Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania: An Arcade Throwback Made for Fans
Super Monkey Ball is one of Sega’s biggest series. Starting out in arcades, players around the world fell in love with the game, hundreds of quarters and many frustrating levels later, Sega decided that the best course of action for the series would be to put it on home consoles. Thus, Super Monkey Ball Made its way onto the GameCube and became a smash hit. The series continued on, with Super Monkey Ball 2, and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe. All being critically acclaimed by fans around the world.
However, the series started falling into obscurity, as the game attempted to innovate on itself, as well as saw the removal of the creator of the series, Toshihiro Nagoshi, who then went to start a new series, Yakuza.
The series continued onwards without him, however, the games started doing downhill. In an attempt to innovate on the game’s design, they became less of what fans were expecting from the series, arcade games.
However, fans were asking the developers of the games for remakes of the first two titles, and within a year and a half since the launch of Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD, players got their wish and were given Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania Review
Many players are wondering how well this entry stacks up to the original Super Monkey Ball titles. There’s a lot of content in this game, and I haven’t even finished it all as of writing this review. However, I have played enough of the game to give players everything they need to know about this game, and how well it plays.
Super Monkey Ball is a faithful remaster of the 300 stages from the game’s first three entries. There’s also a set of new stages included in the game’s story mode. However, let’s talk about the story mode first.
The story mode is a part of the main game, as well as the challenge and special modes. The story mode is shown through the “SMB Show,” which AiAi and his friends watch on the TV. A comic book-style cutscene will play out between each world, ending with the characters running off to defeat the antagonist of the story Dr. Bad-Boon.
Once the player is on a level, the goal is simple: guide the ball to the goal. However, the way that the ball moves isn’t as simple as pressing forward on the stick to make AiAi move. Instead of the ball moving on its own, the stage is tilted to make AiAi roll.
This means that players are going to have to be more precise to move the ball to the goal. However, with no barriers, players are going to have to make sure AiAi doesn’t fall off. This is all a part of the game’s arcade design, and it’s frustrating, but also rewarding to complete the stages. There’s also a time limit to complete the stage as well. Not completing the stage in time will force AiAi to restart.
The game has also removed the Lives system from the original titles, allowing players to freely retry the level. If the player restarts enough times, they’ll be asked if they want to use the assist mode, which brings in some other features to help players complete the level. These new features include a doubled timer, a slow-motion option, and a guide to show players the easiest route for the stage. However, completing this with the assist mode will remove scoring from the stage.
Completing the stage will award the player points, but more can be collected if AiAi beats the stage quickly or collects any bananas on the way to the goal.
There are hundreds of stages to complete all lovingly remastered from the first two entries in the Super Monkey Ball series, as well as Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which was also a compilation of the Super Monkey Ball series beforehand. However, the stages in the game have been altered to become “easier” for players. While they’re easier, they’re still incredibly hard, and players who aren’t familiar with the Super Monkey Bal Series should attempt story mode first to get a grip on the game’s mechanics.
How players get to the goal isn’t important to the game either, as it’s an arcade title, so almost anything goes. When I was playing, there’s a stage where the goal is below the starting platform. The game wants the player to make their way through the stage to get to the goal. But through sheer luck and a little bit of skill, it’s possible to take a leap of faith from the starting point, and land right in front of the goal.
This goes for most of the stages. Bananas aren’t required to complete the stages, they just award points and points are currency in the game. Stepping out of Story mode there’s challenge mode, which has players making their way through the remastered stages of Super Monkey Ball, and Super Monkey Ball 2. Players will be able to complete these stages in order, or in a time attack mode, which has players’ times on stage brought together after completing all the stages in the game. These can be put on leaderboards and compared with friends.
Lastly, there are the special modes. Inside the special modes, players will notice that they’re all locked, but they’ll be able to unlock them by going to the store.
Inside the store, Points are turned into coins that players can use to purchase items. These items can range from cosmetic items for AiAi and friends to special modes. There are a few other things that players can unlock too, such as Dark Banana Mode, Golden Banana Mode, Classic Stage Mode, and Reverse mode.
