Baseball hasn’t been too kind to us Xbox fans; with the fall of MLB 2K in 2012 and the mediocre RBI revival over the last two years. We don’t have The Show to look forward to, and EA’s MVP series is long gone, but Metalhead Software’s Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings has stepped up to the plate and brings America’s greatest pastime to the Xbox One. It’s a game that swings for the fences, but is it a grand slam, or just another foul ball? BASEBALL JOKES!
At first glance, one might assume that Super Mega Baseball is an NFL Blitz-inspired arcade game, or a more lighthearted affair like the Backyard series. With team names like the Moonstars and Over Dogs, and players like Beefy McStevens, I can see why–but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, it’s more like an accessible baseball sim that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles (or licensed teams) found in MLB: The Show. Its lack of modes and online support could be a giant step in the wrong direction, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a joyless experience. There’s a surprising amount of depth to be found by any armchair jock entering the batter’s box, and there has to be a good reason why this was Polygon’s Sports Game of the Year in 2014.
“It’s basically the ECW of baseball games…”
There’s only 6 different stadiums and two modes to play–with exhibition and a variety of season lengths–and unfortunately this lack of variety speaks for the rest of the game. There’s 12 teams to choose from with each given their own focal point, like power hitting, defense, or the more balanced Beewolves. However, I didn’t really notice a difference when playing as any team. I pitched just as well using the power hitting Sirloins, and sent just as many balls sailing over the fence as the pitching focused Moonstars.
Without a licensed roster to fall back on, you can customize the visual appearance of any player on any team–and yes, you can play as both sexes, which is awesome. I’ve seen other players post screenshots of their custom teams made of 80’s WWF wrestlers and unmasked super heroes, so it’s definitely a feature that draws attention. I was occupied for thirty minutes or so, creating friends, staff members, and my significant other, but I never felt the need to revisit the option afterwards since it’s baseball, not Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Each of the teams have a well balanced roster, but the game’s Mojo meter is what really makes or breaks a player. Striking out a batter or landing on base gives that player a slight boost in stats, while the opposite is true if find yourself grounding in to a double play. It’s a noticeable change–especially when you start to tank–but you can substitute players at any time during a game and give them a break, just like I did with my own virtual Miles when he couldn’t seem to hit it out of the infield. Ryan, on the other hand, hit 6 home runs in his first 3 games. I’ll just let those two fight it out in the comment section.
As you play through your season, your team of choice will level up. This presents the real depth of Super Mega Baseball, as higher levels allow you to fill additional coaching contracts and endorsement deals that improve your players’ statistics. As players level up, their baseball card obtains sockets that can be filled with additional gear, like batting gloves that increase power swings, better control of pitches, or training regimens that increase their base stealing speed. There’s always an incentive to keep playing through what seems like an extremely limited amount of available game modes. It’s basically the ECW of baseball games, as even without broadcast announcers, licensed players, a home run derby, an all-star game, online support, weather effects, or any form of player career mode, the folks at Metalhead accentuate their positives and deliver enough content in the regular season that is sure to keep me occupied for a while.
If you’ve ever been intimidated by career modes and season play in any standard sports game, rest assured knowing that Super Mega Baseball is extremely accessible and offers a simple Ego slider that can make the game as easy or as challenging as you’d like. By default, the AI will control player movement during fielding opportunities, but a higher Ego ensures the player does most of the work. Likewise, when you find yourself at bat, cranking the Ego meter means less assistance from the AI while aiming at pitches from the batter’s box. With the game only offering local multi-player, this makes it easier to grab 3 drunk friends and make the bar of entry low enough for everyone to have a great time.
“The fundamentals of baseball are here in full swing.”
Although I enjoyed myself tremendously, there’s a few things that I didn’t really care for. For starters, every pitcher has access to the same list of pitches, with the only difference being their delivery speed and accuracy. I was never excited to bring in a new pitcher because I knew he didn’t have an ace up his sleeve–just a fresh Mojo bar. Each was essentially the same as the last; just a different skin tone or sex. The visuals are also a little off-putting. It’s cute and takes liberties being comedic at times, but the character animations and models are really unappealing. Movements feel clunky, even while delivering basic animations like throws and dives, yet the game plays well, and that’s what counts the most.
If you’ve been waiting for a solid baseball sim to smash its way on to your Xbox, you may find what you’re looking for as long as you can overlook the game’s quirky visuals. It’s not The Show, and it never pretends to be. In any sports game, the most important aspects are responsiveness and gameplay, and Super Mega Baseball definitely connects; from timed power swings, double plays, and stolen bases, to its simplified Ego system, the foundation is rock solid. What it lacks in variety it makes up for in depth, especially after you’ve leveled up your team a bit, and it’s incredible what the small team of developers at Metalhead Software accomplished in terms of pitching and batting mechanics. The fundamentals of baseball are here in full swing. However, the game’s lack of identity in teams and their players slightly puts it above a .500 season; which is good enough for a wild card slot. Here’s hoping for a potential yearly contender next season.
Recommended for fans of: baseball. C’mon, that’s a given. It’s the same price as RBI Baseball, but with significantly better gameplay. The choice is easy.
*This review is based entirely on the Xbox One version of Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings, which is available now for $19.99.