Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD review - Rotten bananas

Does Sega's first Super Monkey Ball HD remake live up to the hype? Our review.

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Super Monkey Ball is a classic franchise that truly shined its brightest on the Nintendo GameCube. Following up on the success of Super Monkey Ball and Super Monkey Ball 2, Sega released Banana Blitz for the Nintendo Wii as a launch title. While it featured the new and slightly charming motion controls that were pretty neat in 2006, the game has been redone in HD for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and Steam. I really wanted it to be better.

Fresh coat of paint

The graphics are pretty solid in this HD remake of Banana Blitz.
The graphics are pretty solid in this HD remake of Banana Blitz.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is probably the best the series has ever looked graphically. That is an undeniable fact about the game, but there are some issues with the game beneath the surface. It is apparent that the design team spent time creating updated textures from the 2006 release. The art style remains as charming and cute as it has always been, and that is one of the highlights of this HD remake.

The game also features an incredibly solid soundtrack, which has been a constant throughout the history of the franchise. The music team over at Sega did a bang up job with all the tunes in the game. The title screen's ska-inspired theme song will get stuck in your head in a good way.

Not so boss

The boss battles in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD are not so fun.
The boss battles in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD are not so fun.

The pace of play in the Super Monkey Ball franchise is something that players have always appreciated, and Banana Blitz HD, as well as its Wii original, changed the formula. Adding boss battles at the end of levels as well as platforming elements with jumping.

The boss battles really hurt the game's overall flow, and they don't really add anything fun or challenging. The boss battle levels are frequently small stages where something inevitably bounces players off.

The level design outside of the boss battles is actually pretty great. Most players will find the game just challenging enough to be fun, in between the boss battles at the end of each world.

A series of unfortunate gameplay and world design decisions really mess up what would be a fun flow to the game. Sometimes you don't need to change the formula to a game franchise, and this is the case in the Main Game of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD.

Can Wii just go bowling?

Decathalon and Online Ranking leaderboards are the two new additions to Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD.
Decathalon and Online Ranking leaderboards are the two new additions to Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD.

The game features more than the Main Game worlds and levels, offering 10 mini-games of various quality. For the first time ever in a Super Monkey Ball game, there will be online leaderboards for Time Attack as well as the new Decathalon mode.

The mini-games are another weak point of the game, and most of them honestly feel like relics of the early Nintendo Wii era. Banana Blitz was praised in 2006 for its use of the Wiimote, but the HD remake features more traditional controls. It feels like some of these games were a little more interesting when played with motion controls.

Space ships in Monkey Ball?
Space ships in Monkey Ball?

Then there are mini-games that just feel entirely out of place, like Space Monkey Attack which is a space shmup. There are a couple of mini-games that I might play more than once, like Monkey Target, but most of them didn't feature anything remotely close to the addictive party games of Monkey Ball 1 and 2.

Decathalon Mode is a gauntlet of all 10 mini-games offered in Banana Blitz HD. It is nice that they added this as a new feature, but I honestly would have preferred some of the older mini-games be added. Monkey Bowling and Monkey Golf are two classic game modes that are sorely missed from the first two titles.

These mini-games are usually the main source of replay value in a Super Monkey Ball game, but they fall flat for the most part. It seems like staying too true to the original Banana Blitz hurt the developers here, as many of the experiences probably don't feel as fun or innovative as they did on Wii in 2006.

This game is bananas, R-O-T-T-E-N

I really wish Sega would have released HD remakes of Super Monkey Ball 1 and 2 instead of Banana Blitz. There are some elements of a good game here, but many of the design decisions for this Wii launch title don't really feel that great in 2019. The game is less welcoming to new players as its predecessors, and the Main Game campaign mode feels disjointed with uninspired and annoying boss battles. I wanted to like this game, as I am a huge fan of the franchise, but this banana does not pass the smell test.


This review is based on a Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is available in retail and digital stores today, for $39.99. The game has been rated E by the ESRB.

CEO

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

Pros
  • Solid soundtrack with dope tunes
  • Decent graphical overhaul
  • It's on Nintendo Switch
Cons
  • Boss levels mess with the game's flow
  • Decathalon not that meaningful of an addition
  • Mini-game selection isn't great
  • No Monkey Bowling
  • No Monkey Golf
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