Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz was originally released in 2006 for the Wii, and it was the seventh entry in the franchise, which was produced and directed by none other than Toshihiro Nagoshi, of Yakuza and Judgment fame. At the time, it wasn’t considered the best entry in the series, but it introduced boss battles which up until then weren’t presented in past Monkey Ball games. The premise of Banana Blitz is that a baboon named Captain Crabuchin swooped in and stole the crew’s Golden Banana Bunch, so it’s up to Aiai and his pals to roll their way to the rescue.
Now, how completing a bunch of world-tilting races has any bearing on achieving that is beyond me, but heck, if Sega could roll with that for seven games up to that point, I sure can as well. Exclusive to Banana Blitz is the ability to jump, which was later removed for the following games, and I figure it never made a comeback due to how easy it is to break the game’s structure by jumping off and skipping huge portions of some of the more vertical oriented levels.
The biggest and most shocking change that was made to this HD remaster a complete control overhaul. The original version, a Wii game, made use of the Wii Remote’s tilt function in order to keep the monkey ball on course, like many a Wii game from the time. I particularly loved that mechanic in Hudson Soft’s Kororinpa: Marble Mania, and am frankly baffled by its removal, especially due to how close the JoyCons mirror the Wii Remote setup and the portable nature of having the Switch screen in your hands while playing.
Instead, Sega opted to have analog controls for the world tilt, and overall, sure, it works as intended, but considering that the game can be played in portable mode, some sort of compromise could’ve been worked in for some motion control options at least for when playing on the go. It only took me a few minutes to get used to tilting in the game by not actually moving my Switch or my Pro Controller (when playing in docked mode) in any way, but it’s still somewhat of a bummer not having that option at all.
According to reports, Sega states that this was done after the many complaints that followed the original version’s release, that the motion controls made the game needlessly difficult. Frankly, motion control technology has come a long way since 2006, and I would’ve hoped for some kind of re-imagining or compromise in Sega’s part in order to keep at least some minimal option for motion control. Even though I usually abhor waggling Wii Remotes and JoyCons, Monkey Ball-style games are the sole exception I can’t imagine not having them.
In terms of content, Super Monkey: Ball Banana Blitz HD serves the same 100 race levels plus the myriad of mini-games included in the original release, but this time you can also compete online via leaderboards with other simians trapped in spheres in order to see who’s the fastest in the world in any of the game modes. I really dug playing through the Decathlon since there’s a lot of different uses of the rolling mechanic, but they suffer from the removal of motion controls as much as the normal levels do. They would’ve worked much better in local multiplayer if the game offered those options, even more so considering the button-mashy nature of some of them, like the spinning weight toss or obstacle racing. Some of the party games are clearly more fun than others, and while I have a bone to pick with whoever designed that rocket ice sled mini-game, I’d say that most of them are fun to play. If you’re looking for plenty of variety and don’t mind taking a little time to get used to how things work in this remaster, you’ll get plenty of mileage out of all that Banana Blitz HD has to offer.
It’s also cool that you get to pick different characters to race as, since each sports unique stats and abilities. I’m particularly fond of the monkey in the straight jacket, since he’s really fast. The downside is that he’s not resilient at all, so during boss fights, he tends to get blown off the stage quite easily, which is kind of annoying since a lot of the arenas don’t have any railings. Oh well, that’s the prize for all that speed. Speaking of speed, Sonic is a hidden character in the game, and if you pick him, the bananas get replaced by rings, and the sound effects get switched to something more akin to what you’d hear in his games. It’s a neat bonus for anyone looking to really squeeze everything that the game has to offer — for me, I’d rather stick with the chimps.
Sega’s done a good job in re-upping the visuals for this remaster. The Wii was known to be a console that had games with superb art direction, and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is no exception. Even though the characters are very simple looking and don’t sport a lot of detail, they really popped on screen, and they now look even sharper in HD. There’s not much to see when it comes to the world’s that the levels take place in, safe to say that they’re colorful and very cheery. Apparently there’s been a change in the soundtrack department, but I wouldn’t know it, the tunes are the usual happy sort that’s a trademark of the franchise.
While it’s a shame about the controls, if you’ve been pining for a Monkey Ball to play on your Switch, this is the game to get. And the analog controls do work fine, after all, as much as I complained how I would’ve prefered to have had Sega go the extra mile and given me more control options for at least portable mode. But as it stands, even though it isn’t a brand new game Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a fine Monkey Ball title that should keep you rolling for a while.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is also available on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.