Metalhead Software dropped their newest baseball game in the thick of the MLB season with the release of Super Mega Baseball 4. Is the game good? And How does it compare to its predecessors? Let's find out in this Super Mega Baseball 4 review.
Super Mega Baseball 4 Review: What is Super Mega Baseball 4?
Metalhead Software returns to the humorous baseball series after 3 years since the release of Super Mega Baseball 3 (released in March, 2020). Since then, Metalhead was acquired by EA Sports, allowing them to focus solely on development. Prior to this, Metalhead published in addition to developing their own baseball games. The game released for early access on May 30th, 2023, for those who pre-ordered the game (except Nintendo Switch Users). The game's official release date is June 2nd, 2023. But the question stands: Is this a good, or perhaps, “Super Mega” experience that's worth your time & money?
Super Mega Baseball 4 follows the same larger-than-life gameplay style and presentation included in its predecessors. It has all the game modes and mechanics from the previous titles, but adds more features to separate itself. If you've played any baseball video game before, you'll find that SMB4 is easy to get into. Batting, pitching, base-running, and fielding are simple yet there's levels of complexity to keep it from getting stale.
The controls don't take long to get used to, and when you do get comfortable it feels like second nature. I like how the buttons are in coordination with the bases. So for people who are even new to video games, they can tell how the controls work by just watching the game.
SMB4 has a huge suite of game modes. There's exhibition, season, franchise, elimination, and shuffle draft. Online players can also partake in Online Leagues and the Pennant Race game mode. The biggest addition though is arguably Shuffle Draft. Sometimes you want to play with a certain team but use players from all the different leagues. You can do so as you draft 22 players onto your roster. You can even customize it so you only get the best players, or a more balanced set.
Shuffle draft is fun because it feels like a mini-game in and of itself. You can take any of your teams to franchise or season, or you can just keep drafting to your heart's content.
The game is easy to get into as it has a fully customizable difficulty setting, similar to its predecessors. The difficulty, or Ego, as it's called, is a slider from 0-99 that dictates how well the AI plays. If that seems too simple, you can toggle the ego mode, where you can adjust the difficulty of the AI in different aspects. You can put them at a 99 batting but 0 pitching if you want. Base running and catching are also customizable in this setting.
Speaking of customization, the team editor and uniform creation suite are out of this world. You can edit the uniforms and logos, and names of every team in the game, including Super Mega and Legends League teams. This is especially fun for leagues with friends, as you can all check out each other's designs throughout the season. I spent hours creating team logos for fun. Every time you create a league you also get to see many presets which the developers made, some of which you won't want to edit since they look so good.
The Nintendo Switch version of the game, though still as enjoyable, was prone to crashes and frame rate drops that took away from the experience. In a three-day span the game crashed five times, but luckily the game saves after almost every action. However, if you were in the middle of customizing a team, you may have to restart from scratch.
Super Mega Baseball 4 has essentially two kinds of “story modes” granted, there's no real narrative story. There's the regular “Season Mode” which lets you control a team without worrying about actually managing it. You can simulate or watch CPU games, and play or simulate your own.
But if you want to a experience a more content-rich mode then Franchise may be up your alley. The mode offers everything Season does, but with more features available. The three biggest differences are player development opportunities, team budget, and player loyalty.
Throughout the season you'll earn opportunities to improve (or worsen) your player through development opportunities. These include players going to the tanning salon, a comedy show, a metal concert, or participating in juicing programs (Orange Juice – play fair, kids). There's a lot of variety for what they do and what they increase. For example, the tanning salon can upgrade a player's speed, fielding, and arm by 1, and give them a 25% chance to earn a bonus of +3 speed and +3 fielding. There's also a 15% chance to gain a new ability for the player.
Not all player development opportunities are worth it though, as some can lose players overall points or their abilities. My RP, Eastman Nahmskull, lost his change-up pitch after I put him through a program. So you have to be careful and think about the risks with certain development opportunities. You also have a limited amount of money to spend. Note: The player has a team budget and player development budget. Thankfully you can spend as much as you want on player development without affecting how much you have to re-sign players.
The Team budget itself is fairly simple and the game doesn't overcomplicate things with multi-year contracts. Every player in franchise mode essentially signs contracts annually. You receive a budget every season, and whatever you don't spend gets converted into the player development budget, so no money goes to waste. At the end of every season you can sign new players, re-sign current ones, and gather top free agents for your squad. It's a very simple system and thankfully easy to manage.
Player Loyalty is the next new big feature in the game, and though it's a cool feature it can be kind of a doozy. Typically, after every game or two, you're tasked with little options that affect your player's loyalty. For example, two players are sad but you can only comfort one of them. Depending on who you choose to help, the player who was ignored will lose loyalty points.
