We managed to grab a bit of time with the man behind Super Monkey Ball, Toshihiro Nagoshi, and ask him a few questions on what is set to become the defining moment for the series - Banana Blitz for Nintendo Wii.
SPOnG: How did the original concept for Super Monkey Ball come about? Were you addicted to those little pocket games where you had to tilt the silver balls in the holes?
Toshihiro Nagoshi: We were thinking about creating an action puzzle game that anyone can play easily and intuitively, and we came up with the concept of Super Monkey Ball.
So what was it that attracted you to continuing the series on the Wii platform?
One of the main reasons is that the feature of Wii hardware matches the game experience of Super Monkey Ball in that it requires the intuitive controls.
The graphical style has been changed for Banana Blitz, with the loveable simians in 'chibi' form. What was the decision behind that change?
We have been considering the redesign of the art style and were looking for a good time to bring this idea to life.
This time we upgraded the game experience substantially for Wii version, so we thought this was also the right time to look at the redesign of the art style.
How are the levels designed in Banana Blitz; is it more akin to the very first Super Monkey Ball's simple arcade action, or will they feature SMB2's puzzle-solving mechanics?
I would say we imported both concepts to Banana Blitz. However, so as to use a lot of flexibility of Wii hardware, we purposefully adopted more active and dynamic gameplay.
Players can jump by flipping the Wii remote upwards, but we found this to be detracting from the gameplay somewhat, as precise movements and knee-jerk reactions result in unwanted leaps of faith. Will the jumping remain as a flick of the wrist, or will it be dropped in favour of the button press?
I would like to keep this secret now but I believe we can make it work!
You said that the game will take advantage of the Wii's nunchuck attachment in some form. What will this controller configuration be used for?
Mainly the nunchuck controller is being used for the mini-games. Players can run by shaking it or use both the Wii remote controller and the nunchuck controller together to substitute for both their hands.
When if comes to tackling certain bosses, will there be a special method of control or will the normal tilt control be used in inventive ways?
I guess it would be better for you to actually fight with the bosses in the game to demonstrate this. For example, you will be able to attack their weak points by jumping or turn bossís bullets to damage them.
All the characters from the past games will return, but will there be any new faces in the Wii version?
Yes. There will be some new characters and also there will be the differences on the performance of each character.
There are plenty of exciting new mini-games in here, but will some classic Party Games return from past games?
There will, of course, be some popular classic Party Games including Monkey Target and Monkey Fight. However, we changed the game play for Wii version whilst keeping the fun element from the original game. So, you can enjoy these classic mini-games as fresh as other new mini-games.
What other new features outside the Party and Arcade modes will be available in Banana Blitz?
One of the new features is the boss stage [that] will be included for each World. For other new features, please wait until you see it!!
Are there any plans for Banana Blitz take advantage of the Wii's unique features, such as Wifi Connection or the download WiiConnect service?
We are still studying the possibility of supporting these features.
What's next for the Super Monkey Ball series? Do you think the Monkey Ball games are suitable for other next-generation and current consoles now that you've found the Wii remote to be most intuitive?
I guess there are still a lot of possibilities for SMB series. It is correct that Wiiís interface is completely different from other hardware and this Banana Blitzís gameplay should be available only on Wii hardware but I still feel that there are the possibilities on other hardware.
How about working on a new F-Zero on Nintendo's new console, using this Wii-charged Monkey Ball engine?
Iíve never thought about it but it sounds fun.
Super Monkey Ball is our favourite game ever. Really this is true. Some of SPOnG's staff believe it to be the single best videogame of all time and we'd like to thank you very much for creating it. How does this make you feel as a new game launches with an arguably better control mechanism? Are you confident Banana Blitz will be the best in the series?
Thank you for your compliment. Every time we receive supportive words from fans, we are motivated to keep creating the great game. We, all SMB development team, appreciate it.
Personally, I am very pleased with all [titles in the] SMB series. However, it is true that this Wii version would be the grand sum of all past SMB series and I believe that the Wii console and SMB together bring the best results for the intuitiveness of them both.
Thanks to Nagoshi-san and to all at SEGA for helping us make this happen. SPOnG will be bringing you all the latest news and our full preview of SMB:Banana Blitz as soon as we get a full playtest on the game. In the meantime, you might want to check out the recent Banana Blitz preview.