Review: Super Monkey Ball Deluxe (XB, PS2)

Super Monkey Ball Deluxe
Platforms: XBox (Also On: PS2)
Developer: Amusement Vision
Publisher: Sega
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 03/16/05

My first game for the Game Cube was Super Monkey Ball. No, let me correct that. Super Monkey Ball was one of my first games for the Game Cube. But really, the only one I kept from my launch titles of that, Luigi’s Mansion, and Tony Hawk 4. But Luigi’s Mansion was short and rather lame, and I’ve never liked any of the Tony Hawk games, so they were quickly traded, and the early months of my cube were filled with Monkey Ball and SSB Melee goodness. Truly, SMB was the best of the launch titles for Nintendo’s current system.

It was not this month that I finally traded in SMB and waved a fond farewell to it, remembering how often my friends and I played it and enjoyed it. How good I got at it, and that my high scores would never be seen again.

But then, I traded it in knowing full well that Super Monkey Ball Deluxe was coming to my door. After all this contained not only Super Monkey Ball 1, but Super Monkey Ball 2, a game I just never picked up, as well! It also had twelve monkey party games! And for only $29.99, the same cost as Super Monkey Ball 2 was. Plus as it was on the Xbox, it meant that I could use the hard drive instead of the memory card. So I was very happy that I was going to be getting Two Monkey Balls for the price of one.

However I was sad to see this wasn’t a compilation where both games were on the same disc. Instead SMB 1 and 2 had their respective levels merged into each other, mixing and matching with little rhyme or reason. A bit of a disappointment, but this was still Super Monkey Ball after all, right?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Wow. I really wish they hadn’t included a story mode, because plot wise, it’s absolutely awful. So terrible I wish I didn’t have to describe it. It’s all about the evil professor Bad-Boon who starts stealing bananas in order to win the heart of the girl character, Meemee. Meemee hates Bad-boon and loves Aiai, the main character, and so Bad-boon steals even more bananas and begins to go through all sorts of crazy schemes like blowing up an island or shrinking the monkey down. It’s insane, the characters and story are poorly done, and they could have completely done without trying to make any sort of story for the game, as it just ends up being more bad than good. I swear, if I ever hear dialogue as awful as “Ei-Ei-Poo” again, I will scream. It’s not even cute. It’s just amazingly bad pabulum not even a toddler could stand.

Aside from the plot, story mode isn’t bad. There are ten worlds you have to go through, and in order to get to the next world, you must beat ten out of the twenty stages that encompass each world. This gives you the ability to pick and choose whatever puzzles you want, so if you’re having a hard time with one puzzle, you get to move on to another and see if that one is easier for you.

But then, Story Mode isn’t very long either. I was surprised that in only 2.5 hours, I had beaten the first 6 worlds, and that was with a break every now and then to do other things. So Story Mode can easily be beaten, even by the worst Monkey Ball player, in under ten hours. It only took me 5. More disappointment.

In all, story mode was really a feature they should have cut. It makes all the characters obnoxious and lame instead of endearing and adorable, and whoever wrote the plot needs to be drug out into the street and shot. Super Monkey ball, due to its high difficulty in a lot of later stages is not for kids. But the story is written only for three year olds, and that contradiction means that no one will really enjoy story mode at all. Kids will get frustrated and adults will just start skipping through the cinemas scenes which are unlocked after you beat each world as a bonus. Of course, the only time you’ll use those is if you’re planning to pull a Clockwork Orange on a person you wish worse than death upon.

In all, Story Mode is short, has a dreadful story, and really the only thing good about it, is that you can mix and match levels in what ever order you want…to a point.

I suggest staying away from it and try either the original challenge mode style, or the party games.

Story Rating: 3/10

2. Graphics

Super Monkey Ball is pretty to look at. Sometimes too pretty as you find yourself ogling the background and then, bam, you fall to you monkey death. The backgrounds are so well rendered and designed they sometimes steal the show from the actual playing of the game. If you can, get a friend to play and just look at the levels and the art that the game really is. It’s something you truly can’t appreciate why concentrating on your joystick and exact placement of your Monkey Ball so your character doesn’t plummet and leave you swearing your head off.

Characters designed are nice, with Baby being my favorite. All the monkey are cartoony and cute, but you can still tell a lot of work went into their design. Even the bad guys. Although it is pretty creepy to watch Dr. Bad-Boon get naked and give himself a thorough cleansing of his flesh and fur. Ew ew ew.

