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Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: November 19, 2006 Also On: None

Five years ago, Super Monkey Ball launched with the GameCube. Sega had just gone through bankruptcy and ceased production of the Dreamcast. It was the first time that the company had supported a Nintendo console. Their former arch-rival was now a business ally. The monkeys in plastic balls are back and they’ve brought their latest game, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, to Nintendo’s newest home console, the Wii.

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The core of Super Monkey Ball has not changed in its transition to the Wii. You still roll around a monkey in a ball throughout a series of mazes, collecting bananas and avoiding obstacles and hazards. The only real objective in the whole single-player game is to reach the end of the course and go through the goal. Collecting bananas will earn you extra points and depending on your time, you may get a bonus there as well.

For hardcore gamers, it’s always been about collecting all of the bananas in each course before reaching the goal. While Banana Blitz does have its fair share of shortcuts to the goal and simpler paths, those more dedicated to collecting all bananas will have to veer off the main route sometimes in order to collect them. This can prove risky, as Sega makes it more challenging to collect all bananas as opposed to just reaching the goal.

As I said earlier, there are a number of obstacles and hazards to impede your progress, not the least of which is falling off the course. Some of the obstacles are exclusive to one of the eight worlds that you visit. For instance, snow balls will only be found in that world. You’ll also have to look out for bumpers, swinging wood, swaying bridges and a lot more. Banana Blitz has boss fights at the end of each of the eight worlds. Each boss has a weakness that you’ll need to exploit. One you’ll need to hit their belly button, another you’ll need to hit back missiles that it shoots at you.

Everything that I’ve described so far has pretty much been done in past Super Monkey Ball titles. What sets Banana Blitz apart is the Wiimote, just as most other games on the Wii. Instead of controlling the camera with the GameCube’s analog stick, you know twist the Wiimote left and right, up and down. While it takes some getting used to, within minutes you’ll notice how much more you feel in control with the Wiimote than with a regular controller, not to mention it’s more comfortable in the hand. To keep better control and balance, it’s most effective to use both hands.

Aside from single-player mazes, there is also a huge selection of mini-games. Sega included 50 mini-games with Banana Blitz, and while some could make good games on their own, most of them fall well short of success. Case in point, there are at least three that I would consider completely unplayable. Monkey Snowboard, Banana Catch and Alien Attack are three perfect examples of mini-games that feel rushed and untested. They control so erratically that no amount of patience can possibly allow you to get used to them. Not that catching bananas would be fun anyway.

Next are the “bad” mini-games. This is where roughly 50% of the mini-games would fall into. Most of these are examples of bad controls and not of poor concept (golf, fencing, boxing, darts, whack-a-mole, slingshot and sailing). Others are examples of both bad controls and bad concept (hovercraft racing and shepherd). Overall though, these mini-games are at least playable, and may be enjoyable depending on if you can get a hang for things.

Now for the “good” mini-games. About 30-40% would fall into this category. You have disk golf, monkey target (a favorite from past Monkey Balls, but this time with only one map) and hurdle race that all work well with the Wiimote. Bowling is a good attempt, but Wii Sports easily outdoes it. Some of the other games take good use of the Wiimote. Hammer throw is really only possible on Wii, where you hold A and spin your controller, releasing it to throw for the farthest distance. Monkey Wars is a First-Person Shooter that handles remarkably well for a mini-game. Sega included three different levels and different ammo to fire your gun. My personal favorite is Monkey Race, a mix between Mario Kart and F-Zero. This mini-game could survive just fine as a stand-alone game, and goes to show how well racing will be on the Wii.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz is not a radical change in the direction of the franchise that Super Monkey Ball Adventure was. That’s a good thing though. Sega managed to improve upon a formula that has worked for five years by implementing new controls to take advantage of the Wii’s remote. Moving the Wiimote to turn and speed forward feels so natural, it really puts analog controls to shame. The wobbly old camera that oriented the action with the analog stick is replaced with a smoother, calmer one. Everything about Super Monkey Ball is better on Wii, outside of the mini-games.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.5
Written by Kyle Review Guide