Twelve years ago in Japan a game was released in arcades called Monkey Ball.
The premise was simple: instead of controlling the game’s main character (or characters since you could choose from three different monkeys) you actually used the banana-shaped joystick to tilt the level, thus making the ball roll in different directions.
The objective was to reach the goal at the end of each stage before time ran out while collecting bananas along the way for points and potentially extra lives.
Again, it’s a simple premise but apparently a successful one as over the course of the next twelve years we’ve seen several different games and ports in the series, and today we’re going to look at the latest release in the franchise: Super Monkey Ball 3D.
If you’ve played any of the previous Monkey Ball titles then you’ll know what to expect from the game’s main mode. By selecting Monkey Ball you’re taken to a screen with five options: Challenge, Replay, Practice, High Scores, and Collectibles. The meat of the game is Challenge Mode, where you select one of four monkeys (AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, and GonGon) and take on seven different worlds with ten stages each. Your goal, as in other Monkey Ball games, is to get from the start to the goal within sixty seconds while collecting bananas and avoiding obstacles. Collecting thirty bananas nets you an extra life while either falling off the stage or running out of time make you lose a life.
The game offers two control styles: using the circle pad or the motion sensor. The circle pad offers a control style similar to previous Monkey Ball titles. Moving the circle pad forward, back, left, and right tilts the stage in that direction and your ball rolls accordingly. Using the motion sensor gets the same effects when tilting the 3DS up, down, and to either side. When I first got the game I played the entire first world using the motion controls. Despite how fun it was to rotate my 3DS all over the place to stay on the stage without falling off, I found that using the circle pad was more accurate. On top of that, if you like having the 3D effects on, then using the motion sensor is pretty much out of the question. Take any application or game for the 3DS, turn on the 3D effect, and tilt the system in any direction and you’ll see how hard it is to see what’s happening on the screen. While the motion controls are fun to play with, I find myself using the circle pad as it helps with turning tight corners.
Each stage is littered with obstacles to avoid that can make your life miserable. Thankfully there aren’t too many obstacles to worry about and once you learn how to get around them safely you should have no problems with the later stages. The most annoying obstacles you’ll come across are the bumpers. These look like small wooden logs sticking out of the ground with spikes on them and they come in two varieties: bumpers with a small black band and bumpers with a small blue band. The bumpers with the small black band are the more common of the two and are found in the majority of the stages. When you run into them with your ball you bounce off of it at an angle, more often than not right off the stage. At first they’re not hard to avoid, but in later stages they’re placed in more precarious places that require pinpoint accuracy to avoid. The blue-banded bumpers on the other hand, while rare to see, are more deadly as touching one of them will more than likely bump you right off the stage with no chance of hanging on. The only other obstacle you’ll come across (other than some blocks in the road or sandy terrain that can slow you down) are what appear to be rocks on the ground (or clumps of dirt, it’s kind of hard to tell). Hitting these at a slow speed won’t do much but slightly toss you around a bit, but hitting them at high speeds can not only toss you around, but pretty much completely throw you off your path. While not as annoying as the bumpers, they still shouldn’t be taken lightly…or quickly.
That’s all there is to the main game.
Much like the past titles you complete each world and that’s it.
However, there’s a bit more to the game than just running around inside a ball.
After each stage you can save a replay of the stage if you’d like to save an awesome run on a stage, and the game also saves the top three scores on each stage.
My only real complaint about the main game is the difficulty.
Aside from a couple stages that took quite a few tries to get through, I got through most of the stages without any real difficulties.
I noted above that you gain an extra life for every thirty bananas, but running out of lives yields no real penalties outside of your score going back to 0.
Even if you continue you stay on the same stage with three more lives, you just lose your score and amount of bananas.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though given how tricky some of the stages can be.
Just imagine if you finally completed a troublesome stage only to lose your next life on the next stage, then have to repeat that tricky stage again.
Like previous Monkey Ball games Super Monkey Ball 3D has mini-games, but unfortunately only two of them, though they are bigger than the mini-games in past titles. The first is called Monkey Race and essentially it’s Mario Kart with Monkey Ball aspects. Grand Prix allows you to choose one of three groups of tracks to race against computer-controlled racers. You get points after each race depending on where you placed. The most points after all the tracks in the course wins. Much like in Mario Kart you can gain items by driving through arches throughout the track. These items range from banana peels to make other racers spin out, to 3D Glasses used to obscure the vision of other racers, to the Super Monkey Ball that makes you invincible and gives you a burst of speed, much like the Bullet Bill item from the later Mario Kart games. Outside of Grand Prix you can also do a Quick Race to practice a track with computer-controlled racers or Time Trail to take it on by yourself to see how fast you can clear a lap or the track as a whole. It’s not a bad mini-game as it does play similar to Mario Kart, but I find drifting a bit annoying. You can hold R when you’re going at a high speed and tilt the circle pad to the side which allows a quick change of direction, plus you can spin into your opponent and gain a small burst of speed, but half the time I find myself slamming into the walls and falling further behind the other racers. Monkey Race is fun, but playing it basically makes me wish I was playing Mario Kart.
The other mini-game is called Monkey Fight and it’s basically similar to Super Smash Bros. You chose a stage under Quick Match (or fight in all three stages in Series Mode), chose your monkey of choice, and battle it out against three other monkeys (again, chosen by you) in a contest to determine who can obtain the most bananas. There are several different rule sets you can use and you can also set the time limit. The objective is to run around and attack your opponents to get them to drop bananas for you to collect. Whoever has the most bananas at the end wins. During the match a golden barrel will appear. Attacking the barrel will break it open and allow you to use a special attack against your opponents. The catch is that the monkey who can use the power is the one who gets the tenth hit in on the barrel. The controls are similar to that of Smash Bros. You can attack an opponent with a basic attack or a combo attack, plus you can also grab and shake bananas out of your opponents. Like with Monkey Race it’s not a bad game but it feels like they were trying to copy Super Smash Bros. and fell a little flat. If they made it to where you just damaged your opponent and tried to eliminate their lives that would be different.
Overall I really enjoyed Super Monkey Ball 3D. However it’s the Monkey Ball mode where I did the majority of my playing. While I was never that good at previous Monkey Ball titles I had a lot of fun with this one. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t played the game yet, but there are some items to collect and different things to unlock which add to the fun. However, I feel that the Monkey Race and Monkey Fight mini-games are basically stripped down versions of Super Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. If they had included a few more mini-games it wouldn’t be as bad, but I’ve only played these two a few times each and I just can’t get myself to play more of them. The difficulty could be a little tougher, maybe have a difficulty option that could allow for a tougher challenge, such as going back to the start of each world (or at least stage six if you’re gone that far) if you lose all of your lives. Other than that I feel that Super Monkey Ball 3D is a solid launch title for the Nintendo 3DS and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something to add to your 3DS library.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Super Monkey Ball 3D is a solid launch title for the 3DS. While the two mini-games (Monkey Race and Monkey Fight) seem like slight rip-offs of Mario Kart and Smash Bros. games, the main game keeps the same familiar action of the previous titles. The difficulty is a little on the easy side for most of the main game mode, but despite that I still found myself having fun with it. My only major complaint is the lack of mini-games. While the two present can be fun in their own right, I would have loved to see a few more for variety.