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Super Monkey Ball 3D – 3DS

Super Monkey Ball 3D – 3DS

Super Monkey Ball 3DPlatform:  Nintendo 3DS

Release Date (NA):  March 27th, 2011

Developer:  Amusement Vision

Publisher:  Sega

Genre:  Puzzle, Party Game

Nerd Rating:  6 out of 10



After my recent experience with Super Monkey Ball Jr.I decided to check out the copy of Super Monkey Ball 3D that I purchased for my son a while back.  It’s not quite as fresh or flashy as the PSV version, Banana Splitzbut good gameplay makes up for it in some ways.  In addition, it’s one of the best uses I’ve seen for the handheld’s 3D feature so far.

Rather than having a “main” mode and several minigames like other installments, Super Monkey Ball 3D appears to place equal emphasis on 3 discrete modes of play, all equally well developed.  In fact, players may find themselves more interested in the activities outside of the regular challenges typical of previous Monkey Ball games.

Super Monkey Ball 3D

The courses are quite beautiful and elaborate when viewed with the “Replay” function.

Monkey Ball

The first mode, Monkey Ball, embodies the standard gameplay found in other releases in the series.  Besides gathering up various collectibles and always trying to top your last high score, the player can also watch replays of previous attempts and practice the courses as well.  This mode is divided into 7 worlds, each with 10 courses.  The worlds each have a somewhat distinctive look and style to them, though not quite as much as one would expect.  Our 4 main characters are available and as usual I have no idea what the differences are.

Each course is well designed with a multitude of obstacle and perils.  The developers have thrown in all sorts of quirks to keep up the variety, including blowing winds and special switches to activate necessary areas of the pathway.  Inclines, bumpy terrain, sand, grooves, and nearly every other possible way to make a “flat” route interesting has been implemented to great effect.  The difficulty shoots up rather quickly, but since there’s so much to see and do, it doesn’t immediately get frustrating or tiresome.

Super Monkey Ball 3D

Before beginning, one has the choice of controlling the course via the 3DS’ circle pad or by using the tilt sensors and moving the unit around.  I find the circle pad to be the easiest route, though I was intrigued with using the tilt function (much like Banana Splitz on the PS Vita).  However, even though the 3DS calls for calibration before playing in this manner, I still found the tilting difficult to control.  I never could master it despite numerous tries and found the system to be hyper-sensitive at best and completely unpredictable at worst.

Super Monkey Ball 3DMonkey Race

The second option is kart-type racing game, probably most similar to Mario Kart DS rather than the superior Mario Kart 7.  Complete with whimsical courses, items reminiscent of the Mario Kart series, and a greater emphasis on free-for-all racing as opposed to performance and technique driven driving, Monkey Race is a light-hearted and enjoyable “vehicle” for the game’s characters.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it really does feel like a Mario Kart clone with a difference facade.  The game is well designed; the problem is that it isn’t terribly original.

Even worse, it’s needlessly difficult as well.  It can be difficult to ascertain what an item is actually doing when used, and more difficult to pick up one of these items due to their long respawn times on the course.  Getting hit with a weapon by another racer is severely detrimental, often costing the player several valuable seconds that can’t always be regained.  The recovery time is absolutely abysmal, and opponents can easily secure a lead of up to half a lap while the player struggles to recover from a hit.

Super Monkey Ball 3D

Despite the highly derivative nature of Monkey Race, I think it has the potential to be reasonably fun if only the designers could’ve injected a little more balance into the item randomization and computer AI.

Super Monkey Ball 3DMonkey Fight

Monkey Fight takes its cue from Super Smash fighting.  With 4 on 4 action and a plethora of differently Monkey Ball characters to choose from (most of whom I’ve never heard of), this mode also includes similar customizable rules like those found in later Super Smash Bros. installments.

Super Monkey Ball 3D

Here’s one of many instances where the flow of gameplay is broken and the player is forced to jam A repeatedly.

Instead of simply dealing damage, the real goal is to collect as many bananas as possible.  Bananas enter the arena in a variety of ways, and fighting knocks bananas out of the clutches of other players.  The fighting system is incredibly complex, albeit at the expense of being able to jump in and immediately succeed.  Computer-controlled opponents have a great grasp on pulling off a variety of moves and doing so extremely quickly.  It’s tempting to want to practice and get good at Monkey Fight, although at far too many points one must rapidly press either A or B to continue.  Having to jam one of these buttons is a constant disruption and the game would benefit greatly from its exclusion, or least an attempt to tone it down.

Super Monkey Ball 3D

Bonus stages are still one of the most fun parts of the game.

As a Whole

Taken together, the elements of Super Monkey Ball 3D add up to a good but not great game.  Problems like the difficulty of Monkey Race and the repeated A and B mashing of Monkey Fight drag down what could be interesting concepts.

Graphics are one of the stronger points of the game, the 3D in particular.  Everything has a unique toyetic look overlaid with lots of soft pastel colors.  The depiction of depth is superb while in 3D and serves the nature of the main mode quite well.  There isn’t a ton of nuance or detail to behold, but the simplistic design coupled with the childlike aesthetic is endearing and continues to establish a very recognizable “Monkey Ball feel.”

Super Monkey Ball 3DAs far as portable games go, Super Monkey Ball 3D is compartmentalized enough to provide for quick gameplay on the go.  It’s easy to pick up, play for a few minutes, and put back down without any far reaching consequences.  Depth in handheld games is always great to see, but sometimes, from a practical perspective, it’s nice to have a game where short stints of gameplay are possible.  The challenges in Monkey Ball mode are tough enough to be a treat to veterans of the series, however, I feel that they may be  a little intimidating for newcomers.  And while I appreciate the effort and attention put into the other two modes, their shortcomings get in the way of total enjoyment.

Super Monkey Ball 3D

Super Monkey Ball 3D definitely offers up more of the series’ unique style of gameplay, and this time in 3D.  Though I don’t normally play 3DS games in 3D, this one deserves a look and is perhaps worth enduring the feature’s flaws.  Even with its faults it’s a solid offering.  I’ve always found the concept behind the Monkey Ball games very intriguing, I only wish it could be handled a little differently at times.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything:

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