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Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania review for PS5/4, Xbox Series X, Switch


Platform: PS5
Also On: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: RGG Studio
Medium: Digital/Card/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: No
ESRB: E

I’m gonna pull a page out of Benny Rose’s writer’s guide for this introductory paragraph, where you tie the game that’s about to be reviewed with a personal anecdote. In the early 2000s during my college years, many a Saturday night was spent playing video games with 3 of my friends. The most memorable moments were from playing Super Monkey Ball 2’s Monkey Target, screaming at the top of our lungs when someone would manage to get a score multiplier and landing on the 100 point spot. Time has passed, people have moved on, but alas whenever SEGA releases a new title in the Monkey Ball series, the memories flood back.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a title which was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the franchise. Combining content from 3 core Monkey Ball titles (1,2 and Deluxe), this package is packed to the brim for fans of the series, but will the title live up to the memories stored in my head?

The main mode of Monkey Ball consists of you getting your titular Monkey Ball past a goal post. On paper it sounds easy but when you see what is between point A and point B, the task is more arduous than you think. One of the pain points is the camera is fixed to a certain angle, often making it difficult to have a sense of spatial awareness and don’t even get me started if your ball is launched into the air (which is more often than you think), at that point I hope you enjoy vertigo! What makes this Ball centric camera even weirder is you technically control the stage…not the ball. So at this point if you ask “you’ve never beaten a story mode in any of these games have you”…I’d have to say “yeah…”. However SEGA has foreseen consumers like me and added a bevy of accessibility options. The Helper Function when turned on, will add a number of features which ease…but not alleviate your suffering.

Doubling the stage time, marking an optimal path, and even enabling you to slow down time might get you to the goal, but if these don’t work for a nominal amount of banana points (earned by collecting, well…bananas, d’uh) you can outright mark the level as completed and move on to your next challenge. The only penalty for using such features is that your time and score won’t be recorded online and any missions associated with the level will not be fulfilled…a fair mark on your ineptitude as a player. However, gazing at the online rankings it looks like there’s plenty of inept players as many of the rankings only have a handful of players at best.

Now we get to my personal bread and butter of the game…the party games. The title includes 12 party games which mirror the line up found in Super Monkey Ball 2, the game which occupied my Saturday nights in college. Unlike Monkey Ball 2 all 12 games are available outright and do not require purchasing from the in-game store. On the surface it seems all good, but there is a horrible revelation when I booted up Monkey Target. It appears the controls were changed and the old method of diving and pulling up to maintain momentum no longer works, leaving me to fall into the drink every time. A massive disappointment which would’ve been known if I had actively kept up with the game as apparently the “new” controls have been in place since Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz. Otherwise the party games played fine.

Another major mark against the party games was that you can only select the core Monkey Ball characters to represent you. Given the game’s media blitz featured all the guest characters that will be in the title, it’s an odd omission to have these guests to sit out in this mode. Sorry Kazuma Kiryu, guess you’ll have to play party games in your own series.

With its budget pricing ($40 on consoles, $30 for PC), one would think SEGA would flood the marketplace with paid DLC to make some coin, but alas the DLC offerings are pretty even handed. A Deluxe edition will net you most of the content for a $10 surcharge, and I think I will keep my $5 dollars and not hold Hello Kitty captive in a ball and endlessly cast her into the abyss…as fun as that sounds. A majority of the game’s extras are obtainable via banana points you garner through gameplay and completing missions. Missions usually consist of beating a stage under a certain time, collecting a certain amount of bananas, or beating the stage without stopping. So a persistent player will obtain most of what the game will offer.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a present for fans of the series who are sadistic enough to find enjoyment in the constant failure, however SEGA has left training wheels to cultivate a new generation of fans. Perhaps in another 20 years someone else out there will recall their fond memories playing this series, whether alone or with friends. I just hope that this person will be able to play a version of Monkey Target that works.

Note: SEGA provided us with a Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: B-