Everything about Super Monkey Ball screams “Shiny!” or “Sparkly.” Visually the game is a treat. You can tell it’s a first run Game Cube game, but even though it has been three and a half years since the cube launched (November ’01), and graphics have come quite a ways, Super Monkey Ball Deluxe still holds up, even on the Xbox.

Graphics Rating: 7/10

3. Sound

There’s good and there is bad. The good is the music. The bad is all the other noises. For a game with a lot of precision and concentration needed, you will find the noises to be a major distraction. In the latter Story World levels, I just muted the TV so that I could concentrate on what I was doing so I didn’t have to hear AiAi’s stupid voice chattering if I came close to an edge. Utterly annoying. And the same with all the characters in either Story Mode, or the classic Challenge Mode. The voice acting or whatever you want to call it as it more like a buzzing ala Animal Crossing, and combined with the horrible cinemas in Story Mode, you will come to hate it as much as I.

But the good is the music. In any of the party games, challenge mode, or story mode, you get some excellent music that although can be distracting, are well made melodies that often times enhance the enjoyment of the game. More so in the party games than anything else though.

If only there was a way to mute the chimp chatter and the annoying timer that beeps EVERY SECOND and just keep the music. That would make for a very happy Alex indeed.

Basically you have some good music and some very annoying noise effects that averages out to a little over average, if only because the cinema scenes can be skipped, and the monkey squaking isn’t as bad in the party games.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Control and Gameplay

I’m just going to get this out of the way right now. The controls on the Xbox version are nowhere as good or precise as the Game Cube version. The game reacts violently at the slightest touch of a joystick and a lot of control in the GCN version is missing here.

Now I know what you’re thinking, but see, I thought of that too. I thought I was just remembering the GCN version as a lot easier. But I went to my local rental place, grabbed Super Monkey Ball for the Cube and then came home and played the same levels on each thanks to Practice Mode. And guess what? The cube version has tighter controls that aren’t as wonky as the Deluxe version. In the deluxe a tiny touch will send you a lot farther than it would in the Game Cube version and for some reason, even with three different joysticks tried on SMB deluxe, you just are far more likely to fall or go faster or not slow down as easily or even move a lot farther in one direction than you would from the tap of the stick then you would in the Cube version.

Of course, SMB was designed primarily for the Game Cube, so maybe that is why. But the end result is that some control and gameplay was lost in the merging and porting over to Microsoft and Sony systems. So what you have is a game based on hairpin controls that well, aren’t up to snuff.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good game, it’s just you can tell the original version of the game is better. And like I said, maybe it’s just the controllers of the Xbox over the Cube ones, but the fact remains is that I can clear levels on the Cube version of SMB 1 without dying, while biting it big time on the Deluxe version.

Same with the controls with some party games, most notably Monkey Bowling. In regards to the throwing the ball part of the game, the direction indicator is about 2-3 times faster than in the original, and the spin aspect doesn’t seem to have any effect at all. Basically what was one the best party game in SMB1 had been loused up. None of the other original party games suffer from this, but it’s this was my biggest heartbreak, even more so than story mode.

Basically, and I’ll say this right now, if you had the Cube versions, KEEP THEM. And if you can get both Cube versions for under $30, stick with them over this if you are bothered by the control aspect. Because it does get frustrating. Especially when you compare it to the original game. It’s not bad persey, but when you know it can be better than it is, it ticks you off a mite,

Control Rating: 6/10

5. Replayability

Look at it this way. You have Story Mode, which is awful. But that’s only a tiny part of the game. You also have three versions of Challenge Mode, based on what difficulty you want (each difficulty has different levels!) and is again a mixture of the challenge modes from the original two games. There is competition mode which allows you to pick any of the 109 stages in the game and play against your friends (1-4 players) in a time mode. However to acquire Challenge Mode, you must complete certain Challenge or Story Mode stages. There’s also Practice Mode which allows you to practice stages you have already played to get better at them.

And then there are the TWELVE party games. Let me divide them up between good and bad for you.

GOOD: Monkey Race, Monkey Fight, Monkey Billiards, Monkey Golf, Monkey Shot, Monkey Soccer, Monkey Baseball, Monkey Tennis.

BAD: Monkey Bowling (RUINED), Monkey Target, Monkey Dogfight, Monkey Boat.

