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Nintendo 3DS Review: Super Monkey Ball 3D

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In our review of the Nintendo 3DS, we highlighted Super Street Fighter IV as one of the top titles available at the system’s launch.  We found ourselves hugely impressed by the graphics, use of the dual screens, and controls.  Of course, fighters are not for everyone, some people like just a wee bit more insanity and hijinx in their 3D handheld titles, so if you’re looking for another great launch title when picking up your 3DS, may we humbly suggest Super Monkey Ball 3D.

There is almost nothing about Super Monkey Ball 3D which doesn’t impress.  Critics out there may point out that the game is, essentially, a whole lot like other Monkey Ball titles, but that’s not a bad thing,Super Monkey Ball 3D and may actually be one of the reasons the title works so well.  We are of the opinion that it’s going to take some time for developers and publishers to work out the best way to utilize the 3D aspects of the new handheld, and what better way to allow your team to spend time on the 3D bits than to take a franchise and concept you already know works?

Super Monkey Ball 3D contains three main game modes – there’s the monkey rolling inside the ball to pick up bananas mode (the classic one, Monkey Ball), the kart racer mode (Monkey Race), and the bash the other monkeys to get more bananas than they have mode (Monkey Fight).

In the classic mode, you are offered two different control schemes – you can either utilize the analog pad to control your monkey through the course from start to finish, or you can use the 3DS’ motion sensor.  And here would be our one main complaint with the title – it is nearly impossible to use the motion sensor and keep the 3D turned on without losing your mind and/or getting a headache.  Simply put, you can’t keep your eyes in the sweet spot to get a single 3D image and successfully move your monkey from point A to point B.  We tried to do it sitting, we tried to do it standing, and we even tried to do it lying down, but no position that we could possible contort ourselves into allowed us to maintain the correct visual line while using the motion sensing controls.  Of course, turn the 3D off and the motion sensing works perfectly and adds a great dimension to the game.

Really though, that’s a pretty minor quibble in an otherwise brilliant game.  SMB3D features bright, beautiful graphics, and in puzzle mode as you’re roll your monkey-in-a-ball to all the bananas and then to the exact Super Monkey Ball 3Dbefore the clock expires, you may have to keep telling yourself to pay no attention to what’s going on around you.

The same is true in Monkey Race, which operates like any Mario Kart-style racer.  There are power-ups, crazy courses, unlockable characters, and karts with different attributes.  The sense of speed you get in the game may not be the greatest, but whimsy is certainly at a maximum with the difficulty level somewhere in the middle.

It is Monkey Fight which, along with Monkey Race, can be played either in single-player or multiplayer mode.  The goal of the mode is, ostensibly, to beat up other monkeys and gain their bananas.  However, after our demo of theSuper Monkey Ball 3D game a month ago and sitting to play it again, it appears to be far easier to obtain a win by ignoring all the other monkeys entirely and just grabbing any bananas that pop into existence within the mini-world.  We certainly wouldn’t classify this as a major disappointment with the title, and the multiple rules variations allowed in the Monkey Fight add to the amusement, but winning ought to be tied in more with the actual fight mechanic (which simply amounts to bashing the other monkeys, the result of which is to stun them and cause them to lose a few bananas) than it is.

We don’t believe that Super Monkey Ball 3D is necessarily the killer title that will convince everyone and their uncle that they need to go out and buy a Nintendo 3DS, but it is certainly one of the best games we’ve played thus far on the system. It isn’t the longest title either, but it is an excellent continuation of the franchise and an amusing game that can stand on its own be it played in 3D or 2D.

Super Monkey Ball 3D is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.