While there is obviously a fan-base for the Ape Escape franchise, the two previous outings (not to mention the two terrible PSP games) have all left me with wondering who buys these games. I've had a hate/hate relationship with the monkeys since the PSOne and so it should not be taken lightly that I actually enjoyed Ape Escape 3 as a game, a platformer and a diversion. It is unquestionably the greatest title of the franchise, but it is also a game worthy of your time and your money.
In this outing, the wily Specter is at it again, trying to take over the world by using his hench-monkeys to hijack TV stations and broadcast TV shows that will turn the human populace to mush. The usual heroes (Professor, Jimmy, Spike) have fallen victim to Specter TV and so a new band of heroes (thankfully) are called upon to save the day. You will have two playable characters to control (Kei and his twin sister Yumi) and you will receive advice from Aunt Aki and tomboy Natalie.
Anyone familiar with previous Ape games will feel right at home since not much in the gameplay department has changed. You still use various gadgets to capture monkeys while performing a few standard platformer elements. All the previous gadgets return (with the exception of the magnet) from previous games and so many will wonder what's so different about Ape Escape 3. Well, the game's humor is razor-sharp as it pokes fun or TV shows and movies that we are all familiar with. The monkeys each have clever personalities and each level (of which there are over three dozen) is meticulously crafted with small easter eggs throughout. There is also the addition of being able to morph into new "personalities" by donning various outfits. While not a large addition, this adds a new nuance to the traditional enter level, capture monkey, move on shtick. The fact that the monkeys actually fight back (and steal your gadgets) is another welcomed addition.
The only small nitpick regarding the gameplay is the fact that once you've captured the initial quota of monkeys for a level, you are warped back to the main hub. To capture the rest of the monkeys, you need to re-enter the level once more. Luckily, loading times are really quick and coming back to levels later on with new gadgets is beneficial. After a level has been cleared you will also be able to play it in time trial mode where you will have a given time to collect a set amount of monkeys. Technically speaking, the biggest problem with Ape Escape is its camera. While it is possible to control it with the D-pad (which is really not convenient) or reposition it quickly with a tap of the L1 button, it still makes certain section harder than they need to be. Luckily this isn't as big an issue since the camera repositions quickly. It's also hard to imagine the game using anything other than the thumbsticks for movement and gadget-use.
Graphically, Ape Escape 3 is bright, colorful and gets the job done. Levels aren't as detailed as they could be, but this game is more about in-jokes then pretty scenery. The CG movies are well done, the characters well animated and the monkeys themselves are the only really "bland" objects in the game. They still move and look like the PSOne game but oddly, this provides a nostalgic feel to the game. In the sound department, Ape Escape avoids the grating voice-acting of its previous outings in favor of quality lines delivered with authenticity. The music is bright and bouncy and you'll never mistake it for anything but an Ape Escape game.
A paragraph should be devoted to the extra content that was packed into Ape Escape 3 since it is, among other things, a valid reason to keep playing it. Not only are there tons of things to purchase within the game (that are actually nice to look at and use - cut-scenes, music, information, astrology, etc.) but this game also contains a hilarious Simian Cinema that records various scenes from shows that the Ape are trying to film before you capture them. These short films are brilliant and fun to watch over and over. Also available for purchase are various mini-games, one of which features the Metal Gear Solid and is honestly worth the price of purchase alone.
A lot of work and love has gone into every inch of this game and while it's not without a few annoyances here and there, it is one of those rare games that everyone, regardless of past experiences with the franchise, should set aside their reservations and give a chance to. I'm glad I did and I'll keep playing it long after this review has been written. The best Ape Escape game yet and a fun platformer for anyone with a sense of humor.