Dark Banana Mode will have the player complete stages without touching the rotten banana’s or else they’ll have to restart. The second mode, Golden Banana, removes checkpoints altogether and has the player find all the golden bananas until to complete the level. Classic Stage mode introduces 23 stages from the first two Super Monkey Ball Games in their unaltered forms, making the stages extremely hard. Reverse mode swaps the starting and goal points and has the player make their way through the stage backward.
There’s also the ability to change characters. There are some returning characters from the other entries in the series, like Doctor & YanYan from Banana Blitz, Jet from Super Monkey Ball 3D, and Jam from Super Monkey Ball Touch & Roll.
Jam and Jet are unlockable characters, alongside some other characters that are included in the game from other franchises. Making their way from their own series, Sonic and Tails are able to be played as characters in the game. They appear in their classic forms from Sonic Mania. Also included in the game is Beat from Jet Set Radio and Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza series.
These characters can be played in all modes. There are also some characters that can be purchased through a DLC in the game, including Hello Kitty, Morgana from Persona 5, Suezo from Techmo’s Monster Rancher, and the Dreamcast, Game Gear, and Saturn consoles through the Sega Legends Pack.
Aside from the main game, which is filled with arcade fun, are the minigames included in the title. These games will have players choose one of the Monkey characters and play one of the 12 party games included in the title. Amongst them, there’s Monkey Baseball, which has players hitting a ball for home runs, Monkey Billiards, which has players playing Billiards with their characters as the cue ball, and Monkey Bowling, which has the player taking the role of the bowling ball.
Players online have said that Monkey Target is different from its original GameCube release, as the sensitivity of the glide is too strong, so tilting the stick back to glide will cause the character to stall, sending them into the abyss.
All of these games can be played locally, as there’s no offline play for the game, so players are going to be unable to play with friends who also own the game.
I purchased the game on Steam and am running the game on my RTX 2060 Super, and my Ryzen 3600 with 32 GB of RAM. The game is extremely well optimized, and I’ve never run into a single issue while playing it. I’ve been able to hold a solid framerate over 60, even when running at the highest quality. In fact, the game launched at a resolution higher than 1080p when I started playing, and I didn’t realize it until I attempted to change the render options in the game.
Being that this title is an arcade game, the sound isn’t something that players would be able to focus on, seeing that the original game was meant to be played in a busy sound heavy environment. This doesn’t mean that the audio for the game isn’t good, though. The music for the game is great, and the main theme for the title is super catchy.
However, something that veteran monkey ball fans will notice is that the announcer for the game is different than the announcer in the other games. While this doesn’t ruin the game for new fans of the series, it’s a slight letdown for hardcore fans.
Being that the game is a remaster of the previous three Monkey Ball titles, players will be happy to know that the game’s visuals are fantastic. The game does take a page out of Banana Blitz’s book and looks very vibrant using light colors and motifs for the game’s world. It doesn’t look exactly like the saturated colors of the original title, but it still keeps the soul of the original games intact.
There’s also the option to change the rendering of the gameplay. There are a few filters that can be unlocked inside of the game’s shop, including Sepia, Noir, and Toy. The first two are self-explanatory, but the toy mode adds a sheen to most of the world, and adds some saturation, making the game look more like the original title.
There’s also the introduction of a photo mode for the game, giving players the ability to snap pictures of AiAi and friends as they race down the stages in single-player.
The Monkey Ball community is massive. It’s not hard to find like-minded fans of a game that’s celebrating its 20th anniversary. There’s all manner of Discord servers for fans to find, and even a subreddit for the series, where players all around the world can come together to discuss not only Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, butthe entirety of the Monkey Ball series.
I would definitely recommend Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania to anyone who’s played the original games on GameCube or PlayStation. While it’s not going to be as difficult as some players remember, the game is still difficult despite the minor changes. There’s also the original stage mode that will satiate player’s thirst for difficult stages.
For players who are still on the fence, checking the game out online before picking it up is a good choice.