Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD Review
It’s been over a decade (god I’m old) since we last got to roll a bunch of apes across some pretty insane courses, and the announcement of this remaster for what’s arguably one of Sega’s stronger franchises was one I kept my eye on, despite what its source material was. Building off of the lukewarm reception of the Wii Game, Sega’s taken another crack at Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz, providing us a curated collection of mini-games, beefed up visuals, and the same choices that left me confused like with the original version.
I’ll get it right out of the way and say that this is by no means a bad game. Super Monkey Ball had some incredibly strong entries on the Gamecube back in the day, but then as it branched out we got some pretty rough adaptations on other platforms. Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD had the chance to be a truly excellent remaster, but instead only comes close to being a slightly more polished version of a game that everybody seemed confused by upon news of its revival.
They See Me Rollin’
Across ten worlds, you’ll roll AiAi and the gang across a variety of stages that are all quite creative, but I noticed almost immediately around the third world that the difficulty made a stark jump. Thankfully, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD (that’s a mouthful) does away with the motion controls that lead to people disliking the Wii version, instead giving us a bit more control in the process. It’s a marked improvement, especially as the later worlds are still the same hair-pulling, frustration-inducing nightmares they were before. One change I wish they opted for was better camera controls, as they are pinned to the back of your character across each world. It lead to some pretty nauseating camera spinning, but fortunately it didn’t occur frequently enough to be a huge deterrent to the game.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD also presents a brisk challenge. The first two worlds were largely nothing too crazy, but by world three and beyond you’ll have some pretty tough challenges to tackle. Thankfully, that same rush you got from conquering a nightmarish stage (I’m looking at you, Volcanic Pools 4), is as intoxicating as ever, and the presence of the new button-based controls definitely make this easier to control than the Wii version. There are 100 stages in total, with twenty of them being locked behind you not only clearing each world, but also earning the medal for doing so without using a continue. This too was quite easy at first, but by world 5 or so, I found myself having to restart more than once to really try and stick the landing.
One feature that I also wish they had given a bit more focus were the boss battles, a series first. Each stage has their own unique boss that has you aiming for a particular weakpoint, but they never really feel fun to deal with. Each boss, despite matching the world and having their own custom tune, just feels uninspired compared to the creativity of the courses you’ll come across. Either remixing them, or just cutting them out in favour of new stages would have been preferred, especially as that’s arguably what Monkey Ball’s forte is. Each world does certainly pop though, thanks to the clean, simple textures and upgrade to 1080p/60FPS that they promised with this remaster. It ran very well during my time with it, but I did prefer playing in docked mode on a Pro Controller, as I found handheld mode a little too sensitive at times.
I Need a Naner
Another notable change from the original version is the huge cut of total Mini-games. Banana Blitz featured fifty different mini-games that ranged from great to grotesque, but Banana Blitz HD instead opts to give us what are arguably the best of the banana bunch, coming in at a tidy little batch of ten titles. We have a variety of popular minigames, with standouts like Monkey Target and Dangerous Route playing just as well as they did before. The selection does have a few ho-hum entries like Slingshot and Hovercraft Race, but fortunately there’s more good than bad with the selections, although I did find myself wishing that Bowling had made a return. There’s also a nice bit of replay value thanks to the presence of newly added online features like Time Attack, a feature that’s sure to be a hit with those looking to be the best at cramming monkeys into glass balls and rolling them to their doom.
Despite the steep difficulty curve and lack of any real new content, Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD is a noted improvement over the original version of the game. It runs very well, and isn’t a huge space-eater either, coming in at 1.4GB, allowing it to fit nicely alongside your other digital titles. This is also thankfully not a full-price title, so those looking to dust off their monkey ball skills can do so without breaking the bank. Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD does a lot well, but it’s just not quite as ripe as the rest of the bunch. Here’s hoping that this brings the series back into the limelight for Sega and we can see new, crazier entries to a series that I enjoy quite a bunch.
***Nintendo Switch Code provided by the publisher for review***
- Sufficiently challenging
- Online Time Attack!
- Clean, appealing graphics
- Party-games are mostly good
- Bosses feel out of place
- No new content
- Camera sometimes a pain