Your player's loyalty will affect if they want to re-sign with your team and for how much. An athlete with high loyalty will typically stay for no extra charge, while disloyal players will ask for more money. You can still try and re-sign disloyal players for their old price, but chances are they might go.
The problem with this mechanic is that in most situations, you're forced to watch your players get upset with you. In my 20-game franchise season, I watched a lot of players go on to straight up hate me. I imagine in a longer season that could get even worse. That's because most loyalty situations don't allow you to raise a player's loyalty. When you do, it's usually a small amount (between 7-21) compared to how much loyalty they'll lose on others (The lowest I saw a player lose is 16).
Seeing that it is a new feature, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt as it at least adds some extra flare to the mode. I also do like the element of strategy that surrounds it, so it's a feature that I hope stays in the series and gets improvements.
Overall, Franchise mode is fun, though I can see how it may get boring after the first or second season seeing as you just play, simulate, and develop players.
The visuals of Super Mega Baseball 4 are the best it's been for the series. From the stadium lighting to the details on the uniforms it's good for a game that doesn't try to look like Crysis with graphics mods on max settings.
The game has a unique identity with its style that differentiates itself from other baseball games. Back in the early 2000s there were multiple licensed-baseball video games that were all fun. However, they lacked a unique identity that would help them stand out. SMB4 saves itself by doing something different.
The player models look good, and there's more customization on how they can look. If you want a team full of big-bellied base hitters, or muscle-bound basemen, the choice is yours. Their facial animations have more detail than SMB3. The little details, like watching all the little pieces of the baseball bat break off into the sky, are also welcome.
The stadiums all have beautiful designs with varying types of architecture. From the farmlands on Golden Field to the busy industrial city outside Motor Yard, there's a ballpark for almost every setting. What's nice is that there's dimensions for each stadium, so you get the feel of the layout before you even begin.
There's an option to favor performance or quality. If you're playing the Nintendo Switch version of the game, I recommend choosing the “Favor Performance Option” as certain Stadiums can cause the frame rate to dip. Sometimes just restarting the game seems to work as well, and there's even an option to finish games later in case the situation arises mid-game. The PS5 version of the game didn't seem to have this issue.
Music & Sound
The first thing you'll hear when starting the game is the Super Mega Radio broadcast, and the moment you hear it you know you're in for a treat. While you're in the menus you'll hear a variety of songs ranging from metal, punk rock, rap, etc. The soundtrack is nice and fits with the culture of baseball. What's also nice is hearing little commercials that play out of nowhere that made me chuckle. I was re-signing my players during my first offseason when I heard a hilarious advertisement for cellulite.
And when you're on the field it doesn't go away. You'll hear announcers complain because they're betting on the losing team. The umpires all have their own personalities and ways of calling things out. Ballpark organ music plays out loud throughout the game, which is catchy and adds an authentic feel. And of course, nothing beats the sound of a baseball making contact with the bat before it slams out of the field. The sound design is as good as it gets.
Verdict: Is Super Mega Baseball 4 Worth Your Time & Money?
Super Mega Baseball 4 is undoubtedly the best in the series. It takes what the previous games had to offer and adds new features, stadiums, and customization options. The presentation is better, the gameplay is smooth as ever, and the personality and charm still remain. Whether you're playing alone or with friends, you're sure to have a blast as you hit dingers out of the ballpark.
If you're someone who enjoys the sport of baseball and arcade-style experiences, then this game is right up your alley. Even if you're not into baseball, SMB4 is great for new players and fans as it's easy to get used to. With 100 difficulty levels you can start small and slowly build your way up to mastering the game. But it's also a game that's even more enjoyable when playing with friends.
However, for the price of $49.99 (USD) for the standard edition, you may just want to buy MLB The Show 23, which is only $10 (PS4, Switch, Xbox One) or $20 (PS5, Xbox Series X|S) more depending on the system you play it on. But it all depends on your preference. That being said, SMB4 stands as the best arcade-style baseball video game I've played in a while, so I think the price is fair.
Overall, it is indeed a Super Mega experience that emphasizes fun and player control over everything else. I think it's time some of the bigger sports game developers start taking notes from Metalhead. There may be a few dinks in the road in terms of performance and in some of the new features, but the pros far outweigh the cons. It's another awesome entry in the series and hopefully not the last.
Editor’s Note: ClutchPoints received Nintendo Switch and PS5 review copies to allow us to cover this game. These copies did not, in any way, affect this Super Mega Baseball 4 final score and verdict.