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Review: Super Mega Baseball – A Grand Salami

I stopped playing sports games when EA stopped making the MVP Baseball series. After MVP Baseball 2005, newer baseball franchises sprinted towards realismand complexity. Developers introduced start-stop throwing meters and fighting game analog stick pitching motions. Then MLB: The Show added pulsing pitch targets, which made throwing one pitch a multi-step process. Over the last decade, the separation from simplicity didn’t make baseball games better.

I don’t want to guess pitches or control fielders to catch pop-ups – I want to get batters out and drive in runs. Super Mega Baseball eliminates the boring parts of modern baseball games and returns to the simplicity of the MVP Baseball series. While complexity can add depth, the team at Metalhead Software Inc. achieves depth by removing unnecessary hitting or pitching systems. Super Mega Baseball lacks hyper-realistic graphics or MLB licenses, but gives players the simplest, most exciting baseball game in over a decade.

Regardless of the sport, people try to play efficient defence to get their turn on offence. Pitching breaks down into three parts: pitch selection, pitch location and power pitching. Once you select one of seven pitches, move the crosshair and try to line up the moving cursor for improved accuracy. Power pitching keeps all the same steps, but includes charging a meter for higher velocity. With few animations between pitches, everything moves at a fast pace. Pick a pitch and throw. No need for fighting game analog stick motions or well timed pulsing cursors for every single pitch.

Super Mega Baseball makes pitching simple, yet I wish each pitcher didn’t throw the same seven pitch types. Some pitchers throw with greater velocity, accuracy or junk (pitch movement), so you should capitalize on their strengths. But because each pitcher throws fastballs, curveballs, sliders, etc., my out pitches and methods stay the same. I wish pitchers only threw three or four unique pitches so I wouldn’t use my favourites as a crutch. I love throwing changeups, so I would appreciate the challenge of using a pitcher who only throws sinkers and fastballs.

Seven pitches won’t guarantee success when Mojo and EGO affect the difficulty. Mojo affects a player’s ability to perform under pressure. Each baseball player’s base Mojo changes through in game performance. If a player goes 0-for-3 one game, expect a Mojo rating well below regular levels for the fourth at bat. Higher Mojo can even raise statistics like power and contact well above their normal levels. Pinch hitters carry tons of Mojo, but back their offence with terrible fielding. He may play terrible defence, but the extra runs can secure a win. Mojo matters more with higher EGO figures. EGO affects CPU difficult, so player stats better reflect their effectiveness. On lower EGO difficulties, players with terrible power ratings can still hit homeruns.

Season mode illustrates EGO’s impact on player performance since each of the eight teams specializes in different areas. Teams excel in defence, pitching or power hitting, and EGO amplifies their weakness. To improve weaknesses, contracts to hire coaches, trainers and stylists alter player statistics. Some staff members improve power, fielding or pitching. Other upgrades improve statics more, but at the cost of other stats, such as decreased Mojo for example. Super Mega Baseball’s standard season, exhibition mode and local multiplayer offer few options. The lack of online multiplayer however, stands out as the obvious missing feature. The lack of online multiplayer bothers me even more than the visual aesthetic.

The somewhat awkward, sluggish animations and the clay-texture of the visuals, don’t match up well with the speed and parodies of names. Buttons Bunterson, number 69 for the Buzzards, runs really fast. With his orange afro and pale white skin, his appearance feels completely separate from his ability. The visual aesthetic doesn’t reflect the excitement of homeruns or triples. While fireworks pop in the sky and guitars blare, the player rounds the bases in a stiff, robotic run.

Super Mega Baseball helped me remember the excitement still left in playing baseball games – even if it took ten years to recapture. Metalhead Software doesn’t match the visual fidelity or mode variety of modern baseball games; the $20 MSRP should temper expectation. Despite the limitations, Metalhead still made the most exciting baseball game since MVP Baseball 2005. The developers show an understanding of the benefits of simplicity, which many games now ignore. Super Mega Baseball’s lack of modes, an official MLB license and awkward visuals don’t show its faults, but areas I can’t wait to see improved.