Super Mega Baseball
Super Mega Baseball was a brilliant arcade baseball simulator that was disappointed in its lack of online play. Tracking keeps the hitting and throwing mechanics accessible, smooths out some rough aspects, and adds everything that was missing, including multiple online modes, a detailed team editor, and custom leagues. It basically does everything a sequel should do, and the result is the best baseball simulator on the field for PC.
Online, you can play a one-time game or custom tournament with friends, but the flagship mode is Pennant Race. You are placed in a league with 14 opponents of a similar skill level, and you have about a week to win as many games as you can before being transferred to a different league that reflects your new rating.
I like the structure – mini leagues make every game feel important. Once you’ve played a game, it’s hard to walk away, especially if you’re about to beat the person above you on the leaderboard. I was worried there weren’t enough people playing it, but cross-play with both PS4 and Xbox One means finding your next game is always quick. (For the sake of fairness to players, Pennant Race currently requires the use of a controller.)
Pennant Race’s five-inning matches are the perfect showcase of the series’ cat and mouse hitting and pitching system. As a thrower, you select a throw type, mark where you want to throw, and then guide a second circle to that mark during your rope. Where that circle ends is where you will pitch, and the closer it is to your original mark, the faster it will be.
As a hitter, you can try a normal hit or a power hit supermega, which you charge before swinging. The latter is more difficult to time, but is more likely to cut through the frame. The location of the pitch is only revealed while the ball is thundering towards you, so you need to keep an eye on it early and decide whether to leave it alone or reposition the hit marker and walk away.
Create a deep system where two players will not pitch or hit in the same way. I’ve had games where I’ve been able to read pitches with no problem, leaving balls thrown away from home plate and hitting anything in the middle. But I’ve also had games where the pitcher has made me swing one bad ball after another. I love the mind games and double bluffs he creates between pitcher and batter, each trying to predict what the other will do next.
Super Mega Baseball 2 is great offline too. I have yet to find a way to exploit the AI, and the mistakes the CPU makes feel very human, like hitting a curveball off the plate. The difficulty system, which I think every sports game should adopt, makes it easy to find the right level of challenge: set an ‘Ego’ rating of between 1 and 100 separately for pitching, hitting, fielding and running bases, and you can adjust it. in the middle of the matches. I’ve been playing a lot of low-scoring games during my season, so I kicked off the Ego Thrower and lowered the hitting, which means that both me and the CPU connected with more pitches.
The seasons now have 16 teams instead of 12, which is a nice boost, and you can add up to 32 in a custom league using the in-game creation tools (to learn more about them, Chris took on a team of heroes from PC games against a group of villains). You’re not getting official leagues or anything that happens in the back office like player trades, which is a shame, but I have still stuck to my team and the ‘mojo’ system that raises or lowers a player’s stats based on of their performance provides continuity during a tournament.