AiAi and friends are back after a five-year break. This time they’ve rolled onto on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
For the uninitiated, Super Monkey Ball is a game where you play as a monkey inside a ball. You roll around in mostly linear stages collecting bananas until you reach an exit portal.
That formula hasn’t changed over the years, even though Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD is the first Monkey Ball title since 2014’s Super Monkey Ball Bounce on Android and iOS. Banana Blitz HD – although an HD remake – is not an entirely new title. It is a mostly faithful recreation of the Nintendo Wii launch title from 2006.
The series started in the arcades and has had many different releases on home consoles, portables, and smartphones. This HD remake brings a few changes and improvements from its original Wii debut, mainly the resolution bump from 480p to 1080p at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second.
Though Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD is a remake done in Unity, one could assume that it is merely an HD rerelease with some cosmetic improvements. Perhaps the most notable difference from the original Wii title is the massively revamped menu system and HUD, which now has a more cohesive and modern graphics style.
The character models and animations seem taken straight from the Wii version. They seem about the same when looked at side by side. All of the original stages from the adventure mode remain intact. Unfortunately, while the original Wii version included fifty mini-games, this version includes only the ten most liked with some improvements.
Part of this remake encompasses the change in input style from the Wii’s motion controls to more standard controllers on the current platforms. Your monkey has a 360-degree range of motion, which you control with the left analog stick and you can jump with one the face buttons. In comparison, the Wii’s controls felt like a physical puzzle where you rolled a marble around by tilting a platform.
Your motions corresponded with the behavior of the camera, which is as wonky as ever and may cause you motion sickness after an extended session. Overall, though, this control scheme feels like you are directing the monkey inside the ball, but the dissonance between your input and how the camera behaves is a bit disorienting. I do wish the game had been updated to include some form of manual control of the camera; it’s a poor utilization of a second analog stick.
Overall, Super Monkey Ball Blitz HD is a pretty competent high-definition rerelease, but I wouldn’t agree on the price tag. $40 seems a bit high for what can be interpreted as a resolution and framerate bump on a game from 2006. You could very easily finish this game in a few hours.
While there are other modes to play besides the story, I don’t see anyone but die-hard fans really getting much replay value out of this release. Although this game isn’t an HD remake in the same vein as Spyro or Crash Bandicoot, it probably could have warranted the $40 price tag if it had received more dramatically enhanced 3D graphics and animations.
That being said, I do appreciate the simple, bright, and fun arcade gaming experience of Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD, as well as the inclusion of Sonic as an unlockable character. I hope Sega continues to revitalize its underutilized franchises.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.