I haven’t played any previous Super Monkey Ball game to completion although I have occasionally found myself enjoying the challenging level design that is usually featured in them. When Sega announced a remaster of Super Monkey Ball HD, I wasn’t excited about it. I had heard how the motion controls made the experience a little miserable for the Nintendo Wii original so stripping them all together felt like a good decision to make here.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a remaster that unfortunately fails to bring anything significant to the table. Sure, it has improved the controls by making them analog, and there is some new content like costumes and a secret character, but the game itself wasn’t that great in the first place. I do understand why Sega picked it up for a remaster because it feels like an okay party game for those who want an afternoon of multiplayer with a friend. There is not just a story mode but around a dozen party minigames as well.
The story mode in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD feels like it has some inspiration from Nintendo’s traditional platformers because it has a classic level design. You play a bunch of levels one after another in a stage after which you end up with a boss fight. There are around 100 levels to complete with boss fights at the end of every major stage. The boss fights are rather disappointing and they don’t mesh well with the gameplay mechanics. They are also rather simple where your only challenge is to beat the boss before the timer runs out, and you do that by hitting their weak glowing spots.
The story mode is short and will take just a few hours to complete. Some challenging levels happen later down the line but for the most part, it feels like the levels are mostly straightforward. The jump button doesn’t appear like it is fun at all and will take some time to get used to, although some of the levels utilize it to present new challenges, they are often frustrating than fun.
Once you are done with the campaign, there are additional modes to try like the Time Attack, Decathlon and Party minigames that can be played with a friend. The HD remaster seems to have removed some of the minigames from the Wii original and has settled on ones that are fun instead of just being there for the sake of it. In most of these minigames, there is a lack of originality and a similar concept is used for them with the twist of you controlling a ball.
I appreciate the analog control which has now made controlling monkey ball a much better experience but overall, the remaster appears rather disappointing with its content. You can unlock Sonic as one of the secret playable characters but his inclusion is not enough to warrant this remaster. The lack of motion controls also means that the level design was altered to make it slightly more challenging for the players, but I still found it easy enough in the story mode.
The efforts to remaster this game could be better appreciated but the visual upgrade feels limited to just the resolution and you can notice the lack of improved textures in some of the levels. The camera controls feel a little annoying and can lead to accidental deaths. It is perhaps my biggest pet peeve with the remaster, and it is a shame that they didn’t look much into it.
It is nice to see the series return again but I hope Sega can work on making a new game next instead of remastering the old ones. Although, I wouldn’t mind getting a remaster of the original Super Monkey Ball, which was arguably one of the best entries in the series that has yet to be topped by any other games.
Like it is the case with most games that are multiplayer-friendly, I found Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD enjoyable in the portable mode where you can just play a couple of levels when you feel like it. This game needed additional content more than it needed a visual overhaul and this is sadly not the case here. It is a solid effort but one that could have been improved with a little more attention.
In the end, there are both positive and negative things to say about this remaster. The price point though is decent but only if you haven’t played Banana Blitz before and are looking for a new game in the series to tie yourself until Sega makes a fresh one.