Super Mega Baseball 2 Ultimate Edition Review: The All-Star Game
While the MLB's popularity has waned in recent years, losing ground to the NFL and NBA among stateside sports fans, there's still an intense desire for baseball video games. It doesn't help that there are so few baseball games coming to the various platforms.
If you're determined to only play with licensed pro teams quickly and easily, you'll have to try PlayStation's annual The Show. However, if you don't mind a game with studio-invented teams and a deep customization suite for more determined creators, you won't find a better mix of arcade and simulation baseball than Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition.
There's a chance you've already played Super Mega Baseball 2. It originally launched in May 2018, though after a year of DLC and the welcome landing spot the Switch has become for indies, the game has been repackaged as an Ultimate Edition complete with all the DLC on a new platform. This review was conducted with the Switch version, and it was glorious.
While Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are the system sellers for many people playing on Switch, for baseball fans, SMB2 is the killer app that is worth a Switch purchase all on its own. From top to bottom, the game is precisely what baseball fans would want, and to have that all on the go or docked is a supremely addictive fit.
In terms of modes and menus, SMB2 has most everything you'd want. You can play solo, in local play, or online. You can do so in pick-up games, season mode, and custom leagues. In these modes, everything from division and conference names and sizes to team names, jerseys, and fully customized logos is up to you. Names, looks, and even the eye-black and tattoos of every single player are customizable.
It does lack a derby mode, but competitive online play is integrated in several ways, like front and center leaderboards, that help round out the modes on offer. The options to make a league your own whether playing alone or with friends is stunning for an indie game like this. Heck, it would be impressive even as an annual big-budget sim.
Without MLB licensing, you'll not have the chance to drop in and play as the Red Sox, Cubs, or the league's 28 other teams, but for the most patient and dedicated, the customization suite is so absurdly deep that you can certainly make those teams from scratch. Many players already play the game this way. The DLC that comes with this all-inclusive version amounts to new logos and stadiums, taking the game's customization options that much farther.
On the diamond, the game's wide-ranging difficulty options mean virtually anyone will find the right resistance from AI opponents. Dubbed "Ego," this system allows players to tweak the skill level of their opponents from 1-100, offering incredible nuance. If the game is getting too tough or too easy, you can simply adjust the Ego accordingly and try out the new level until you find the right fit.
As you improve, your opponents can come with you, or you can keep them as pushovers and turn a season into a one-sided home run derby. In many of its most important areas, SMB2 is defined by its player agency.
There's also the dynamic mojo stat which measures a player's mental toughness. Players on hitting streaks will have higher mojo, while those hitting in the low .200s may be ice cold at the plate until a lucky swing turns it around. Pressure is also measured and works in tandem with mojo to deliver heroes and zeroes to every game. Step up in the bottom of the ninth with a high mojo player, and they may as well be David Ortiz.
All this agency wouldn't mean much without strong core mechanics, but again the game dazzles here, too. Pitching and hitting are very active systems, where you have to chase the spot of the ball whether you're at the plate or the diamond. Pitching feels phenomenal: you can really fake out opposing batters with intimidating control of the strike zone, while batters have to weigh contact versus power versus bunting. Complete control is also given to every baserunner individually or collectively, and each player is even given their own walk-up animations and songs. And yes, even these are customizable.
Nearly every strategy you'd expect to see in the most expensive AAA baseball games are here, too, which rewards smart players with challenging situations meant to bring out the coaches in them. How to play the base paths, adjust your fielders, and creatively use substitutions are key to winning on the highest Ego settings for the most thoughtful baseball minds.
The one area in which Super Mega Baseball 2 has not gone leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor and, for the matter, genre counterparts, is fielding fly balls. This system is largely automated, leaving you feeling like you've lost control of your vehicle in intermittent moments despite the awesome autonomy everywhere else. Whereas hitting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding with the ball in your glove cal all be as tough as you like them to be, with fly balls even at the highest settings, SMB2 holds your hand for seemingly technical but ultimately unexplained reasons.
Screenshots of the game cloak all of this deep customization and true to form baseball IQ in a cartoonish and fun aesthetic. Player models got a bit more realistic compared to the original game which featured ridiculous proportions, but they still look something more like Jimmy Neutron characters than real humans, and that's fine. Metalhead Software surely couldn't attain photorealism, so they smartly made this style work for them instead, turning a neutral or negative element of the game into a positive.
- Impressive customization options
- Great on-the-field play with wide-ranging difficulty options
- Many modes and ways to play with friends locally, online, or alone
- Creative mojo and pressure systems interact to alter athlete behaviors in fun ways
- Fun, lighthearted visuals bring the world to cartoonish life
- Fielding fly balls is curiously semi-automated, which stands out as the one area where players lose control
Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition is the definitive killer app for sports game fans playing on Switch. More so, if you haven't played it on other platforms, it remains an excellent option there, too, even if you have access to PS4's The Show.
What's lost in MLB licensing is recovered tenfold in deep customization across the board, intuitive play on the field that rewards a high baseball IQ, and a lighthearted aesthetic which belies the game's as-serious-as-you-want-it design. Admitting it's an overused cliche, it also feels unavoidable; Super Mega Baseball 2 is a grand slam.
[Note: A copy of Super Mega Baseball 2 was provided by Metalhead Software for the purpose of this review.]