Sega’s arcade backbone is often understated these days, even when news of famous Japanese arcades closing after decades of operation is in recent headlines. Super Monkey Ball is one of the prime arcade to console conversions, bringing its absurd world and style to the Gamecube and turning into a popular series.

Years later, Monkey Ball has struggled to find a place in modern gaming but has never left, its status as a Sega classic fully embedded in the culture. Now it’s time to celebrate that status with Banana Mania, a digital party sending up Super Monkey Ball as the unique classic it is.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania Review

The first three console iterations of Super Monkey Ball are regarded as the best, and that’s what we have here in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. It’s a big chunk of all three games mashed together, gathering all the content together and ditching the separation indicating separate titles.

This isn’t a collection; remember, it’s a party. Story Mode, Challenge Mode, so on and so forth don’t call to individual past releases. It’s all Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, and that’s cool.

The celebratory vibe runs all over this game, from the title theme banger guided by a friendly vocal lead to the treasure trove of unlockables and shout outs not only to Monkey Ball history but Sega history as well.

If you get the Deluxe Edition (which was provided to us by Sega) you can literally play as a Genesis, Saturn or Dreamcast. Much of Banana Mania’s marketing has told us about playable bonus characters such as Kazuma Kiryu or Beat, with more to come.

Everyone is invited, including that one-eyed weirdo Suezo from Monster Rancher for some reason. Why not? It’s a vibe.

The play experience itself is exactly as advertised. It’s a seemingly endless well of Super Monkey Ball, smashing all the story levels of three games into one long story and offering all kinds of additional challenges and minigames on top of that. Leaderboards, too!

This is an arcade experience at heart, and you can feel it from the jump. Even if you’ve never played a Monkey Ball in your life, Banana Mania is just waving you into the party anyway. Luckily there really isn’t much onboarding needed.

Related: Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania Preview | Sega Toybox

Super Monkey Ball is all about moving a level around, guiding your encapsulated monkey, hedgehog, underrated games console or whatever through small, but intimidating stages to collect trinkets and find the goal.

It can seem easy at first, until the game quickly reminds you it’s an arcade-style joint and if you want to be perfect your ass needs to practice. Stage gimmicks will knock you out of bounds before you realize you touched them, the timer will taunt you for being arrogant enough to think you could grab all the bananas on the first try.

It can be frustrating at times, but part of the magic is seeing something like a giant comb spinning around in the distance and wondering what the hell you’re going to do. Then jetting forward and crashing into it anyway just to see what happens.

As a newer gaming experience and repackaging of older titles, naturally you have some extra tools to help you through. If you “die” a few times Banana Mania will offer you some assistance, which you can accept in exchange for a spot on the leaderboard.

This mode doubles the timer, gives you a slow-motion button and drops arrows on the stage to show you the optimal path. The physical part is still up to you, but giving you some breathing room and a little extra help to understand a stage is really nice. You just have to check your pride first.

Super Monkey Ball is 20-by-god years old, and its relative obscurity in current times has always felt like a cosmic injustice. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania is a moment of stubborn insistence these games are dope, and it does everything it can to justify its stance.

It’s the truth, after all, and it’s nice to see how gracefully Banana Mania achieves its goal. It’s a feel-good moment on the Super Monkey Ball timeline.


Pros:

  • Tons of content
  • Help options are legitimately helpful
  • Celebratory vibe is lots of fun

Cons:

  • Can't dress up the guest characters - let Kiryu wear the banana hat!!
  • Party vibe comes at the expense of historical context

Score: 8.5

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review