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May 2024

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2021


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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 16, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a modern HD remaster of the original three Super Monkey Ball games (Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2, Super Monkey Ball Deluxe).

Pre-order Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania

Super Monkey Ball is one of Sega's odder long-running franchises. You wouldn't think that a game about a colorful monkey rolling a ball around would outlast some of Sega's largest franchises, but it has kept on trucking with new releases and cameos for 20 years. You can still find AiAi and pals in Yakuza vending machines or referenced in Phantasy Star Online. The upcoming Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a celebration of the long-running franchise, effectively a remake of the first three games in the series combined into one big package.

If you've never played a Super Monkey Ball title, it is best described as Labyrinth on steroids. You take control of the titular Monkey Ball (with one of a variety of characters inside) and are put on a playing field. You don't control the ball directly but tilt the field to move it around. Your goal is to get the ball from start to finish, and you're rewarded for collecting bananas along the way. If you fall, you restart from a checkpoint but lose precious time, and if you spend too much time, you fail the stage.

It sounds simple on the surface, but the environments get steadily more crazy and ridiculous. You zoom down tunnels, over pitfalls, find ways to make long jumps, survive moving platforms, and more. Finishing the stage is only the first part. Afterward, you'll need to go back and try to finish it without missing a single collectible or in record time. It's an arcade-style score attack game through and through.

That is only the beginning. Beyond the game's literal hundreds of stages, players can unlock all sorts of gimmick modes, including playing the stages in reverse, a time attack mode, or modes where you either must collect all of the bananas or you have to avoid all of them to complete the stage. Not only do you have a bushel full of banana-filled stages, but you also have plenty of variations on them.

It might sound intimidating, but the game is very user-friendly. It slowly introduces new mechanics, so players have time to learn one before moving on to the next. The game also has optional help modes that allow you to slow down time, so you have more of a chance to decide on your next move or respond to sudden danger. You'll eventually have to take off the training wheels if you want to compete in the game's online leaderboards, but you can take each level at your own pace in single-player mode.

You can also pick different playable characters. The playable characters don't have different stats; they're just fun cosmetic differences. They include AiAi (the titular monkey) and his friends as well as a lot of cameos from other Sega games, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Kazuma Kiryu from Yakuza, and others. Not only do these cameos add some visual variety, but they also change the items you collect from bananas to other things. Sonic gets golden rings (of course), and Kiryu gets health drinks.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania looks to be a pure celebration of the simple-yet-addictive gameplay that has ensured the longevity of the Super Monkey Ball franchise. If you're a fan of the franchise, this will be among the best ways to get all of your favorite stages in one big package. If you're curious about it, there's no better place to start. We'll see how the full version pans out when it hits on Oct. 5 for the PC and every current- and next-gen console system.

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