or other arcade examples), you won’t find insanely flashy animations or inhuman athleticism that lights the ball or playable character on fire. Instead, you’ve got technically rich mechanics for pitching, base running and hitting that are given to you in a simplistic way, all while surrounding you with an environment that is welcoming.
For example, I found myself taking a liking to pitch the most at first. Depending on the character you’re playing, you may have a wide array of pitches that can be used to mess with the rhythm of the at-bat opposition. Once a choice has been selected, there’s a quick but responsive aiming system that lets you make the best pitch possible. While it was somewhat awkward to get used to at first, that feeling soon subsided and became one of my favourite things to do in the entire game.
Other parts of baseball gameplay are carried out in the same way. I had some hiccups with base running at first. At one point I accidentally told my third base runner to run back to third instead of scoring a point at home base. With that said, the controls for these more technical sides of the sport are so intuitive that I was able to know what I did wrong immediately. Frustration almost never set in because of this, which really emphasized just how beginner-friendly the game is.
While these somewhat deep but easy-to-grasp controls are in play, the characters are what bring Super Mega baseball 3 to life. From the emphasized stiff-upper-lip of the macho sluggers to the abundance of puns across any given team’s roster, stepping into the world of this game is the most surprising joy it offers. Names like “Rip Dingers” and “Junior Young Sr.” can be seen across the imaginary league you take part in. Alongside these humorous athletes comes a swath of funny home run celebrations, signs of frustration and other vivid expressions. All these come together to both poke tongue-in-cheek fun at the game of baseball, while also clearly showing a warm love for it.
On that note, one of my only gripes would be that some of the animations come off as less polished than the rest of Super Mega Baseball 3. Sometimes a bat being broken against the ground in anger actually shatters long after initial contact. On other occasions, a bat attempting to be broken over the knee of an enraged hitter just might not break at all (though to be fair, that could be the point). In these very rare moments, the immersion can be taken away for a moment in time. Ultimately though, this is incredibly insignificant compared to the pure escapism that comes with heading out to the ball game in this cheeky and engaging world.
Equal fun from the bullpen
When you’re not actually pitching and hitting on the diamond, there’s plenty of stats and managerial components to digest. The game mode that exemplifies this best is the new Franchise Mode. While this isn’t reinventing the wheel of sports simulation games, taking on the reigns of a major franchise is an incredibly accessible endeavour this time around. I chose to take on my competition as the Moose.
When selecting teams in any game mode, it’s made clear what a given franchise specializes in. Some teams are power hitters, some have blazing speed and others have a solid rotation. These strengths and weaknesses are made extremely evident, almost comically so. However, this time around it doesn’t come across as another addition to the humour of the game, but instead a visual tool for you to gauge what lineup changes you want to make as the season goes on. From my experience, it became embarrassingly clear that Irene Fast was just about the only reliable runner I had on the Moose, and that glaring weakness dictated the way I approached signing and releasing players in an effort to become more well-rounded.
Aside from the easy-to-grasp macro decisions, you can make, there’s also individual player development opportunities. These opportunities will arise with an expiration date on them, adding another layer to the budget-balancing and decision making you need to be prepared for as a team manager. While the process is simple, I do wish the game made stat boosts a little more clear as they happened. I often found it hard to judge precisely what development I was investing in aside from a few stat bars increasing after the press of a button. Aside from that, it’s yet another great addition to an already comprehensive game mode.
There is a wealth of content in Super Mega Baseball 3. Whether you want to do a quick pick-up game, devote yourself to an elimination tournament, go through season play or the aforementioned Franchise Mode, you’ve got all bases covered. While I don’t speak for anyone aside from myself, I’m sure actual fans of baseball will eat this game up even more than I did. Better yet, I think Super Mega Baseball 3 could appeal to just about anyone looking for an experience that strikes equally funny and challenging chords.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]