2021 is shaping out to be a great year for arcade-style videogames. I’ve already gushed as much as possible about Cruis’n Blast this week. We got a new Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and we revisited several classics due to releases like Capcom Arcade Stadium, Cotton Reboot and Space Invaders Invincible Collection.

There are probably more I haven’t even touched yet. But I have touched several hundred bananas and other strange collectibles in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, an elaborate remake of the original Super Monkey Ball games.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania Hands-On Preview

I’ve had my hands on this game for a little while now, and today’s a good ol’ preview day. We won’t get too into it (we’ll save that for the review), but what I will say is that this game is exactly what it says it is.

You can play through the “story” of the first three Super Monkey Ball titles, hit up all kinds of wacky challenges and minigames and even do weird stuff like dress up your titular monkeys or play using their original Gamecube-era models.

But this game isn’t just about the monkeys. It’s about Sega itself.

Not only is Banana Mania a chance to revisit these classic puzzle/action/arcade titles (subsequent games have seen much more mixed responses), it’s also a chance for Sega to indulge in a little self-celebration.

Much of the marketing leading up to release has been all about various guest characters alongside the main monkeys, even including outsiders like Hello Kitty and… Suezo from friggin Monster Rancher.

But most of the bonus unlockables are from throughout Sega history, including Beat from the Jet Set Radio series and relative newcomer to the Sega spotlight Kazuma Kiryu. Some of the characters even change the bananas to other relevant objects. 

You can also play as just Sega consoles? If cramming living creatures in these clearly unsafe capsules is a problem, just chuck a Sega Saturn in there, why not?

There are plenty of unlockables beyond the ones already advertised, as evidenced by the store page having lots of real estate to pump coins into (note, I don’t mean a stack of Sega cameos, just unlockables in general).

Banana Mania truly runs wild here for all the Bananamaniacs, with this kind of content volume. For newcomers curious for various reasons (shout out to the surviving Monster Rancher fanbase, whatever that comprises), Super Monkey Ball is exactly what it sounds like.

You guide a little gacha capsule containing a monkey (or hedgehog, or Dreamcast) down various Marble Madness-like tracks, with plenty of bananas to grab along the way. But sometimes just getting to the end is a big challenge as the slightest mistakes can send your ball sailing into the abyss.

Related: Return to Castle Monkey Ball is the Light in 2021’s Darkness

For returning fans, this is Super Monkey Ball as you remember it. All the ridiculous moving geometry and bizarre stage names (Totalitarianism? Really?) are here, just with that HD glow-up.

The three games are all kind of smashed together into one long story which is weird, but in a way it helps sell the premise. This isn’t just a compilation of old games, it’s a celebration of a cult classic series. A… banana mania, if you will.

I’ve only scratched the surface here. There’s a lot to get into and then some. It’s good to see Super Monkey Ball back in a big, celebratory manner. And all the Sega history goodness and weird extra content is a great time as well.

It’s like Sega decided to make Super Monkey Ball a toybox-like platform for whatever it felt like, using some true arcade-style classics as a foundation. Stick around later this month for our review, and check the game out for yourselves when Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania drops on October 5, 2021.

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