For those of us that consider it to be the true sport-sim addiction, rather than the usual FIFA and Madden entries, news that MLB The Show 22 would represent the series' debut on Switch was rather exciting. A PlayStation exclusive for many years, Major League Baseball clearly felt a broader audience was needed and — presumably in license renewal negotiations with Sony — pushed for a multi-format approach. It's developed by Sony San Diego of course, so there was a fair amount of novelty when the 2021 entry arrived on Xbox (on Game Pass, no less, as it will be this year as well).
That was an entry that arrived a little later than normal, no doubt due to the logistical challenges of work-from-home, etc, in 2020, so it's understandable that a Switch port didn't emerge. We honestly thought the idea would quietly disappear, so were pleasantly surprised when the latest entry was not only confirmed for Switch, but announced as fully-featured and cross-platform. The support is such that Nintendo's hybrid has even been included in the 'Tech Test' week, in which servers are stress-tested and various modes put into effect.
To start with a disclaimer, we're focusing this impressions article mostly on offline games vs CPU. Your humble scribe and MLB The Show veteran is based in Europe, and the tech test was North America-only. A bit of a cheeky workaround with an NA Nintendo Account and a Nintendo Switch Online family membership vacancy got us into the app, and we played an online game that seemed to work as advertised. However, assuming NA-centric servers were used, it'd be unfair on the game — and our opponents — if we judged the test while playing on a system in Europe.
What we can say about the online 'Diamond Dynasty' setup on Switch is that, as expected, it looks to be feature complete. Even the limited options of this test are there in full, and moving around the menus felt the same as it would on a PlayStation or Xbox. In portable mode in particular the UI actually looks rather good, too, giving a positive first impression. The cross-platform play was working in our test, the marketplace and so on seemed to be up and running, so clearly the setup that connected PSN and Xbox last year has transitioned well to include Nintendo's online accounts as well.
It's also worth giving the usual proviso that it's a tech test and not the final product, as Sony San Diego made exceptionally obvious in the game. In truth they overdid it a little, with the note at the top making sense but the extensive watermarking actually making play more difficult. It's not surprising that a number of MLB The Show streamers and content creators are already shifting back to last year's game, with the watermarks being a rather unpopular feature.
Anyway, the gameplay, that's what we care about on Switch, right? Well, first off, it's proper MLB The Show crunched onto Switch, based on our 'Vs CPU' games and the aforementioned brief dabble online. The animations, the quirky plays that happen, everything feels exactly the same. It's great to have the full-fat game, but here's the bad side — it's been achieved by taking the resolution to eye-watering lows, and performance is poor.
Let's start with the visuals — we can't see evidence of a particularly clever or inventive method used to get the game running on Switch. For example crowds still move in the same way, but now in a pixelated mess. When docked it looks distinctly poor, frankly, while the exceptional fuzziness is a little less noticeable in portable play. It doesn't feel elegant, in any case, but rather like settings and resolution were just turned down until it stopped crashing. Clearly the game's engine doesn't play nice with the Switch, in which case a different approach was perhaps necessary.
It's great to have the full-fat game, but here's the bad side — it's been achieved by taking the resolution to eye-watering lows, and performance is poor.
Performance is the problem, though — forget 60fps, it struggles to get particularly close to 30fps to our eye. A smooth 30fps would be nice, of course, but this is a baseball game, where reaction speed and timing are absolutely imperative for batting. This game struggles mightily docked and in portable mode, stuttering along to a disappointing degree. Combine the visible jerkiness with the game's frequent camera movements (when fielding, for example), and a family member in the room actually felt slightly dizzy watching. It's not really good enough, at this stage.
There is no smoothness to any aspect of the game, with the ball visibly stuttering in the air, like some sort of elaborate stop-motion version of the sport. This is a particular issue when batting, as tracking the ball through its flight is difficult. Rather than see a continuous path of the ball you see frame-by-frame snapshots, in essence relying on reactions, willpower and persistence to connect with a decent hit. It can be done — in CPU games on the middle difficulty we had a bit of success at times, but it wasn't particularly enjoyable.
To assuage our own self-doubt we fired up a copy of Super Mega Baseball 2 on Switch, a game that does the opposite and gets a lot right. They're very different games of course, with Super Mega Baseball having a far more cartoonish look and Indie roots (the development studio has since been acquired by EA), but on Switch the compromises worked. It looks nice but, more importantly, performance is excellent. Movement of the ball when pitching and batting is smooth and perceptible, a far cry from the blurred and stuttered delivery in this MLB The Show 22 tech test.
Compromises are needed for Switch of course — we need to be realistic — but that aside, the question is whether this experience will be worthwhile on the system. Of course, there's time for more optimisation and improvements ahead of release, and for those that only have a Switch it may be worth the disappointing performance to have this baseball juggernaut on the go. For sure, if sticking to play against the CPU, or perhaps the Road to the Show career mode, there could be fun here. Playing online cross-platform though? That's a big no right now, as it'll be near impossible to compete with PlayStation and Xbox players enjoying their presumed 60fps performance mode (no performance option was included in the Switch tech test, to clarify).
Our overall feeling of the tech test on Switch is ultimately one of disappointment. Significant compromises to presentation don't even bring the pay-off of good performance — for a baseball title so reliant on timing and reactions, that's a critical issue.
It's definitely strike one for MLB The Show 22 on Switch.