Sega has a vault full of entertaining puzzlers that still elicit a substantial amount of fanfare – you can point to Puyo Puyo, Chu-Chu Rocket, and Columns as the sort of games that thrive within that genre for the legendary Japanese publisher/developer.
Back in 2001, gamers got introduced to a unique puzzle-platformer hybrid called Super Monkey Ball. After capturing the imagination of players in the arcade, the series made its way over to the Nintendo GameCube and garnered even more attention. Since the series’ original release, Super Monkey Ball has excelled and fallen flat at various periods. Following the massive fan support shown towards Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, the development team behind that title put plans in place to celebrate the series’ 20th anniversary in a very special way. That celebration is actually playable in the form of the quality remaster called Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania.
For fans of AiAi and his band of money heroes, there’s a lot to appreciate within this remastered package. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania recreates all of the stages featured in Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, which in itself is a compilation of everything that came with the series’ first two games. That means you’re given a vast array of simple, intermediate, and mind-numbingly difficult stage layouts to play through. Even after all these years, the Super Monkey Ball formula still provides a ton of fun – carefully maneuvering through each stage as you attempt to collect every banana and get to the goal as quickly as possible will never grow stale. Some stages have been retooled in order to give newcomers a sliver of a chance at completing them – thankfully, old school fans can enjoy those same stages in their original form if they so choose. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania does a great job of doing right by its longtime fanbase and giving newcomers the options needed to overcome its high challenge factor (the helper function and unlockable jump button help out majorly in that regard).
The new modes that spring up here are Golden Banana Mode, Reverse Mode, Dark Banana Mode, and a special Time Attack mode. Those modes provide a fun alternative to the main way to progress through each stage, which does a great job of freshening up your many gameplay sessions. You and your three other local friends will most likely get the most fun out of the many party games on offer here. But we have to be honest here – while some of them are absolute bangers that will have you and your crew coming back for more, there are a few duds within that collection that should have never come back. The easy-to-grasp minigames, such as Monkey Race, Monkey Fight, and Monkey Dogfight, are immensely rewarding and have a ton of replay value attached to them. The same sentiment applies to the more time-consuming minigames, which include Monkey Billiards, Monkey Golf, and Monkey Soccer. However, modes like Monkey Target and Monkey Dogfight are a bit too complex to wrap your head around and truly enjoy. Replacing the weaker minigames with brand new ones would have been much more preferable for this remastered package.
As a whole, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a love letter to those who’ve stuck around through each and every entry in the puzzle-platforming series. The wealth of playable stages and challenges provides a ton of value for the most dedicated fans – newcomers can also join in on all the fun thanks to the addition of options that make the game’s harder stages a bit more approachable. On the minigame front, there are some great ones that will be a hit at your next get-together. Sadly, there are a few minigames that are definitely at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to entertainment value. Even with those misses in the minigame department, Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania provides so much more to enjoy.