The Super Monkey Ball franchise hasn’t seen an actual new release since the Wii days of Banana Blitz. It’s a series that hasn’t gone dormant thanks to its loyal community and because of its comeback in 2019. It started off as an arcade game, but eventually found its home console identity on the Nintendo Gamecube.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Super Monkey Ball franchise. While this isn’t necessarily a new game, it’s a good compromise in a sense that it’s the game that combines the first three major console releases into one deluxe, HD remastered package.
This game consists of elements from Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 from the Nintendo Gamecube and Deluxe from the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox consoles. These titles are considered to be the bread and butter of the SMB series.
What made the Super Monkey Ball franchise so popular back in its day was that it was simple. It was a fun kind of simple where anyone could pick something like this up and play. You play as a monkey inside of a ball and have to roll them into the goal. Instead of controlling your character, you tilt the level instead.
You control the angle at which a stage moves rather than your character/ball. Think of this as the video game adaptation of the Labyrinth marble game. Super Monkey Ball, compared to this, is more than just barriers and holes.
Banana Mania will start you off easy with a mostly flat playing field. You’ll start at a location and roll your way into the goal. However, as you progress further into the game’s main story mode, the obstacles will get extremely wacky and frustrating.
One minute, you’re traversing your way through some bumps and slopes. The very next, you’re rolling down a steep ramp and shooting across different platforms. Sometimes, you’ll even go as far as launching up towers, teleporting through portals, or going through mesmerizing kaleidoscopes.
This is an HD remaster compilation of the first three major console titles of the Super Monkey Ball series, so there is an abundance of content to play through. Banana Mania boasts over 300 levels from all of its games. Since the game has gotten modern treatment, chances are all the levels won’t be 1:1 recreations of how you remembered them to be 20 years ago.
The game also doesn’t utilize actual cutscenes anymore like the originals. Instead, the developers went with a comic-style approach. AiAi and his pals all gather around a TV and watch the original cutscenes taking place on a television. What would have normally happened is now happening through a show in that said comic style. It’s almost as if they’re watching reruns of themselves in that time. It can be argued that it’s a tad bit lazy, but it’s a welcomed change overall.
People might dock Banana Mania down for dipping its toes into the ongoing polarizing difficulty debate of gaming, but it has taken the easier route. What might be noticeably different from the original games back from the Gamecube, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania removed lives entirely. So, yes, you can die 100 times in a level and not have to worry about starting over from the beginning of a world— not that I experienced that or anything.
If the game senses that you are struggling with a particular level, it will offer you the Helper Function mode. You don’t have to accept it; it’s actually better if you don’t. While it’s nice for players to have options to make the game easier, seasoned players will have an incentive not to.
While this game does not have lives, there is a Ranking Challenge mode to partake in. It doesn’t make the base game any more difficult, but it does give players incentives to have the smoothest run possible. If you’re a veteran of the series and can take on even the most punishing obstacles with ease, this is where you’ll go to prove yourself.
Opting to not take easier routes does come with in-game currency incentives. This is another big plus in Banana Mania. All the bananas you collect, all the points you earn from completing levels, and all the challenges you complete that give you points all go towards the in-game currency you can use to unlock new things. For example, this currency can get you characters, costumes, and even new modes.
If you have kept up with the characters, you’ll know that Sonic the Hedgehog and Tails are part of the Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania cast. Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza series and Beat from Jet Set Radio are also others in the mix. Picking any of them turns all the bananas in levels into something reminiscent of their original games.
For example, if you pick Sonic or Tails, all the bananas turn into rings! It’s a nifty addition to add other Sega intellectual properties into this game. It gives Banana Mania just a bit more charm than it’s already giving out. Keep on the lookout for post-launch content like Morgana from Persona 5 to be part of this wacky roster of Sega icons.
The modes within the main game other than the story range from the challenge modes from Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 along with the aforementioned special modes. The challenge modes are unlocked from the get go, but the special modes are obtained with points. One of them even includes the DX mode which contains stages from Super Monkey Ball Deluxe!
Aside from the main modes with rolling monkeys and other Sega characters, Banana Mania offers a Party Games mode that consists of the 12 mini games from SMB Deluxe. As the game says, you can “Monkey around with 1-4 players”. Unfortunately, this is the only actual multiplayer aspect of this game. However, these games are fun and have some replay value to them.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a solid celebration for the 20th anniversary of the series’ inception. It caters to fans who have stuck around to see the next big thing and does so in a complete package with new surprises and things to come. Its inclusion on consoles outside of Nintendo might be peculiar to some, but that only reaches out to more people, so that is definitely a plus.
Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania
- Score: 4 / 5
- Available On: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Seriess S/X, PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch
- Published By: Sega
- Developed By: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio
- Genre: Platforming, Party
- US Release Date: October 5, 2021 | October 1, 2021 (Deluxe Edition Pre-order)
- Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
- Quote: "Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a solid celebration for the 20th anniversary of the series’ inception. It caters to fans who have stuck around to see the next big thing and does so in a complete package with new surprises and things to come."