Super Mega Baseball 4 is arriving on June 2, and it's bringing along quite a few familiar faces—and I'm not just talking about Jackie Slam and Hammer Longballo.
For the first time in its history, the on-field baseball game will feature real professional baseball players. These aren't current Major League Baseball players, mind you—instead, Super Mega Baseball 4 will feature over 200 former pros from all eras of the sport. There will be modern day players like David "Big Papi" Ortiz, Jose Bautista, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Vladimir Guerrero, but you'll also get to play with some famous throwbacks like Hank Aaron, Wille Mays, Ernie Banks, and even Babe Ruth. See how many you can spot in the trailer below.
Is it a little weird to see real players recreated in the (until now) completely fictional Super Mega Baseball universe? Yeah, a bit—I've played every SMB game and I've gotten quite fond of its cartoony world filled with players with names like Slapper Glutes, Sloop Whoopity, Murky Nubswubbles, and Rip Dingers. The idea of seeing Ozzie Smith in a BeeWolves jersey or David Ortiz playing for the Hot Corners is a bit strange.
But don't worry—you don't have to play with these real-life legends if you don't want to. There are a bunch of different options when it comes to creating teams and leagues in SMB4, including playing with only these new licensed legends, having a mix of real and fictional players, or leaving the real players out of your leagues altogether. It's your call, coach.
"We've built up an audience that is used to playing with fictional leagues," Metalhead Software's studio director Scott Drader told me over a Zoom chat last week. "And with customization being a massive component of the series over the years, we have to be mindful of those things in terms of how we've integrated the licensed legends into the game. So they're there in the game, in sort of the simplest way as an additional built-in league."
There's also a new draft system in SMB4 called "shuffle draft" which Drader described as a "deck building-inspired feature that allows you to build up a team out of whatever mixture of license legends, old school Super Mega players, and your own custom players. You can build up a new league out of those players and then take that league into a franchise mode playthrough or season mode-type playthrough," Drader said.
"It's kind of this way to choose your own adventure in terms of which modes you want to play, and then mix whatever group of players you want," Drader said.
There are also a few things that won't be coming to Super Mega Baseball 4. In Super Mega Baseball 3 you could import data from Super Mega Baseball 2, bringing your teams and players from one game into the other—but unfortunately that won't be a feature in SMB4 so players will have to start their teams and leagues over from scratch. Also, trading players between teams in franchise mode, something I've always wanted to do in an SMB game, still won't be a feature, though the sign and release system has been enhanced in SMB4.
"There's a new player retention and loyalty system that drives the mechanic around re-signing players to stay with your team," Drader said. "A lot of people want more agency over which players are going to stick with your team and which ones are going to leave at the end of the season. So, there's a new gameplay system in there."
Throughout the season in franchise mode there will be what Drader calls "manager moments" where you make decisions that can raise or lower the loyalty of players on your team, which will affect the cost of their contracts and how likely they are to want to leave your team at the end of a season.
SMB4 will also feature 6 new stadiums (for a total of 20), more customization options for player creation, expanded player traits, and crossplay between all platforms for pennant race mode and online leagues. Super Mega Baseball 4 releases on June 2, but if you just can't wait that long, preordering the game will give you two days of early access.