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Banjo-Kazooie – Nintendo 64

Banjo-Kazooie – Nintendo 64

Banjo Kazooie BoxartPlatform: Nintendo 64

Developer: Rare

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): June 29, 1998

Genre: Platforming, Action-Adventure

Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed by Flagostomos

In the 1990s, a Nintendo 64 game developed by Rare was as good as gold. Having established themselves as power-houses in the game developing world, Rare would put out some of the best titles, not only for their company, but on the platform. One game that helped cement their status was Banjo-Kazooie.

Originally conceived as a Super Nintendo game and not starring Banjo at all, Rare took too long in development that they decided to move the game to the then new hardware, the Nintendo 64. The final product would see many changes from the original concepts, leaving behind completely the main character, and throwing in a new story to boot. All of these changes worked, as Banjo-Kazooie went on to commercial success.

While it’s said that Super Mario 64 pioneered 3D platforming, it is also said that Banjo-Kazooie perfected it. Super Mario 64 created the idea of a hub world, with unique and exciting new worlds to be discovered all the while collecting various things. But the technology was still in its infancy and Super Mario 64, though revolutionary, suffered from this. Banjo-Kazooie suffered no such fate.

The opening area, Spiral Mountain, provides just the right amount of practice to hone the basics of the game. The game holds your hand while teaching you the basic jumping, running, climbing and swimming mechanics. All of these will need to be mastered if you are to succeed in beating Banjo-Kazooie. Soon enough you are rushed into the Witch’s lair, where the real meat of the game takes over.

banjo-kazooie-nintendo-64-n64-023

Scattered throughout each world are “molehills,” acting as not only hubs where you gain new found abilities, but also acting as a kind of mini-tutorial. The game does an excellent job of providing you with a new challenge or mechanic, but giving you the ability when you need it rather than loading you up with too much information to start. For example, in the first world you are confronted with sloping hills, but you fall each time you try to climb them. One of the molehills you find teaches you an ability that allows you to walk on hills, and that ability becomes vital throughout the entire game.

The main gimmick of the game is the collectibles, the prime item that you need to collect being Jiggies. Jiggies are the equivalent to Super Mario 64′s stars. They are used as puzzle pieces that let you unlock new courses of the game. The second most important collectible item are the Musical Notes. While Jiggies open up new courses, musical notes open up new areas of the Witch’s Lair. There are also Extra Honey-Comb pieces that add to your life bar. Mumbo tokens are used to access another feature of the game, which I will discuss shortly. Lastly there are Jinjos, which really just are a consistent challenge in every world for another Jiggy.

There are 9 worlds, each with their own theme and challenge. Without spoiling anything, the world’s are beautifully designed, especially for the technology available at the time. You really feel immersed playing each of these levels. For example, one of the worlds is a snowy Winter wonderland, complete with Christmas themes. The game adds to the immersion by using “transformations”, where the helpful Shaman takes your Mumbo tokens and transforms Banjo and Kazooie into an animal that fits the theme of the world. You will feel a chill up your spine in the snow world, sweat at the desert world, and be creeped out at the haunted mansion.

Freezeeezy Peak

One thing I feel that is lacking in the game is a variety of bosses. The first boss is as easy as shooting three eggs at him. The final boss almost makes up for the lack of other bosses in the game, however it still would have been nice for there to be some variety.

Something I really appreciate is how all of the abilities you gain have a use throughout the entire game. Some games, especially modern ones, fall into the trap of picking up a new ability for one specific puzzle or boss, and then never using it again. Most notably this happens with the really cool abilities. Banjo-Kazooie will have you using all of the moves you pick up throughout the entire game. Except one. Who thought of farting eggs?

As much as I love to praise this game, the story falls sadly flat. It is the cookie-cutter damsel in distress story. Banjo’s younger sister Tooty, is captured by a Witch, Gruntilda, because the Witch wants to steal her beauty for herself. Banjo sets off to rescue her.

However, where this game makes up for the lack of originality is the dialogue. The dialogue is absolutely brilliant, and each character feels like a real person. Banjo is a kind-hearted while somewhat goofy brown bear. Kazooie is a breegul (Is that a real species of bird?) who is foul-mouthed, foul-tempered but lovable companion. Bottles is the intelligence if not somewhat dorky member of the group. Mumbo is the shaman, who brings a comic relief to the group. The exchanges between these characters, most notably between Bottles and Kazooie, make up the most memorable dialogue of the game.

banjo k

While running around the Witch’s lair, Grunty taunts you, using her unique wit and rhyming abilities. You can also find her sister, the Good Witch of the Lair, who tells you all of the juicy details about Grunty’s personal life. The various characters you meet also add to the brilliant cast.

The only downside I would say to the dialogue is that it’s very much “toilet humor.” If you’re not a fan of toilet humor, you will probably not be a fan of Banjo-Kazooie‘s dialogue.

The controls are spot on, utilizing the joystick to it’s fullest. Banjo controls exactly as you want him to, giving you pinpoint accuracy which was necessary for some of the more difficult platforming. The Nintendo 64’s controller is perfectly setup to take full advantage of the game’s control scheme. You never ever experience problems trying to do a move and accidentally doing another. This game really has the edge over Super Mario 64 in this regards, as there are times when you need to perform a movement that Mario literally just cannot do.

Banjo-Kazooie has great replay ability. The first play through I highly doubt you picked up every single item, so going through and trying to get every Jiggy and every Musical Note will help you rediscover the worlds. This game also includes a breakdown in how long it takes to complete each level, and it still stands as one of people’s most favorite games to speedrun. There are so many cool tricks and glitches you can perform, such as the termite skip in world 1, that will leave you practicing for hours if you so desire.

But the most amazing thing about this game is how immersive it is. You feel like you are the one on the adventure. It draws you in and leaves you hungry for more when it’s over.

For a Nintendo 64 game, the graphics hold up amazingly well, even by today’s standards. A lot of N64 games suffer from blocky looking character models and bad textures as the technology has progressed, but even to this day the game still looks great. The graphics add to the immersion of the game. Just looking at the snowy world will make you feel like you want to sit by a fire after a long day in the cold.

The music is also masterful. Just listen to Spiral Mountain’s music and tell me you’re not pumped for this adventure. The Witch’s Lair theme changes as you progress while keeping the same underlying sound. Each world has a beautiful and unique soundtrack that again changes with the environment. For example, going underwater adds a certain effect to the music but it still sounds like the same song. It has that unique “Rare” style to it, but how is that bad if Rare always produced top quality music?

Banjo-Kazooie is a solid platformer for the Nintendo 64, and a great game overall. Xbox Live re-mastered and re-released this game after their buyout of Rare, making it accessible to Nintendo and Xbox fans alike. I highly recommend picking this game up if you can.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Review of Tonic Trouble for the Nintendo 64

  2. Wow Flagostomos you’ve rekindled some nostalgic memories of Banjo-Kazooie for me. I haven’t played this game SINCE the first and only time that I beat it in 1998. Back then, however, Super Smash Bros. was just released and I was heavily getting into that, and then getting into the Dreamcast, then the GameCube… so Banja-Kazooie sort of got lost for me. But I remember farting eggs and tight-roping some wires and picking up jigsaw puzzle pieces and more! I remember the great feel of the controller and the funny humor (hey, I was 12 years old so yea… the toilet humor was perfect). It’s funny how 15+ years later I still remember those little details. Great review and since I STILL own this game, I think I’ll have to give it a run soon.

     
    • It’s on my list to play every year during October! This game is number one for me when I think of great games from my childhood. Too bad there are so many other games that crowd our time huh?

       

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