Super Monkey Ball 2 Review (GameCube)
Before playing, and later purchasing Super Monkey Ball 2 (SMB2), I wondered if Sega could top the joy, frustration, and mini-games of the first one. Well, I can tell you from hours of playing that they have succeeded in all of these for the most part. The addition of several new mini-games has brought both renewed excitement and disappointment. A new Story Mode has been added into the game as well as the classic 1-player mode from the first game, which uses some of the levels of the Story Mode.
Story Mode is presented in some of the cheesiest dialogue and visuals a game can contain, while still being truly funny to watch. Dr. Bad-Boon, an evil mad scientist of sorts, wants to steal all the bananas from the village-monkeys and keep them for himself. This goes along perfectly until AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, and GonGon get involved. Equip with new flying powers, which for unexplainable reasons aren't useable in the game, they track down Dr. Bad-Boon and try to put him away. Along the way, an ulterior motive of Dr. Bad-Boon comes to play...to marry MeeMee!!! Levels are themed around the various locations that the Monkeys travel to. These involve a Volcano, inside a whale, an amusement park, and miniaturized (around a pot of soup, a washing machine, and hot tub), among others. Levels within these locals are given a difficulty rating based on how many bananas out of ten it is. Sometimes they can be quite deceiving. Since you can try levels in any order, doing a 10-rated level in 2 tries and then turning around and taking 15 tries on a 6-rated level is not uncommon.
One thing everyone who has played the later levels of the SMB can say is that they are damn hard. Well, that difficulty is back, but it comes much earlier and in much higher quantities than the in SMB. Levels in Story Mode range from the aggravating (Launchers) to the near impossible (Switch Inferno). Not to say that some of these levels can't be done, because they can, but some, like Switch Inferno, requires a high-tolerance for trial-and-error. The great thing about Story Mode, though, is the addition of unlimited continues. Not to say that this makes the game any easier, but it surely speeds the process of insanity up.
The camera comes into play on these later levels. Unfortunately, the game still gives you know controller-side control over the camera in the game. This makes for some tear-inducing falls and losses. The camera never seems to catch up with the play fast enough, or at all when you are making precision turning. Sometimes you have to let the monkey turn and then wait and see if the camera will at least turn with it.
Once you are done with the Story Mode, or if you just feel like taking a break from screaming at the game and punching things, call up a few of your buds (preferably ones with skills) and go at it in the expanded and upgraded list of mini-games. All of the classics make a return: Bowling, Golf, Billiards, Target, Race, and Fight. These aren't the same games you played in SMB, though.
Monkey Bowling 2 includes a mode with warped floors, each becoming more and more strange as you go along. Monkey Golf 2 features real golf now, instead of just putting. It seems to have been executed very strangely, though. Monkey Target 2 features simultaneous multiplayer action now. The Wheel of Danger has been removed and items are now achieved in mid air. Unfortunately, there is no mode for taking turns or doing banana-collecting to use items, like in the first Monkey Target. Bananas are now only used for points, which kind of takes the strategy out of the game, although it is fun knocking people off of target and away from bananas with four different people. Monkey Billiards 2 includes more varieties of pool, because you never have too many, let me tell you! Monkey Race 2 has become like a cross between Mario Kart and F-Zero, but with the Monkeys, which is a great thing. This is one of my favorite mini-games in SMB2. Using the speed arrows and the power ups, which you can store up to three at a time, you can try to out-speed, or out-knock each over the edge! Monkey Fight 2 now includes a Sudden-Death mode.
Then you have the new mini-games thrown in there, which you have to unlock with points gained in Story Mode. These include Monkey Tennis, Soccer, Dog-Fighting (think planes and not pit bulls), Boat-Racing, Baseball, and Monkey Shot. Monkey Tennis is very much like Sega's own Virtua Tennis, except instead of the Williams sisters, you have the Monkeys battling it out on the clay, dirt, and grass. Monkey Soccer is actually a lot of fun, if a little awkward. It is sometimes hard to maneuver the Monkeys to where you want them to go. Once you get that down, it is ultimately a very fun game. Dog-Fighting is very Ace Combat-esque. The Monkeys pack some firepower here, with a machine gun as a standard weapon and missiles as a backup, which you can collect around the levels. Bananas are used as life power-ups, probably because of the great amounts of potassium that each banana provides? Boat-Racing features the Monkeys out of their shells and in kayaks. Using the triggers to paddle, you must time your strokes properly to ensure a win. Boxes floating in the river can be picked up and used as powerups, including a water spout that shoots opponents into the air and a whirlpool that sucks surrounding players into a hole of water. Monkey Baseball is set up with zones along the outfield wall that denote how many bases you get and Outs. Homeruns are obtained by wedges that send your batter flying into the air, over the wall. Yes, you actually pitch yourself and hit yourself, pretty funny animation, actually. A Wheel of Danger sort of thing is involved here and will change the filed accordingly. Monkey Shot is an all out Virtua Cop-styled mini-game. Power-ups are given just like in Virtua Cop, where you can shoot at weapons or bullet clips to obtain them for use. This is actually a very fun mini-game and it is a shame that no gun is available on Gamecube.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are still very basic for the boards, yet very clean and detailed for the backgrounds. The entire game is extremely clear and the themed levels contain great, interactive levels and huge, detailed locales. The game is presented in progressive scan, so those of you with HDTVs will notice the clarity of the game as soon as you pop it in. For how simple the game looks, it sports some of the best graphics on the Gamecube, perhaps because of the overall, over-the-top style.
The music in this game is mostly just forgettable, there are, however some very catchy tunes. The Monkeys also gain voices in SMB2, which sounds like it was once an actual language and then was dubbed backwards. The voices are very interesting and hardly get on your nerves because of how over-the-top the Story Mode really is. When the Monkeys prepare to do a Magic Spell, it is especially funny. The background turns into multicolored sparkles and they start a chant of sorts about the situation and then fly off into the distance.
To Buy or not to Buy?
This game is a definite 'buy'. Even if you plan on never playing any of the mini-games, or only the mini-games, the variety of the gameplay will keep you playing until you either give up out of frustration or beat the game in all of it's glory.
- Gameplay - 9.3, The game comes in enough variation through it's 1-player Story Mode to it's list of mini-games. The camera needs some work, either through player-controllability, or a quicker turning camera.
- Control - 9.8, Simple and intuitive, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the controls in Story Mode. Some of the mini-games, such as Boat-Race, feature awkward controls, though.
- Graphics - 9.5, Some of the cleanest graphics on the system, detailed and crisp, while being simple. Very effective art style, too.
- Sound - 7.5, I can see over time getting annoyed with some of the songs, and from personal experience, watching the Story Mode dialogue too many times starts getting somewhat annoying. Not too many of the songs are very catchy.
- Replay/Value - 9.8, The variations of the mini-games and the length and difficulty of Story Mode make for a long-lasting experience.
- Final Rating - 9.2
9/10/2002 Eric Jacob