I wish Sega read Gorillas in the Mist.
I have a lot of fond memories of the Super Monkey Ball series, specifically with the first two on GameCube, which were chock-full of well-designed labyrinths and cute, competitive multiplayer. Coincidentally, the last entry in the series I had any inkling of fondness for was the 2006 Wii release Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, which is now being remade for modern consoles 13 years after its debut. While Banana Blitz HD has some decent tricks up its sleeve, pitiful multiplayer, dreadful boss battles, and levels that were designed for motion controls drag it down to be a disappointing return for AiAi and his simian squad.
The 100 levels from Banana Blitz’s main game are brought back for the HD version and for the most part, it’s an enjoyable romp through these balance-focused stages. Some designs are definitely weird when you’re not using a Wii Remote to nimbly keep your monkey ball steady, but especially as you get into the back half, the new traditional controls fit the stages well. If you’ve never played Banana Blitz before, this entry in the series also added the ability to jump, which is worked into the levels here as well. Across the board, I still prefer the first two GameCube games, but working my way through this adventure here was enjoyable, except for the bosses at the end of each world.
The bosses oscillate from tolerable to hot garbage as you’re tasked with contending with boss attacks and stage obstacles. They’re punitive, repetitive, frustrating, and boring. I would dread reaching the end of a world because I knew some annoying and borderline unbalanced duel was on the horizon. The only positive thing I can say about the bosses is at least their visual designs are usually cute.
Outside of the main game, 10 of the original 50 mini-games from the Wii release made the cut, mostly because the bulk of the original games were built around motion controls. Even with the focus of just 10 games, they’re still not all that deep and fun. The version of Monkey Target present here pales in comparison to previous iterations, and the rest are only fun in fleeting moments. An online leaderboard does add a bit of enticement as the Decathlon is a way for players to compete for the best score cumulatively in the mini-games. It’s a good thing they added the mini-game leaderboard, though, because the local multiplayer legs of this game are shorter than GonGon’s. For those not interested in the mini-games, a Time Attack online leaderboard for the main game is also present.
A few flourishes help to make this remake a little stronger. Sonic the Hedgehog is an unlockable character, turning the collectible bananas into rings, which is way more of an endearing addition than I expected. A few other secrets are nestled in this game as well, but Sonic’s the best one, especially with the charming, familiar sound effects. Outside of Sonic, Banana Blitz’s original soundtrack does not return here, reportedly due to licensing issues. That’s a shame, because Banana Blitz’s soundtrack is actually one of the better parts of the Wii release. The replacement almost feels like some sort of series greatest hits, which is serviceable. The new main theme song, however, is a crazy upbeat and catchy tune.
After spending time with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, I’m still confused as to why this specific game was the pick to revive the franchise. The 10 mini-games included aren’t that strong and the main game is mediocre at best, dragged down by the motion-focused level design and abysmal boss battles. On one hand, I was happy to play Super Monkey Ball again, but on the other, I wish I could play a better Super Monkey Ball game.