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With all the Sega revivals in the mix, it’s nice to see the Super Monkey renaissance continue. Multiple titles have been remade since 2019, with the highlight being the full return of both the first game and its sequel in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. Those must have done well enough, as we now have something we haven’t had since 2012 – an all new game! 

Super Monkey Ball Banana Rumble brings on a handful of change ups to the series, most plainly seen in the cast getting redesigned for the second time, but nowhere is it felt more in its multiplayer modes. Gone are the assortment of minigames and in their place are a small handful of competitive options supporting up to 16 players each. A new chargeable dash move and other smart additions to the experience do wonders for the single player experience, but can the absence of Monkey Target and my sweet Monkey Bowling be ignored? Roll along to find out if this different flavor is satisfying or will leave your stomach rumbling for more. 



Jumping into single player, you’ll be introduced to both the Spin Dash technique and newcomer Palette. She forms the crux of the game’s minimal plotline, built around adventuring from world to world to gather up treasures and collect the Legendary Banana. This boils down to a framing device between sets of courses where AiAi and the gang make monkey noises, talk about friendship, and face off with a band of phantom thieves. It’s just enough to get away with calling this a Story, but Palette and the non-primate Gala Family manage to make for cute additions to the cast.

The character variety is welcome too, as everyone has unique stats for things like speed, weight, and the rate at which their dash charges and remains on cooldown. How that’ll shape up with stage strategies and Time Attack times will be left to more practiced hands than mine, but in changing monkeys from world to world I was able to appreciate the subtle differences in control. 



Which takes me to the most important aspect of any Monkey Ball game, in my opinion: course design. It took a few worlds of simple stages for me to start being consistently impressed and eventually challenged by the slopes, rails, ramps, gimmicks, and layouts that fill Banana Rumble. To me that’s a good balance, with a gradual increase in depth and difficulty. Throughout the story I can only recall one stage that became actively frustrating to play. If only 1% of your designs are causing me grief, I call that a win for the designers. 

But is the other 99% enjoyable? There does seem to be something missing from the highpoints of the series – maybe it’s those older games’ tighter precision, or something in the sound design – but Banana Rumble was a fun adventure from start to finish. Best of all, clearing those opened up EX stages, bringing on higher difficulty and even more creative stages. 

I do miss the more arcade-y structure that previous Monkey Ball games had, though. Not the use of lives and continues, those can stay gone. Rather the structure of having 10, 30, or 50 stages from the story curated into a dedicated playthrough is missed. 

As a last aside on single player content, I love the addition of each stage having three missions. These are always the same trio of objectives (clear the stage fast enough, gather up enough bananas, or pick up a single and often precariously placed Golden Banana) but having them as extra objectives alongside getting to the goal are a great addition to the formula. 



That’s one half of the game, but what about the more varied hemisphere of Banana Rumble? This is the first game in the series to really embrace online multiplayer and is likely why party games have been nixed. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy local options as well – both split screen and multi-system play are supported. With the 16-player count though it’s pretty clear the idea is to head online. 

Of these “Battle Modes”, only Monkey Race is a returning one, though it’s been changed up a bit compared to its classic counterpart. Joining it are Banana Hunt (grab as many bananas as you can) and Ba-Boom! (tag, you now have a bomb attached to you) along with two team-based games: Goal Rush and Robot Smash. It’s these latter two that make the most of the heightened player counts, being a mad dash to get through goals and ram into giant robots respectively. 



While all the modes can get delightfully chaotic and competitive, it’s those multi-objective ones that stuck with me, but it’s hard to see myself returning to any of them again and again. Maybe my age is showing, but Super Monkey Ball has always felt best with quick bouts of short, sweet minigames (or controller passing between courses) spent playing on the couch. 


As that’s not the style for games in general these days, I can understand this attempt to reinvent the wheel (orb?) so to speak. It’s just a shame there are games like Fall Guys that take this “madcap massive multiplayer” approach and really make it work. I think there’s potential for Monkey Ball to become that for Sega – this first pass at it, with its minimal options and fairly conservative twists on the franchise’s formula, just didn’t quite hit for me.    



Beyond the core gameplay, there’s one thing Banana Rumble really has going for it – unbridled joy. Throughout its visuals, menus, and music there’s an innate sense of pep and positive spirit that makes these monkeys and their games so endearing. The contrasting black and yellow motif from the last two releases are still present in some capacity, but there’s a more tropical vacation vibe for the main menus. I love the luggage tags on banana clips that make up your options so much that this last paragraph has really just been a ploy to highlight them, and being able to pan from beach scene to beach scene just because is a nice touch. 

Monkey customization is back as well, forming a sort of long term completion goal. Turning in points earned via missions and just naturally playing the game will let you buy up clothes, accessories, balls and effects, and more that can be used to style up the monkeys. Unfortunately it looks like the guest characters will once again be left out of that fun, but the online play adds another incentive to dress your best. 



The return of Monkey Ball has been a delight in and of itself, and at its heart I think this one’s worthy of that legacy. It finds itself resting comfortably in the middle of the core games’ quality, coming up shy of the beloved Gamecube entries but finding its footing well enough to avoid being lumped in with low points. It plays well, the new additions don’t detract from the experience (and in some ways and courses enhance it), and dared to embrace a new kind of online-focused multiplayer. As Sega works towards reintroducing Jet Set Radio, Crazy Taxi, and more to the world I’m glad Super Monkey Ball is fitting right in as a staple for the company, and can’t wait to see what builds off of Banana Rumble’s foundation.    

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  • Our first all-new Monkey Ball game in a long while shows the core gameplay and world are just as endearing as ever
  • Spin Dash works well as an edition, giving players a new toy to play with when it comes to strategies and the devs a new design tool
  • Plenty of fun vibes in the game’s visual elements, updated character designs, and music
  • Updated online focus for multiplayer loses some of the series’ trademark Party Game charm, though kudos for trying something new with the brand
  • Wish there was a way to play through a selection of courses ala past titles

Written by Ricky Berg

When he isn’t writing for Nintendo Wire, Ricky’s anticipating the next Kirby, Fire Emblem, or if the stars ever align, Mother 3 to be released. Till then he’ll have the warm comfort of Super Smash Bros. to keep him going.