Super Monkey Ball 3D
Super Monkey Ball will always hold a special place in the hearts of many. It was the start of of something new, an original franchise for Nintendo’s purple console – GameCube. Developed specifically for the console’s launch back in 2001 the game showed the world what could be done with the graphical power of the ‘Cube. It showed bright, colourful mazes that moved perfectly with the brand new analogue stick. The game even had monkeys in balls collecting bananas! All of these reasons gave the game good review scores, however what really sold Monkey Ball was that it was a SEGA game on a Nintendo console! This was a day that many gamers thought would never happen. It used to be a choice of either SEGA or Nintendo. To have both was a moment in gaming that those old enough will remember.
Some 10 years later, the monkeys that started it all are back once again on a new Nintendo console, which can be described as a back to basics Monkey Ball. Gone are the story modes we have seen in the older versions of the game, there are no monkey friends or clone characters, only AiAi, MeeMee, GonGon and Baby are back for the main mode with one purpose: reach the end of the maze with as many bananas as possible. There are 3 modes of play with Super Monkey Ball 3D: Monkey Ball, this is the standard game guiding one of 4 monkeys around a maze, collecting bananas. Secondly is Monkey Race, involving apes featured in previous instalments racing around a track. Finally, there is Monkey Fight – a simian fight club where punching bananas out of one another is the aim of the game. There are no extra minigames such as bowling or a personal favourite – Monkey Target, which is a shame as SEGA could have shown more of the 3D capabilities of the handheld and improved the game’s lifespan.
3D graphics may seem like more of a novelty to some, however Monkey Ball has more of a subtle use for the third dimension. Having the visuals in 3D means stopping distances, corners and the closeness of obstacles in the main game can easily be judged. When the slider is set at two dimensions, there is obviously no “pop out” effect, however we are still presented with an example of the 3DS graphical powers. It is not as strong as the first GameCube instalment, however a vast improvement when compared to Touch and Roll for the Nintendo DS and on par with the Wii version.
In the Monkey Ball mode, the aim is the same as it has always been: move the ape from the start of the maze to the goal in under 60 seconds, collecting as many of the yellow bananas on the way. There are 80 mazes split over 8 worlds to roll through, and is a far cry from the hundreds of levels we have be come accustomed to in recent incarnations. They are a little too easy finish with only a handful producing a challenge that requires multiple restarts. Once finished, it does feel that there should have been an extra 80 levels. Instead, what is left is a challenge to beat the scores previously set or by completing the puzzles again with a different control option.
Those options come in the form of the Circle Pad or Motion Controls that are provided by the system’s in built gyroscopes. The Circle Pad has the same precision point accuracy that the Cube version had. You can stop AiAi literally on a needle point when required. Moving the maze with the motion sensor presents more of a challenge than using the circle pad as constant head movements so the screen doesn’t blur when moved out of the line of vision are required. Also there was a worry that the game would employ the same system that was present for the less than average Banana Blitz for the Wii. However within seconds they were settled, as the controls are metered in such away even the slightest tilt will move the ball, albeit not in any dramatic way.
The Monkey Race; as mentioned is a group of either CPU or Player controlled primates racing around a selection of tracks in what only can be described as a direct clone of Sonic Racers – but with monkeys. Pushing forward on the Circle Pad will move the chosen ape around the track and by collecting power ups the aim is to be number one. The racing game feels tagged on and an afterthought to the main game. Monkey Fight, to the same extent is the same. The idea is simple, to knock as many bananas out of your opponents as possible in the time allotted. A comparison to the coin mode in Smash Brothers would be the most accurate. Both these modes unfortunately have been done many a time to a better standard.
Super Monkey Ball 3D is a great little game and that to some extent is it’s problem. Unlike it’s bigger brothers, it is simply too easy to complete the main game and with two lack-luster side games it leaves little re-playability. However while it does last, Monkey Ball provides a treat for the eyes in terms of visuals, weather played in two or three dimensions, especially when coupled with the usual chirpy music you would come to expect form SEGA. If the game included more levels and had a better selection of minigames then this would have been an essential purchase.