I’ve never really been all that into baseball. I enjoy playing it, I enjoy playing some games based on it, but if you sit me in front of something aping reality like MLB The Show I’m going to get bored before I’ve managed to wade through all the menus. Thankfully, Super Mega Baseball 3 is not a sim.
There aren’t many arcade sports games around these days, most of them are meticulous simulations with players that look more real than my actual real face. SMB3 reminds me why that is a shame. It’s not a wacky baseball game, the ball won’t burst into flames if you hit it hard enough or anything like that, but it’s not so deep that you’ll get lost in stats and spreadsheets.
You’ll spend much more time actually playing baseball than navigating menus to manage your team, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any management. Alongside the Exhibition, Season, and Elimination modes is the new to the series franchise mode, that lets you pick a team and play through multiple seasons. You’ll be buying and selling players from a list of free agents and developing your team, during which players can age and retire, opening up space for others to take their place. As well as being the first time the series has let you take on multiple seasons, it adds depth to the experience without overloading you with menus.
Naturally, this isn’t as involved as it is in MLB The Show, but it skirts the line between depth and accessibility quite well. Player development is particularly useful. You can spend money on various absurd training opportunities, such as a vegan diet or teeth whitening, which will give the player a boost to some stats for a few games, with the booster having an increasing chance of expiring after each game. There’s also a small chance that the training will be super effective and boost your player even more, of that the player will gain a trait.
These traits give the player an advantage or disadvantage in specific situations, such as a batter getting more control when they’re two strikes down, or who suffers a speed penalty when trying to steal a base. They can be seen in game by holding a trigger when batting or pitching, giving you a quick hint on what you can and should use to your advantage. They also help differentiate players more than just the regular stats are able to; you’ll likely be looking at traits to decide between players with similar stats and holding onto the traits you find most useful.
Paying attention to your players will serve you in other ways as well, as their stats may get a penalty if their stamina is low, or if they’re feeling tense due to how the game is progressing. Alternatively, if your pitcher is doing particularly well, they could get the “locked in” status, or “on fire,” gaining a bit of a boost. These moods and traits helps add a little more variability to the gameplay and properly managing them is the key to winning at higher difficulties.
Another change to add more depth is the revised base stealing mechanics, where a press of a button will immediately cause your player to try and sprint to steal a base, rather than the wait that previous games had for the runner to respond. It makes base stealing more timing based than what previously felt more like luck than anything else, which is a significant improvement.
The Ego difficulty system returns, with you being able to change the game’s difficulty at any time outside a match from number 0 to 100 – 0 is obviously stupidly easy, while 100 is next to impossible for any but the most Super Mega of players. The higher the difficulty, the more you’ll need to directly manage your fielders and where you’re aiming whilst batting, as on lower levels the game accounts for these itself, moving your aim towards the ball and doing basically all of the fielding for you outside of choosing when to throw the ball.
Customisability also returns, as the game lets you edit absolutely everything. You can change your kit, your team logo and home stadium, or dive in an edit players to look however you like and be whatever gender you like. You can do the same for every other team in the game as well, or if you’ve already gone through this before, import the customisations from the previous game.
Super Mega Baseball 3 has been given a big visual upgrade over its predecessors as well. It’s probably not going to concern the competition, with the players still sometimes looking like misshapen action figures, but the stadiums have a good amount of detail to them, there’s great lighting effects, and it’s great for some lighthearted baseball. The sound design does a similarly solid job, but not much of note. Hearing the announcer read out the tongue-in-cheek player names is pretty funny, though.