Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania creates an a-peeling remake

Written By Dan Russo, For The Globe

3.5 Globes

The GameCube is a strange part of Nintendo’s history. While never quite achieving the commercial success of its predecessors or especially the Wii, it remains a beloved entry in Nintendo’s decades-long involvement in the gaming industry. Regardless of commercial performance, the GameCube went on to spawn some cult classics that are still played to this day. One standout title early in the lifespan was also coincidentally one of the first video games I ever owned: Super Monkey Ball. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a full remake of the first two Super Monkey Ball games, along with the bonus levels featured in Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, an Xbox exclusive compilation title.

A game with a simple goal, the objective of the game is to move your cartoon monkey to the goal by tilting the stage. Seems simple right? Well, it is, at first. What awaits is one of the most challenging but fair video games on the market. Levels are creative and focused, and a timer ticking down from 60 seconds urges you to move quickly but carefully.

As someone who has poured tons of hours into the original games, the first thing I noticed immediately was the controls. As a matter of fact, in 2013 there was a study in Florida that saw that Super Monkey Ball 2 helped surgeons warm up for surgery. That is how precise the controls of the original games were. While the controls feel fine, they are not nearly as snappy as they once were. Compound this with the fact that most modern analog sticks lack directional notches to help you steer exactly where you want to go, and the first couple hours of this game were frustrating. However, I would like to point out that these issues that I had with the controls stem from almost two decades of muscle memory. Anybody who is picking up a Monkey Ball game for the first time will most likely not have these issues.

Another frustration early on was the removal of the lives system. Players now have as many tries as they would like to clear a stage. Super Monkey Ball started off as an arcade game in Japan, so to many the lives are seen as a relic of an older era in gaming. While now I appreciate the ability to keep trying levels, there is something to be said about having lives. Lives incentivize practice and taking riskier routes to goals that skip levels. Lives incentivize the collection of bananas to earn extra lives, which are now relegated to unlocking bland cosmetic rewards. Granted, this is something that could be easily remedied by the addition of an arcade mode that harkens back to the old gameplay style but such an update seems unlikely.

All 12 of the original party games are back, some in better form than others. Monkey Fight and Baseball are just as fun as they once were. However, the original’s best party game, Monkey Target, is horribly butchered here. For whatever reason, the game decides to artificially increase the speed of your monkey, leading to an experience that ruins the fun of the original.

Overall, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a mixed bag but at its core has the same great gameplay that once popularized the series. With two remasters in two years, hopefully this means that there are big things coming for this franchise in the future.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania gets 3.5 Globes out of 5.