Switch me out to the ballgame.
The state of Major League Baseball video games on Nintendo platforms has been dire for a long time. Nintendo Switch saw the release of the sloppy RBI Baseball revival, but the last true sim-styled MLB game was back on the Wii in 2012 from the long-dormant MLB 2K series. Outside of the spectacular Super Mega Baseball series, the world of Nintendo has seen slim pickings for baseball fans, especially if you want to do anything of substance with your favorite American pro team. Through some arcane development magic and licensing wonder, the formerly PlayStation-exclusive and Sony-made MLB The Show series is now available on Switch with MLB The Show 22. While this isn’t a flawless transition from the world of the PlayStation to Nintendo’s hybrid system, the Switch version is feature complete with its 4K brethren and runs far better technically than anticipated. Furthermore, in terms of gameplay, variety, and flexibility, few sports games rival the multitude of quality modes nestled throughout this game.
The basic gameplay is as deep as you want it to be. You can crack out the analog flicks for hitting or just use regular old buttons. You can make use of timing-based meters for pitching, or just pick a spot and fire away. There’s even a retro mode that resembles old-school video games, even including a sound bite from Ken Griffey Jr. that will make ‘90s Nintendo players smile. You can mix and match the complexity and difficulty of every part of the game, making it ideal for newcomers to the series as well as those wanting a more realistic challenge. Depending on your level of baseball knowledge, it might be tough to get into the nuance of the sport, but the tutorials do a good job of explaining different elements.
Hitting and pitching having such flexibility plays well into the seemingly endless options for modes. Your usual sports assortment is present, including freeplay Exhibition and the more in-depth Franchise, where you pick a team and play through seasons, building up your roster through player development across the major and minor leagues. A streamlined take on Franchise mode called March to October further refines the sports game staple, taking you through highlights of a season from March to October (get it?). Considering baseball seasons are 162 games long by default, the way March to October gives you the progression of a season in a less-intensive package is brilliant and since it focuses so much on marquee, impactful moments, it’s also thrilling. March to October is the abridged version of a season.
What surprised me the most in The Show is how the modes that gobbled up my playtime the most were ones I typically don’t love as much in other sports games. Diamond Dynasty, the game’s take on the micro-transaction-addled card-based online modes, is incredible. Yes, you can use real money to buy in-game currency, but I was struck by how the game almost deemphasized the fact you can do that. I had to poke around a little to find where to buy currency and the screen was accompanied by a reminder that you can earn this currency by just playing the game, but if you really want to buy it, knock yourself out.
While the Digital Deluxe Edition that I played with has more cards and packs out of the gate, meaning I can’t fully know what the vanilla experience is, I still found the pace of earning new cards and packs to be consistent enough that it didn’t feel like a drag. You have missions you can strive for to earn bonus currency or cards as well as a slew of modes to play around with to accrue currency as well. It’s snappy to move around from mode to mode and while you can go online and play with your team against others, there’s a substantial single-player component as well, including a mini-season mode and, for some reason, a light turn-based hex strategy game. The majority of the games across this mode are only three innings as well, which makes them excellent for quicker sessions. Diamond Dynasty does require a persistent online connection even in the single-player modes, which is understandable but did occasionally result in a dropped game if backed out to the Home menu at all.
The other mode I fell in love with was Road to the Show, where you create a character and take them on a journey from the minor leagues to the majors. Whether you’re playing as a hitter, pitcher or—since hybrid player Shohei Ohtani is the cover athlete—a mix of the two, Road to the Show is snappy and engrossing. Once your player is created, you can just play through games either pitching whenever your pitcher comes in or taking your hitter’s at-bats and occasional plays in the field. The way it builds throughout a season is fun, offering you interaction with coaches and players throughout. This is an example of how the flexible difficulty helped me out. I quickly found I was better at pitching than hitting, and it was effortless to tweak the difficulty so I had a more uniformly enjoyable time.
A lot of the modes I touched on are just the tip of the iceberg of how much The Show features. One of the neatest is how Diamond Dynasty dynamically changes depending on real-world events. Josh Donaldson drove in the game-winning run for the Yankees against the Red Sox last week and for a time, his card in Diamond Dynasty was super-charged. It almost makes the always-online aspect totally worthwhile. But even if you’re not online, there’s no lack of modes across Franchise, March to October, and beyond.
As far as online performance goes, it works. Sometimes it isn’t pretty, but the game bends over backwards to make it work, whether it’s with other Switch players or crossplay with PlayStation or Xbox. I messed around with a cross-play co-op game with some occasional slowdown but nothing totally game-wrecking if you’re playing casually. My Switch-to-Switch online experience was more even, but in general across all the online modes, I detected a little bit of input lag. Your mileage may vary with how much of an issue that is. I remain impressed that crossplay is functional, but if I ever plan to seriously play online, I’d rather do it on Xbox or PlayStation. What’s great is that if I happened to be a Switch and Xbox owner with Game Pass (which I am), I can play the Switch on handheld and then take advantage of MLB The Show 22 on Game Pass and make use of cross-save to play all of my modes on Xbox easily.
While there are some visual hiccups online, I didn’t experience anything aside from some non-gameplay-affecting hitches offline. It’s all innocuous stuff like the UI showing the previous batter until the first pitch of the next at-bat or a foul ball sometimes coming into geometry it probably shouldn’t go. When I was pitching, hitting, fielding, or baserunning, the gameplay was smooth and excellent. The Switch version might visually look a few generations behind compared to the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, but it overall runs perfectly fine if you’re in it for the gameplay.
With how barren the world of licensed baseball games have been on Nintendo systems, even if MLB The Show was a middling port with a token amount of modes, it would have been an oasis in the desert. Luckily, MLB The Show 22 on Switch is so much more than that. It has all of the modes of the 4K versions, including the wonderful March to October, Road to the Show, and Diamond Dynasty offerings. While the online and visual aspects falter at times, the good far outweighs the bad here, as MLB The Show 22 is one of the best sports games of its kind and the Switch version is an excellent way to play it portably and an acceptable way to play it on a television. Here’s hoping The Show is a perennial All-Star on Switch because I could get used to having an assortment of killer baseball games on Nintendo systems again.