Super Monkey Ball, What Happened to You?!

Two hours, twenty seven minutes. That is how long it took me to finish all 8 worlds in Super Monkey Ball 3D, including failed attempts to beat the worlds using one continue each according to my 3DS activity log. That’s 80 levels.

I shouldn’t be this disappointed after finishing a launch 3DS game. After all, it’s a new system, and the first games are always a hit or miss. Typically features are a little on the weak side and that really doesn’t bug me. So what is it about Super Monkey Ball 3D that leaves me unsatisfied?

Ever since the Gamecube’s launch, I have been a fan of Super Monkey Ball. The first has hours upon hours of possible playing time between the challenge levels and the minigames (which at the time were lacking). A sequel was quickly released that added more levels, gimmicks and minigames and maintained the charm while adding different environments and a story of sorts. Then came the forgettable Super Monkey Ball Adventure, after which Sega apparently learned their lesson and went for only one game per console, around launch time (with subsequent releases losing gradually more fans). There was the DS one, a Wii version that boasted 50 or so minigames, and to be honest wasn’t bad at all. The music was awesome, especially for the bosses… in short, I have nothing but fond memories of the first two for the cube and the wii game.

Part of the magic was that it appealed to the many facets of myself as a gamer. If I just wanted a relaxing environment to chill in and just roll around like an idiot or play random sports games with monkeys, there were tons of options even in the earliest of the series. If I wanted something a little more hardcore… then I was in for a treat, aiming for the incredibly hard to access master levels (still haven’t made it to any set of those sadly). There was more than enough material to keep me entertained while having that seemingly impossible goal to constantly aspire for.

Have my not perfect, but also not amateurish skills in the series carried over to the 3DS? Maybe it was only easy because of that, otherwise I might have enjoyed the steady learning curve like any older Super Monkey Ball…. but I doubt it.

Level design is where this game falls flat on its face. Sure it gradually becomes harder and worlds 5 to 8 are pretty/borderline fun, but they are all essentially the same thing with a different color or design. Obstacles range from small bumps on the floor to bumpers that bounce you off stage to super bumpers that propel you into the damn background. That’s it. They look different for each world, but there is no other imagination put into the traps. Floors might curve and bend, but most have guardrails. The floors are also much less dynamic than the earlier games with less moving platforms, less rotating platforms and no disappearing/reappearing platforms or anything slightly more advanced. But at least there are some cool 3D effects like the lasers flying around in world 8.

When I got bored of challenge mode and went to look at the minigames available, I was shocked to see only two : Monkey Race and Monkey Fight. Monkey Fight immediately reminded me of a cheap knockoff of those Shonen Jump DS games. Monkey Race reminded me of a poor man’s Mario Kart – if you hold the accelerator while the race is beginning you spin out of control and there’s items to use too! I don’t remember the minigames being so lacking.

See, I’m trying to defend the 3DS launch lineup while other people are crapping all over the games. I really want to say that these are great games the way I said Pilotwings 64 and Wave Race 64 were awesome launch games despite being lighter in content. I can’t defend this horribly mediocre game.  Even watching these videos as I link them to parts of my text make me sad to watch the gradual decline.

Hope Pilotwings and Steel Diver don’t disappoint when they come in tomorrow.

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