REVIEW – Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD

Back in the early days of the Wii, one of the games I played the most was Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz. It wasn’t one of the best games in the franchize, but I didn’t dislike it as much as others. So when I heard Sega was releasing an updated HD version for Nintendo Switch, I was excited. Unfortunately, it left me longing for the original.

All the original 100+ single-player stages are back with updated, high definition 1080p graphics running at 60 frames-per-second. Also returning are 10 of the original 50 party (mini) games, which allow you to play with friends. I hear you, though. They cut mini games and made it HD. What about the new stuff? Why get this. Well, now you have the ability to compete online with friends in two different types of leaderboards: Time Attack and Decatholon. The former has you competing for the fastest time while the latter puts you through the 10 mini games in an effort to get the highest overall score.

This alone makes for a great update to the game, but they had to include one more “new” aspect. They changed up the control scheme. Now you can play the entire game with your controller’s analog stick. Oh, wait… I said, “can,” when I meant to say, “must.” Yes, the game that was built for motion controls now has it stripped away. While the Wii’s motion controls were annoying on some games, I found them to mesh well with Banana Blitz.

Where the control limitations popped up the most was in certain party games that were clearly designed for motion. Seesaw Ball had more precision, for instance, as the Switch analog sticks are incredibly touchy. Slingshot, Hammer Throw, and Whack-a-Mole also all suffer from the switch to a traditional control layout. Whack-a-Mole wasn’t the greatest experience before, but it is even worse now since you have to aim with the stick.

The analog stick control, along with the jerky camera in the single-player story made me want to reach for the garbage can or the Dramamine multiple times. Fortunately, playing in handheld mode was better, but I still did not enjoy playing for longer than 15-20 minutes. Maybe that was their goal to prevent becoming a couch potato, but I doubt it. And yes, there is a camera sensitivity adjustment in the options, which helped some but not completely. I do, however, recommend everyone turn that down to the lowest setting when you begin playing.

Sega even stated in their press release, “Motion controls from the original Banana Blitz have been removed in favor of tightened analog controls, making it a breeze to jump in and start rolling through the game’s 100 levels.” I disagree that this makes the game a breeze. Perhaps it’s a limitation for the Switch’s analog stick only, but I really hope they release an update at some point to include motion controls again for those who prefer it.

Something they should have updated were the hit-boxes. When traveling through some stages in single-player or cruising down the hill in Monkey Snowboard, I was hitting snowmen, trees, and other obstacles that I thought I was clearly avoiding. Meanwhile, in Hovercraft Race, I had to be directly on top of the flags before they registered as being collected. These inconsistencies made me just annoyed and forced me to avoid specific modes like the Hovercraft Race.

Once you complete certain in-game objectives, you can unlock special costumes for each character in the game. For example, you can get Captain AiAi. You can also unlock a certain blue hedgehog too, which is a first for a Monkey Ball game. The bananas even turn into rings and provide classic sound effects when playing as Sonic, which is a very nice touch. Just beware of his speed if you struggle with controlling balanced monkeys like AiAi.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is not a bad game. Even though the original was not my favorite Monkey Ball game, I really enjoyed it on Wii. While updated graphics, online leaderboards, and unlockable costumes and characters are nice, I cannot overlook the downsides of less mini games, the forced non-motion controls, and the jerky camera. They create natural limitations, which means I will not play it as long, and certain party games will be avoided. If you were a big fan of the original, but wished they took away the motion controls, this is definitely for you. But for people like me who preferred motion on this game, I’d wait it out and hope for a future update.

(To see me play through the first 2 worlds and witness the jerky camera yourself, check out the video below. You’ll also find the announcement trailer and the Sonic trailer.)

GAME: Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD
PLATFORM: Nintendo Switch
ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10 and up (Mild cartoon violence, Suggestive themes)
MSRP: $39.99 US
OBTAINED: Code provided by developer/publisher for press purposes 

Gameplay Preview of Worlds 1 and 2

Original Announcement Trailer

Sonic Announcement Trailer