I have no idea who the audience for Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is. The new Sega release, which brings the seemingly most-beloved Monkey Ball titles from the early 2000s into a remastered modern package, certainly has a lot of eager fans. Those fans have very exacting standards for what a collection and I am not sure Banana Mania will satiate that specific audience. It is, however, a game for people who simply want a good Super Monkey Ball release, for which there have been precious few in the last decade.
Reviewing a Super Monkey Ball game in general is such an odd concept to me. The game is theoretically simple: you control a board through tilting and roll a ball into a goal. The actual execution of this is monstrously hard. After playing Banana Mania, I can confirm it is both still incredibly simple and controller-breakingly difficult. So if you came to this review looking for the question, is this no-frills Super Monkey Ball, the answer is yes. It’s that! You roll down courses and it will sometimes take you one try, sometimes two tries, and sometimes two hundred tries.
If you’ve never played a Super Monkey Ball before or you have played one and aren’t looking to be particularly hardcore about it, Banana Mania feels and plays good and is an excellent entry into the series. If you are the type of person to load up a game of Monkey Target and immediately know whether or not it feels wrong, then, well, you might not have as good of a time as everyone else. While the adherence to the original feel of Super Monkey Ball and its sequels is definitely felt, there are aspects that just straight up don’t feel exactly like they should. This won’t bother most people, but anyone with exacting standards for that sort of thing should prepare.
One aspect unique to Banana Mania is the bevy of guest stars, including a rolling Dreamcast, Sonic and Tails, and Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza series. I want to be clear when I say that these characters add nothing to the gameplay but incredible amounts to the experience. It is literally never not-funny to see Kiryu rolling around in his little ball and bumping into things while he collects energy drinks. A completely non-personified Game Gear encased in a plastic ball avoiding lava traps is just objectively enjoyable.
Ultimately I’m not really sure who to recommend Banana Mania to, even though I think there’s nothing wrong with the game itself. People who are interested in trying Super Monkey Ball, or people who want to come back to it, are most likely to enjoy this package. Anyone who isn’t aware of the kind of thing they’re getting into or, conversely, people who have a very exact idea of what they want from it might struggle a bit more to accept Banana Mania for what it is.
If you’re like me, it will remind you a lot of playing the GameCube in a friend’s basement in 2001. That in and of itself is hard to quantify.