It has been 13 years since the initial release of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz on the Nintendo Wii. A launch title for the Wii introduced a new villain to the series, Captain Crabuchin. As you'd expect, he steals the Golden Banana Bunch, and it is up to AiAi and the rest of the family to recover them piece by piece. The HD remake, developed by Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and Masao Shirosaki (the team behind the recent release of Judgment), has been rebuilt using the Unity game engine for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
With the original game being released on the Wii, this remastered version has completely removed the motion controls and replaced it with traditional Super Money Ball mechanics. The Wii release had 50 mini-games, most built around motion controls. Those have been whittled down to 10 of the most popular party games that work best with traditional controls. Monkey Target remains my all-time favorite, even if it isn't as good as it was in the first two games. Dangerous Route (I remember being popular) plays like a top-down version of the main game, except you are providing momentum to the monkeys themselves and not by tilting the environment. Monkey Snowboard fares the worst of the bunch, featuring awful hit detection surrounding the snowman populating the track and the walls themselves.
Although I would consider the first two games on GameCube as classics, it certainly is an interesting choice to remaster a game that never could live up to the originals. The newly added Decathlon mode tasks you with playing through all ten party games in single-player. Based on your score in each one, you are ranked on the online leaderboard. Time attack features an online leaderboard as well, tasking you to clear one of three courses. Unlike other games, you don't have direct control over the movements of each character. Yes, you can jump, but using the analog stick, you are tilting the world. The more you tilt, the faster you'll move across the environments. With a time limit attached to stages, you'll have to balance getting to the goal as quickly as possible with collecting bananas to ensure you have enough lives.
The primary mode in Banana Blitz HD features ten uniquely themed worlds (a total of 100 stages), each with eight puzzle stages, a bonus stage, and a boss. With the original game using motion controls, many of the stages feature safety barriers, which is in stark contrast to the less forgiving originals. Stages are, for the most part, simplistic. As you progress through the worlds, they become more elaborate, featuring spots where you can attempt to skip or bypass some of the environment by a well-placed jump. Without proper camera control, some of the later stages can be frustrating to deal with, especially when the camera isn't directly behind you, and you need to roll down a narrow platform to reach the goal. Stage 5 of Cobalt Caverns (world 6) in particular had me cursing at the screen more often than I would like to admit.
Collecting bananas is optional, however after obtaining 20, you'll gain an extra life. Bonus stages task you with collecting as many bananas as possible. Boss battles are the most frustrating, partly due to the wonky camera, and partly based on how easy it is for you to be knocked off a platform. Banana Blitz was the first time that bosses were added to the series. A pink colored weak spot appears on each boss, requiring you to avoid direct attacks aimed at knocking you off the platform. Most of the time, you'll need to jump to either deflect back objects or reach the actual damage location on their body. It never feels as precise as it needs to be, leading to a waste of lives. Making things more challenging is the fact the camera becomes locked to the boss, making it much harder to navigate across the generally small play area properly.
Disappointingly, there isn't any way to swap between one of the six monkeys after selecting the world. It would make more sense to add this functionality into the game if you are having trouble with a particular stage. As each character has unique stats based on bounce, size, speed, and jump, it would undoubtedly come in handy. Champion medals are earned in each world if completed without using a continue. Collect them in each world, and you'll unlock the final set of stages.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD is a solid remaster of a sub-par Super Monkey Ball title. The visual style works for the series, and most of the party games that were included represent the best ones from the original release. The online leaderboard integration for the Decathlon and Time Attack modes is a great addition. There are unlockable outfits, and even Sonic the Hedgehog has been added to the game. All of the original music from the Wii release has been replaced due to licensing issues.Note: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD was reviewed on Xbox One. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.