The GC game of the same name has been ported over to the GBA, but manages to fully retain its impressive and charming flare.
Super Monkey Ball Jr.’s concept is simple but engaging and can best be described as Marble Madness in 3D. A monkey, who is trapped inside a sphere, must navigate through a sky-suspended maze while avoiding traps and beating the clock. A life is lost if the monkey falls off the edge of the stage. Lose three lives and you have to use a continue. The game usually starts the player at one end of the screen, and the finish line tape must be broken to advance to the next stage. Adding to the challenge, bumpers, ramps, jumps, cliffs, drops, and moving platforms heavily increase the difficulty level. Some stages are terrifyingly difficult, especially on Expert mode, but this also adds a little more replay value.
Like the GC version, the camera is placed behind the ball from a 3rd person viewpoint. What players may not realize, is that the stage itself is controlled instead of the monkey in the ball. This means that when Up is held on the D-pad, the stages tilts down, sending the ball forward. But in order to pull something like this off, a 3D engine must be built. Playing this game on GBA is truly an amazing sight as it is so darn impressive. The developers at Realism wanted to bring the same experience from the GC to the GBA and they were sure to include all the details. The Realism developers actually made a full 3D game on the GBA, something that was not supposed to be possible on this system. Just about everything that was in Super Monkey Ball on GC is in this version. Level structure and design, music and sound effects, and even the menu system were all brought over from the GC game.
Despite being a great game, Jr. hits a few bumps in the road. The biggest is the GBA’s D-pad. The GC version used the analog stick, result in pinpoint control. However, the D-pad makes the control a little inconsistent because the monkey ball can only move with one speed in one of eight directions. Also, the camera is a little wonky, just like in the GC version. After the ball has been rotated, the camera does not always follow. This means that the player will often have to move blindly, until the camera resets itself behind the ball. Unfortunately, there is no way to manually manipulate the camera. This is a shame because the “L” and “R” buttons do not do anything and could have been used to slide the camera angle.
Not only has the main game been ported over, three unlockable mini games have as well. When each stage is complete in the main game, points are earned. When enough points have been collected, a mini game can be unlocked. Unlocking all the mini games will only take a few hours, so each game can be enjoyed with just a little bit of work. Each mini game plays so well, they could have packaged and sold each one of these games separately. Monkey Fight pits four players against each other for a king of the mountain style game. The objective is to knock each player off the side of the screen with an oversized punching glove. Power-ups can also be collected to aid the collector who retrieves them. Thankfully, this game supports up to four human players, but each player will need their own copy of the game. When applicable, computer A.I. characters will take the place of missing human controlled monkeys.
Every mini game is fun and well done, but Monkey Bowling stands out the most. In fact, this game is so well done, Monkey Bowling is almost worth the cost of this game alone. The control scheme is easy to use but very accurate. First the player lines up the shot by moving left or right behind the fowl line. Then an arrow moves back and forth in front of the ball, depicting the angle of the ball. Finally, a power meter appears to determine the speed of the shot. While the ball is winding up for the throw, the shoulder buttons add spin the corresponding direction. Every part about this bowling game has been wonderfully designed. Each monkey also has strengths and weakness too. For example, Gon Gon uses tons of power but lacks spin, while Baby is just the opposite. Plus, up to four players can compete by passing the GBA system.
Monkey Golf is a compellation of the hardest 18 mini golf holes ever designed. This game is by far the most frustrating part of Monkey Ball. Many of the holes are so difficult to complete, 9’s and 10’s should have been par. Despite being so darn difficult, it cannot be over looked as the good game that it is. This mini game has been well crafted; you’ll just want to throw your system out of frustration from the insane difficulty.
Each of these mini games support a multi-pak link, but Golf and Bowling can be played multiplayer by passing the system. Monkey Duel is a link mode for only two players and any of the games stages can be selected in this race to the finish. Unfortunately, Monkey Target did not make it into this game. This game was probably excluded because the GBA system would have a difficult time judging height and depth. Mode7 and multi scaling are used throughout the entire game, but Monkey Target would have required a new engine to pull off. But because the rest of the game is still very fun, the absence of Monkey Target can be forgiven.
Super Monkey Ball Jr. is a well-made game for the GBA. The challenge may be extremely difficult, but players will have tons of fun in the process. Honors should be given because this is the first 3D handheld game to be ported from a 3D game on a 3D system. The mini games will keep players entertained, but the D-pad control is not as accurate as the GC’s analog stick. However, the full 3D graphics engine is nothing short of amazing and all the game’s friendly hip music and sound effects made its way back into this GBA game. Plus, this game can now be found for less than half the price of the average GBA game. No matter what price you pay for this game, just be sure to own a copy as it is well worth a purchase.