Best Throwing Games Ever: Super Monkey Ball on GameCube - article

Best Throwing Games Ever: Super Monkey Ball on GameCube - article
From Duck Hunt to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo is the undisputed queen of launch titles. The releases of two of its consoles have been accompanied by Super Mario World and Super Mario 64, two of the greatest video games ever produced while Wii Sports is the fourth best-selling title of all time. Therefore it is delightfully ironic that the best GameCube launch title was not produced by Nintendo but by its historical rival: Sega. It was, in effect, one of Sega's first products as a third-party publisher. Vengeance? Truce? In any case it was bizarre.

The title in question was the port of an arcade rather unknown to the masses that was played with a banana-shaped joystick. It was a creation of Toshihiro Nagoshi: one of the greatest exponents of Sega's arcade and glittering aesthetic, the same seen in Daytona USA. Over the next few years, Nagoshi became one of the mainstays of the beloved and celebrated Yakuza series. We're talking, of course, about 2001's Super Monkey Ball.

Watch on YouTube. In Super Monkey Ball, you control the cartoon version of a monkey in a two-tone, slightly opaque ball to lead it to a goal. Levels are abstract assemblages of platforms floating in space. There is only one way to issue commands: via the analog stick. The key thing to understand about Super Monkey Ball is that you don't control the monkey (or the ball), you control the level. You try to move the game world in order to make the monkey move in the desired direction. It's like a surreal labyrinth or an inverted version of Marble Madness. The score is defined by the number of bananas harvested and the time to complete the various levels. And that's all there is to it.

This incredibly basic premise combined with bright, light and fun aesthetics paint the picture of a title of rare precision and purity. The physics and controls are excellent and went great with the GameCube controller, thanks to the notches placed every 45 ° on the circumference of its analog stick. It is a classic arcade game but it is also a product capable of kidnapping for many hours due to its simple but undeniably deep and fascinating design.

Some levels even required not only a strong mechanical skill but represented authentic tests. of resolve, confidence and, in certain cases, of faith. The famous Advanced Level 11 is modeled after the shapes of a guitar, with five linear paths (the strings) leading to the goals. The difficulty is given by the decreasing thickness of the strings themselves that pass from the dimension of 1.0 to that of 0.1 (the latter is so thin that it occupies about one or two pixels in width). Deep down we know that all we have to do is position ourselves on the line and keep the stick pointed straight ahead without moving it in the slightest to reach the finish line. Yet at first glance it seems impossible, at least until the conclusion is reached that it is only the mental perspective that is wrong.

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What gave Super Monkey Ball its longevity and made it a viral hit was its excellent suite of minigames. These included Monkey Bowling (possibly the best bowling game around until the arrival of Wii Sports) and the indelible Monkey Target, a sort of hybrid of ski jumping and gliding where landing spots had to be chosen carefully. They are still some of the best party games ever!

The main game, however, is etched so intensely in our muscle memory that we could take controllers and complete a level perfectly even 19 years later. A similar result can only be obtained from a game whose internal logic is crystal clear and whose execution is as shiny and sharp as diamond. Delivering such a game at the launch of a new console (or, indeed, at any other time) is a truly incredible feat.

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