Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania – Game Review


Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania

(Available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC)
(Nintendo Switch version used for review)

As part of Super Monkey Ball’s 20th anniversary there is special entry in the franchise. Bananamania attempt to remake Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 with modern hardware and really recapture the magic that has felt absent from recent entries. Those entries were fine, but due to changes in things like the physics and adding in what was widely considered unnecessary mechanics, it just didn’t feel like the series was really firing on all cylinders. Sega has promised this game is a return to form and I can confirm at this point before I go into detail, they have kept that promise, despite the claims online of the opposite.

Pros

  • Level design: Bananamania has done an excellent job really bringing the excellent level design of the GameCube games. They combine the correct amount of challenge with good ease of access in a sort of easy-to-learn, hard-to-master type of way. There are a few levels which were so difficult that made me look up a YouTube guide for help, but I gave up on that early on because half the time, you get someone showing off that they broke through half a level in a way the average player (i.e me) is never going to pull off). There is an assist mode which increases the time limit to get to the finish line and gives you directions. Though I found the majority of time, it wasn’t that helpful to the current predicament. Even when levels were tough though, I went back into it several times trying to figure it out, and it really reminded me what made Monkey Ball on GameCube so addictive, and fortunately there is an option to move on to the next level in both story and challenge mode. The game is also very replay-able for getting faster times on the course especially with online leader boards now in the game
  • Physics and mechanics: As I said before, there have been a few fans that have not liked the physics, but I personally think this is the best they have been in a while. They are slightly different than the original game but not to the extent it was throwing me off (both literally and figuratively). They generally work quite well, and I think they strike a good balance for both seasoned and new players. The mechanics are the same as usual manipulating the stage to make the ball move through a lot of physics-based challenges and puzzles, but what newer fans may be surprised by is the jump that was introduced in the Wii game Banana Blitz (also released in HD on Switch) has now gone. Now this has been a real contention to long time fans that felt it messed too much with the formula, so some like the fact it has gone, but for fans that are more used to it, they will not have to worry as it is unlockable in the game so their needs are met.
  • Character selection: The character selection is great. Not only do most of the Monkey Ball cast return but they also have unlockable Sega icons Sonic and Tails as part of the Sonic 30th anniversary as well as Beat from Jet Set Radio and Kazuma Kiryu from Yakuza and more characters are available for purchase. The Sega Legends collection gives you Sega Dreamcast, Sega Saturn and Sega Game Gear to play as (yes, it is just as ridiculous as you think it is) and future content will include Hello Kitty and Morganna from Persona 5

Mixed

  • Mini games: The game includes a large portion of mini games like Monkey Race, Monkey Bowling, Monkey Billiards and many others. Now, the games are alright as multiplayer but I can imagine if you have been buying the majority of Nintendo first party title, they really don’t hold up since it doesn’t have depth of something like Mario Kart and Mario Tennis. This is especially the case given that Mario Party Superstars is out in a few weeks and if I have mates over, I am going to play that over this.

Cons

  • Story mode cutscenes: The cutscenes for the first two games are still good so what the hell happened here. For some reason the game is now littered with lots of still images in a sort of half comic/ children’s show style which really doesn’t match the aesthetic of Monkey Ball’s past. I don’t understand why the cutscenes from the first game couldn’t be remastered.
  • Soundtrack: The game has an updated soundtrack which is fine, but I personally preferred the original soundtrack. The original is available but annoyingly is locked behind a pay wall. It is included in the digital deluxe edition but by the time this review comes out, it will not be available and be an extra expense.

Overall thoughts

Super Monkey Ball: Bananamaina is in my opinion the best Monkey Ball game’s in years and delivers the experience most people were asking for. It does have issues such as some of the best features being behind a pay wall and a difficulty level that newer fans who didn’t have a chance to play the Gamecube will struggle with. But as a whole it is a very enjoyable and has replay value. If there was bit more care put into story mode I’d probably put it into the 9’s but as is, it just misses out. I also don’t think this is the kind of game I will be rushing to put on my Switch OLED when I upgrade. I had a good time with it, but it’s not a game I’m going to play continuously. Though I will certainly be returning if DLC levels are added and I will be getting the Persona 5 DLC.

Score: 8.6/10

This is a great game but considering what is coming out in October you might want to wait on this one and get Metroid Dread, Mario Party, Back 4 Blood or Guardians of the Galaxy. Especially Metroid Dread, we can’t afford for that game to sell poorly and result in Nintendo undervaluing the franchise again.
 
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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