But with only 4 meh party games, that’s still 8 really good ones. So what you’re looking at is a game that you will be playing for a very long time and having a lot of fun with and that there will always be something to come back and do, even years later. I know I did it with the original and my cube, and the Xbox or PS2 versions should be no different.

Replayability Rating: 10/10

6. Balance

Everything is well balanced in this game. Even story mode since you can pick what levels you want to do. In Challenge Mode, each level is slightly harder than the one before, and in party mode you’re competing against friends and that just depends on how much better you are than your pals and vice versa.

Some levels do feel insanely difficult and you wonder why they are in story mode due to the obvious age that is geared for. If anything Story Mode should be the easy version of the game and then Challenge mode should be medium, hard, and super hard.

The control problems bring this score down a bit as if there’s a problem with gameplay, it will inherently affect the balance of a game. But over all, Super Monkey Ball is designed with a learning curve applied, so as you get better the game gets harder.

Until of course you max out your ability and then spend a lot of time swearing.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

It’s a compilation and port combined into one game for systems it wasn’t on before. But it’s still from this generation of gaming. They’ve added a miniscule amount of new levels (as in single digits) and done some obvious touch ups that are generally for the worst, but in the end there’s very little new content.

On that same level, Super Monkey Ball is a harkening back to the 80’s and games like Marble Madness or Arkanoid or other puzzle games that would use a ball instead of a joystick for a controller. And mayhaps if there was an arcade version of this game, we’d see that. The puzzles are original, entertaining and the mini games are cute and very different from a lot of party games out there today. And you can feel the hint of nostalgia in both the gameplay and styling of the game, yet it still feels new.

Originality Rating: 6/10

8. Addictiveness

Even when Super Monkey Ball is at its most frustrating, it’s still highly addicting. You may die on a level a dozen times in a row, but you will keep trying. Especially in story mode where you don’t have to worry about continues. You just keep plugging away, again and again in an attempt to defeat the game. And when you do beat it, you will either flick the TV off, or give a cheer for having defeated that “Dastardly cheating computer.” Because you know, it’s always the computer’s fault, not your own lack of skill, right? ;-)

With all the games that are in here, and the fact we have a game that actually keeps SCORE again, you will find yourself playing just to get a few thousand more points than you did before. Or to get farther in Monkey shot that you had been before. Or to beat your friends high time in Monkey Race so when he comes over again you can show him you’ve topped him.

A ton of potential here. You just have to try out every single thing there is to do in this game.

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor

I can’t imagine someone not liking Super Monkey Ball. It’s fun, challenging, and there’s so much to do, you can hardly believe they fit it all onto a $30 DVD.

Some people might poo-poo the game as looking Kiddee, but Super Monkey Ball is made for the highly skilled gamer in mind. But if a person play story mode first, they may just roll their eyes and decide not to play past that, missing out on a great deal of fun in the other modes.

If you like sports games, there’s Monkey Baseball, Monkey Tennis, and Monkey Soccer. Like light gun games? There’s Monkey Shot. Like Bowling or Pool games. Bam! They’re here too.

Super Monkey Ball Has something for every gamer. And whether you buy the GCN versions, or pick up this new Xbox/PS2 collection, you’ll be highly satisfied with the offerings contained within this disc.

Appeal Factor: 8/10

10. Miscellaneous

This gets a perfect ten right here and I’ll explain why right now.

16 different modes of play, 4 of which are puzzle mazes and 12 of which are party games. There is so much diversity packed into this game.

My only problem with SMB deluxe is not with the game, but with me. I went in thinking it would be a compilation when in fact it was a merger. But that’s my fault. I do prefer the original SMB (which got a 7.5 from me, btw) to the Challenge and Story modes in here, but this is good too, and having all 12 party games on one disc is nothing to sneeze at either.

Again, there is something for everyone on this deluxe package, you just have to pick up the game and decide what.

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

The Scores:

Story: 3/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 6/10
Control and Gameplay: 6/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 10/10

Overall Score: 71/100 (GOOD)

Short Attention Span Summary
If you have the GCN versions, there’s no real point in picking this up. You can just rent the game and beat story mode or challenge mode in a weekend. The reason to keep this is in the mini games. If you have an Xbox or PS2, and you’ve never owned or played the Super Monkey Ball games, certainly pick this up, especially if you have a lot of friends. You’ll get an amazing amount of enjoyment out of this if you do



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