Never have I seen a franchise rise and fall quite like the Super Monkey Ball series. The first two GameCube games are so well put-together, with great level design, presentation, and gameplay mechanics. After Super Monkey Ball 1+2, the creative direction shifted, and I would argue we haven't seen a quality game in the series since.
Now, just a year after Banana Blitz saw an HD remake on modern consoles, Brian Matt, the announcer for the original two Super Monkey Ball games, has been teasing something big. Earlier this year, Matt said Sega had a new Monkey Ball game in the works. Now, he's teasing big news for later this month.
The safe assumption is that we'll see whatever Matt is talking about at TGS at the end of September. The bigger question: what will this secret, rumored Monkey Ball project actually look like? The way I see it, there are three main options.
A remake of Super Monkey Ball 1+2
A new game in the "New" Monkey Ball style
A new game in the SMB 1+2 style
In a 2019 poll posted shortly after the release of Banana Blitz HD, the official Monkey Ball twitter account in Japan asked fans where they want the series to go next.
The options for 3DS remake/PS Vita remake got almost no support -- I don't see remakes of those games ever happening. The other two options that split almost all of the vote were a remake of 1+2, and an entirely new game.
So, the remake of 1+2 is a realistic possibility given that over 40% of people voted for it. I would love to see a combo pack of the two games come to modern consoles with all of the minigames included. However, I worry Sega would choose to bring Super Monkey Ball Deluxe over, which is already a combination of the levels from 1+2. Deluxe doesn't play quite the same as the original two, so I would be disappointed if that's the route Sega chose.
The majority of the Monkey Ball fanbase wants the series to return to its roots.
The worst option of the three most realistic choices would be a new game in the "new" Super Monkey Ball style, which is the brighter tone the series has gone with since Banana Blitz on Wii. The level design has been subpar since the art style changed direction, which made the decision to remake Banana Blitz very surprising. Since the option for a brand new game won the poll, I could see Sega sticking to the art style and level design principles they've gone with for the last 14 years, even when the majority of the fanbase wants the series to return to its roots.
That brings me to the last option: a brand new game in the style of Super Monkey Ball 1+2. This would be my preferred option, as I've already played the first two games to death, and would love to see something new.
The fact that Sega is bringing back the announcer from the early Monkey Ball games gives me hope that the franchise is heading back in the right direction, however it's entirely possible he is just rerecording lines for a remake of some sort. With recent video game revivals, it seems the common path is to remake a classic before taking the series in a new direction. Crash Bandicoot saw the trilogy get remade before the announcement of Crash 4, and I could see a similar path here. Sega could remake 1+2 first, before following it up with a new entry inspired by the originals.
I'm looking forward to hearing more about the future of the Super Monkey Ball franchise. Fingers crossed for a return to the franchise's roots!