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Super Monkey Ball 3D (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Super Monkey Ball 3D on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Between its arcade roots and the initial two GameCube iterations, SEGA’s Super Monkey Ball series acquired a massive fan-base in a relatively short time. Sadly, though, after over-exposure and changes to the formula that aimed to bring a wider audience to the fold, it resulted in future games feeling rather watered down and interest started wane considerably. Has SEGA re-lit the fire for Super Monkey Ball 3D, or is this yet another missed opportunity? Read on as Cubed3 rolls some monkeys around in three-dimensions.

When playing Super Monkey Ball 3D at the pre-release 3DS event in Amsterdam earlier this year, the first thing that grabbed most people’s attention was how SEGA’s debut portable 3D game made use of the gyroscope technology to allow for the stages to be tilted purely by moving the actual 3DS unit around in order to make the monkeys-in-balls roll around, collecting bananas and aiming for the end-of-level goal in the fastest time possible. It certainly is a great inclusion and follows on nicely from the Wii motion controls of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, yet definitely ruins any 3D feel since that ‘sweet spot’ required for the stereoscopic trickery employed by the 3DS to work accurately is lost the moment the system is even marginally moved from one side to the other, let alone when swished about in the over-the-top manner needed in order to actually get your monkey rolling hither and thither. Basically, if you play using the motion controls, switch 3D off; if you prefer the Circle Pad, hike that 3D effect right up as it definitely is very impressive.

Despite many fans adoring the mini-game extras found in past Super Monkey Ball efforts, the stage-rolling aspect of Super Monkey Ball 3D is definitely the core element and remains exactly how it has always been, which for long-term fans of the stressful, highly intense puzzle series will be fantastic news indeed. The premise is the same as ever - players choose one of the various monkeys, pick a world to play on and then begin to roll the monkey in its see-through ball carefully around each stage in an attempt to collect all the bananas within a set time limit, reaching the end goal as quickly as possible. Since every level is set up in the sky, and there are various hazardous obstacles dotted around the arenas, more often than not the slightest wrong move will result in the monkey ball clattering into something, then rebounding over the edge into oblivion. This is where most of the enjoyment stems from - being able to gently move the stage around to help navigate the ball in such a way as to collect bananas, pick up speed to shoot up ramps, yet also quickly tilt in the opposite direction to slow the ball back down in order to prevent flying off into the abyss. Super Monkey Ball has always been about keeping players on the edge of their seat, testing their resolve throughout.

Screenshot for Super Monkey Ball 3D on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

However, sadly, the one drawback is that everything in Super Monkey Ball 3D appears to have been watered down in what can only be seen as an effort to attract a wider audience, and in doing so veterans will find that breezing through to the end far too simple and there is no particular reason to return upon completion. One of the other main problems with Super Monkey Ball 3D is that the development team, perhaps realising the single-player mode was lacking, has attempted to extend the game’s life by including two rather average extra modes of play - Monkey Fight and Monkey Race. The former is a Super Smash Bros. clone, whilst the latter is a Mario Kart pastiche. Sadly neither reach anywhere near the standards set by Nintendo. Monkey Fight is a four-player mini-brawl that proves to be a sluggish affair, with monkeys trundling around stages floating in the sky, throwing various attacks at each other, all with the aim of having the most bananas by the time the clock hits zero. Monkey Race is of a similar ilk. Grand Prix, Time Trial, Quick Race and a whole host of power-ups during races are present, yet it ends up proving to be not only a shadow of Mario Kart, but also far from the quality found of mini-games found in earlier Super Monkey Ball titles on the GameCube in general.

Whilst fun on the whole, sadly Super Monkey Ball 3D is a disappointment through-and-through and a shadow of the series’ former glory. Long-term fans will have moments where the action scratches at their inner Monkey Ball love, yet the flame will never truly ignite because everything is over far too quickly and the incentive for coming back to play through again is simply not there. With any luck the success found thanks to it riding on the back of the 3DS launch hype will give SEGA enough justification to work on a more fleshed-out, superior 3D edition.

Screenshot for Super Monkey Ball 3D on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


The controls are as tight as ever, with the impressive inclusion of motion controls. Unfortunately the stage design lacks as much variety as the original Super Monkey Ball games and the mini-games feel slow and watered-down.


Impressive stage design, with solid graphics overall and some impressive 3D effects…that are sadly wasted if using motion controls.


Cute monkey noises mixed with some bright-and-breezy, yet bland music.


There are plenty of stages to work through and two mini-game extras for friends to join in on, but ultimately this has nowhere near the same amount of longevity as past editions.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


About this score

Whilst Super Monkey Ball 3D is fun, somewhat harking back to the days of the original GameCube duo, it proves to be far too simple a game on the whole, with not as much variation in level design as in the past. Even the inclusion of the Smash Bros. and Mario Kart-style mini-games do not save Super Monkey Ball 3D from run-of-the-mill status.

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C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (3 Votes)

European release date TBA   North America release date TBA   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date TBA   

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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I have the same complains towards ALL the AR games on the 3DS. It's impossible to move the system around without getting outside of that "sweet spot" 90% of the time.

It doesn't detract from the fun factor of AR games, that's for sure, but makes the use of 3D in those games in particular a questionable choice. Wouldn't the horsepower needed to render the same field twice (so you get the 3D effect) be put to better use in making the game just 2D but still be relevant on the system since it has gyro, which previous systems lacked ?? In the case of Monkey Ball, that's OK since the game still has the circle pad which you can use so you keep the 3D effect, but it still makes me wonder about the future of gyro+3D on the system.

We'll see what choices are made in the future, as the system is still freshly released.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

All I can say is that when playing Zelda in 3D, the gyro works fine, possibly because you don't have to change your focal point. Sadly in Monkey Ball you have to move the 3DS so much it makes it impossible to play unless 3D is turned off.

For the AR Games it's a bit different for me - I don't mind standing up and moving around with the 3DS, which means I can keep my eyes focus in the right place. However, that is only acceptable for the short AR experiences, whereas if I had to do it for long with Monkey Ball, I'd get rather fed up.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
AiAi (guest) 28.04.2011 22:22#3

When is SEGA going to learn? Give this to whatever is left of Amusement Vision and let them work their magic! Monkey Ball gyro sounds fun, but shame 3D needs to be turned off Smilie

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Can you believe that it's not even possible to delete save game data?! SEGA simply states 'sorry for the inconvenience' Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Staff Member

Not even with the old 'button combination at title screen' trick? That's one hell of an oversight. :/

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