The gladiators from my website will crush your team like nine flabby grapes
It’s the start of the Super Mega Baseball 4 2023 season. The Internet’s Destructoid is taking the field. We’ve got a great game tonight, as fans are hoping to see their heroes eat grass. Destructoid is the home of legends, such as Timothy “Drop-Taco” Monbleau, Chris “The Other Chris” Moyse, Eric “Mystery Meat” Van Allen, and Zoey “Small Tragedy” Handley. Perhaps the fans will be treated to the sight of magic taking the mound in the form of veteran pitcher Jonathan “Gravy-Drinker” Holmes.
It’s been three years since Super Mega Baseball 3. In that time, the series’ developer, Metalhead Software, has been bought by the evil corporation, Electronic Arts. Fans are being forcibly glued to their seats as they wait to see what delicious treats insatiable greed might bring to the table. Will this be the season it catches fire? Or will the series find itself rained out and left damp?
I’m not a massive baseball fan, but I’m also not-not a baseball fan. I played it when I was younger as my parents did everything they could to tear me away from video games. When was the last time I watched a game? Probably during my trip to Japan. That stuff plays on just about every TV there.
However, I love over-the-top sports games with lots of customization. I don’t watch a lot of hockey either, (please don’t alert the Canadian government), but NHL Hitz has a steel grip on my heart. The Super Mega Baseball series has been a bastion of this. In a world where MLB: The Show is practically the only show in town, it stands apart as a series that puts fun before simulation.
While I miss the stylized caricatures of the original games, Super Mega Baseball 3 was a new high-water mark for the series. Despite this, I still had a wishlist for Super Mega Baseball 4, and being purchased by EA was not on that list. And neither were real-world baseballers.
Did anything I want get added? No. So, that’s a good way to start.
I put my homemade football on hold
Super Mega Baseball 4 is very much built on the bones of Super Mega Baseball 3. So much so that the best parts of it were already present in the previous title, while the new stuff could have just been in an update.
That’s not to say that nothing is technically or appreciatively different. For example, I feel that Super Mega Baseball 4 slides further into the sort of hokey baseball cliches that I opened this review with. You can clearly hear hecklers among the crowd. Vendors are audible in doling out over-priced food. The umpires are more animated and exude more personality, and the announcer does advertising spots between innings. These may be needless distractions to some, but when I’m fielding my own team, having an equally developed world around them enhances the atmosphere.
What I don’t appreciate is the song selection. It’s not bad, but there’s no way to toggle off tracks that I don’t like. There’s a pop-country one in there that, to me, is the equivalent to getting a bamboo splinter. Being able to manage the jukebox feels like such a common feature in sports games, that I was almost in disbelief to find that it wasn’t there in Super Mega Baseball 4.
Your right fielder has been dead for 130 years
The engine also got upgraded, and that’s sort of a mixed bag. The shadows look a little off to me, but I appreciate the greater diversity in weather and time of day lighting. There’s something weird going on with meshes, though. Logos get stretched on the chests of players, which is extremely strange to me. I don’t remember this being a problem in Super Mega Baseball 3. There are only seven body types across male and female players. It’s not like you can change the dimensions. Considering there’s so much depth to the logo editor in Super Mega Baseball 4, it’s kind of disappointing to see your work get smeared across someone’s chest.
The players have had their animations expanded. There’s a lot of personality that comes through them. You’re given a lot of power in making each of your characters distinct. The level of customization available is a bit wild. However, while there are a lot of distinct faces you can choose from for your players, there’s no way to actually fine-tune them to get a better likeness.
This is most noticeable with the flaunted real-world players. While Super Mega Baseball 4 retains its whimsy by mostly focusing on retired (or deceased) legends, they’re not implemented that well. It’s obvious that they’re all created from the same tools that you’re given for your own team. So… what’s the point? If I wanted Babe Ruth on my team, I could have just created Babe Ruth myself. He bears as much resemblance to his real-world counterpart as my Chris Moyse does to the real Chris Moyse.
If I want you to bunt, I’ll touch my belt buckle not once, not twice, but thrice
Super Mega Baseball 4 also doesn’t really fix the complaint I had since the second title, which is that there’s very little curated progression. When you create a player, you can set their stats without any limits. If you want a team with completely maxed-out stats, no one will stop you from creating one. Even if you want to be more sparing with your point distribution for the sake of challenge, it’s hard to really know where your team sits in comparison to the ones you’ll be playing against.
You can temporarily buff your players between games, but I always find it more fun to develop their skills from a plucky little team struggling to compete to an absolute powerhouse. Instead, you’re left with the responsibility of setting your own difficulty, and there are just too many ways to do that.
Ego Mode was really enough of a difficulty adjuster to begin with. This lets you tweak the in-game systems to your liking. If things are a little too hands-off and automated, you can crank your ego up. If you would rather not worry about much more than pressing the right button at the right time, that’s an option too. You can also change each facet of the game’s difficulty individually. I personally liked to crank up the challenge on pitching while keeping fielding a little more breezy. I get overwhelmed easily.
Some of these guys have a bad attitude, Skip
The customization in Super Mega Baseball 4 is extremely expansive. I’m a bit jealous of people who have enough friends to create a custom online franchise mode. Matching up teams in a big internet bucket sounds like a great time.
When it comes down to it, Super Mega Baseball 4 is improved, but not that improved. I’m not looking to downgrade, and I kind of wish I was playing it right now instead of writing this. However, I still have a wishlist for the next installment. This one feels like such an unneeded upgrade. Most of it feels like it could have just been in a patch. The more appreciable additions weren’t must-haves, and some elements feel more rickety. I guess what I’m saying is that Super Mega Baseball 4 gets on base, but it’s definitely not a home run.
No one’s ever used that analogy before, right?
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]