xbox Series X – Why Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania Adding Jet Set Radio is a Big Deal
One of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania’s most surprising features is a playable character from Jet Set Radio, a long dormant franchise.
Super Monkey Ball is back in action with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania. 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Super Monkey Ball series, which Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and Sega intend to celebrate with Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania, a title that compiles and remasters beloved levels and minigames from the previous entries. Banana Mania looks like a significant return to form for the franchise, which hasn’t gotten a completely new game in quite a few years. If the franchise’s return wasn’t enough of a selling point, Sega is adding some of its other characters to the mix, including characters from Sonic the Hedgehog.
More surprising than Sonic’s inclusion in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is the addition of Beat, the protagonist from Jet Set Radio. Super Monkey Ball may have laid dormant for a few years, but Sega hasn’t published another Jet Set Radio game in nearly twenty years. Sega isn’t short on other recognizable characters, so choosing someone from Jet Set Radio to appear in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is quite the statement. Jet Set Radio retains a devoted fanbase in spite of its age, and that fanbase is sure to be thrilled at Beat’s reappearance. Still, it is hard not to wonder if Sega is trying to send a message to Jet Set Radio fans with the Banana Mania cameo.
Jet Set Radio Has an Important Legacy
Jet Set Radio was an incredibly influential title in its time. Released in 2000, the game told the story of a group of inline skaters living in Tokyo, marking the city with graffiti and building up their skating skills. It received accolades for everything from its gameplay to its soundtrack to its innovation in cel-shaded graphics, an art style that the game industry didn’t explore much before Jet Set Radio came around. Jet Set Radio met strong reviews and got a well-received sequel titled Jet Set Radio Future in 2002, but Sega hasn’t returned to the franchise since then.
Frankly, it’s relative disappearance from Sega’s brand is part of what makes Jet Set Radio so memorable. Somehow, the critical acclaim of the two games produced didn’t result in a sprawling franchise. Even so, Jet Set Radio characters still crop up now and again in Sega products, such as SEGA Heroes, a mobile game that had a five year run before it closed down in 2020. Jet Set Radio‘s reappearance in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is remarkable because it’s an extremely visible reference to the series. Putting Beat in Banana Mania after all these years suggests Sega has Jet Set Radio on its mind.
Super Monkey Ball Could Be a Good Sign
Sega’s inclusion of Beat in Banana Mania at the very least suggests that it’s aware of Jet Set Radio‘s legacy and wants to celebrate the game. Ideally, though, it’s a sign of what’s to come. Reviving Jet Set Radio through Banana Mania could be Sega’s way of gauging interest in Jet Set Radio, both for Sega veterans who remember the games fondly and for younger fans who are curious about the IP. The way that fans respond to Beat’s appearance could be a deciding factor in Sega theoretically making a third Jet Set Radio game.
Super Monkey Ball‘s reappearance should inspire some hope in Jet Set Radio fans too. Sega could’ve let Super Monkey Ball rest after the extremely successful run it had in the early 2000s, but instead it’s reviving the brand and taking a new look at it. If Sega is willing to do that for one franchise, then it might be interested in doing that for another. There’s no definitive sign that Jet Set Radio 3 is on the horizon, but Beat joining Banana Mania is about the best sign that fans could hope for at this point. Hopefully, Sega is doing more than reliving the past.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania releases October 5, 2021 for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
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