It's always a tricky task to translate ‘America’s Pastime’ into a video game form in a way that accurately bottles the magic of a day at your favourite ballpark. For Switch owners, we’ve watched as MLB The Show – the only real go-to simulator for baseball goodness on consoles – continue to score home runs on other platforms, forcing us to rely on the mini-games and truncated versions found in the likes of Sports Party. Things were looking up back in March when the RBI Baseball franchise stepped up to the plate, but a lack of online play and a general absence of deep features saw that ball fouled for the most part (including this year’s iteration).
So, with the game hanging in the balance, up steps Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition from the dugout. And with a name like that you’re probably expecting some NBA Jam-style approach full of slapstick home runs, overblown pyro and various things engulfed in comedy flames – especially once you add those caricature-esque character models and an overall cartoonish aesthetic. But screenshots can only ever tell you so much, and beneath its arcade looks lies a baseball sim that puts the shallow updates of the RBI series to shame. If you’re looking for a proper sim full of tactical nuance and deep customisation, you’ve wandered into the right virtual stadium.
Of course, Canadian studio Metalhead Software could have opted for a silly approach, but what Super Mega Baseball 2 does so well is marry a lighthearted vibe to a serious simulation. It looks like one of those terrible baseball knock-offs from the Wii era, when in actual fact it’s as authentic in its systems as some of the recent MLB The Show entries. A realistic physics engine makes every inside fastball and every solid bunt move across the field in just the right way. Sure, the ball does bounce a little too much at times, but the sheer level of accuracy that comes from experimenting with different pitch types in order to draw a hitter to swing too early is going to really capture the imagination and tactical creativity of baseball fans.
The Ego system from the first game returns here, which provides an adjustable difficulty that breaks away from the normal ‘Easy’, ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Pro’ settings found in almost every other sports sim. Represented as a counter from 0-100, the game’s AI and in-match settings are tweaked as you manually increase the number. It’s a really neat approach that had us slowly ratcheting our Ego score up and up as we settled into Super Mega Baseball 2’s realistic physics. However, the lack of an interactive tutorial or practice mode will make some baseball newbies struggle outside of dropping their Ego score down to zero. There’s a glossary of terms and an explanation on all the important skills and tricks, but a proper batting cage or pitching drills would have been the extra dollop of icing on an otherwise tasty cake.
One thing Super Mega Baseball 2 doesn’t have that will rankle dedicate baseball nuts is the lack of MLB licensing or official teams and players. Characters might look like something out of NBA Playgrounds 2, but you’ll have to contend with the Moonstars, Overdogs and other fictional teams instead of authentic monikers. However, it’s an issue that’s lessened somewhat by the sheer amount of customisation at your disposal. While Super Mega Baseball 2 might be the PES to MLB The Show’s FIFA, you can make up for the lack of real players and teams by customising player names, uniforms, attributes, logos, appearances and more. You can even design your own tournament brackets, a feature that’s a must for players who want to create their own mini-leagues.
Developer Metalhead claims this version of Super Mega Baseball 2 is on par with every other edition of the game, and after an extended playtest, we’re inclined to agree. In terms of performance, it runs at 60fps in both docked and handheld modes with no signs of slowdown anywhere, so every fastball and screaming homerun bolts across the screen just as God intended. The cartoonish aesthetics help the game retain its quality – especially in handheld mode – with only a small amount of blurring visible during a game. You can play local head-to-head multiplayer and co-op with split Joy-Cons on a shared screen, and there’s full support for online play (with dedicated servers) – a feature RBI Baseball 19 can’t attest to, even with its MLB licensing. There’s also support for online co-op and online competitive matchmaking.
In terms of content, you’re getting all the extra bits and bobs released since the game launched elsewhere in 2018, including two new stadia – the Nicaraguan-inspired El Viejo Stadium and the Mojave Desert-style Red Rock Park (taking the arena count up to 10 for the Ultimate Edition) – as well as an impressively robust wardrobe full of extra customisation options for your homemade teams. There’s nothing particularly unique to this version, but it does ensure Switch owners are getting something on par with those on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
If you’re a Nintendo Switch owner and a baseball devotee then the deep mechanical options and customisation levels of Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition mean that it's the ideal tonic to ward off the lack of MLB The Show on the platform and the perpetual disappointment that is RBI Baseball series. With support for all manner of local and online setups for co-op and competitive multiplayer – and lots of extra DLC content bundled in – this is a rewarding yet potentially intimidating simulator that’s only really diminished by a lack of official licensing and a proper training mode.