It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to play a new Monkey Ball game on console, and dipping into Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD at Gamescom has reminded me why I fell in love with the series during its GameCube heyday, when those first couple of brilliant games founded a franchise which became renowned for its tight courses, increasing difficulty and smattering of stone cold classic mini-games (Monkey Target, you absolute beauty).
But I also remember feeling this nostalgia when playing Banana Blitz the first time around, when it launched for Wii in 2006, and quickly coming to the conclusion then it simply was not as good. Banana Blitz added motion controls, which made a game series centred on pulling off precise monkey manoeuvres a bit of a mess, as well as a jump button and boss fights. And while the HD version lets you use a standard controller, those latter additions are still there.
Banana Blitz HD is a pretty faithful remaster, with its opening two worlds playing out near identically to the original. It looks nicer, sure, running at a smooth 1080p 60fps. But the real revelation here is the ripping out of motion controls on all platforms. Without them, there are glimpses of what made those original games great (although the GameCube controller’s notches around the outside of the analogue stick will continue to be missed).