Banjo Kazooie (Review)

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Today, many young gamers haven’t heard of Rare Entertainment, let alone consider it a top tier game developer, ah how the mighty have fallen. But in the days of the Nintendo 64, Rare was responsible for some of the best games the console had to offer. One of their first was Banjo Kazooie. Originally designed as a Super Nintendo game, Banjo the bear and his breegull friend Kazooie found their way into peoples hearts on the 64 in 1998.

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Collecting Notes

Now for starters, many people could write this game off as a Super Mario 64 rip off, and in some ways that is true,  but Banjo has a heart and feel all its own. Not to mention, a rather interesting storyline that, while childish, does a very good job of setting the mood of the game. The plot is simple, the evil witch Gruntilda is jealous of Banjo’s sister Tootie and wants to steal her beauty from her. So, naturally, she kidnaps Tootie and Banjo goes on a quest to save her. To do this, he must navigate Grunty’s lair and visit each of the nine worlds to collect jigsaw pieces, also known as Jiggies, to travel deeper into the lair of the evil witch. But the collection doesn’t just end there, you will need to collect musical notes to open magical doors as well. There is more, but that would be spoiling it.

For the gameplay, it starts off rather easy and gets a bit harder in each level. The first couple of them can be completed in less than an hour and are extremely easy. But it gets more tricky and elaborate as the game goes on. With the final level being Click Clock Wood where you have to complete objectives across the four seasons. It is a fantastic gameplay element as the level changes based on the time of year you visit.  This is something that neeeds to be stressed, like Mario 64 each level has a look and feel all its own, and all of them are gold. You will travel to a pirates cove, a spooky mansion and even a harbor. In each of the levels, there are 9 jiggies, as stated previously. To earn these, you must either find them in hidden areas or complete objectives to earn them. These can include finding presents for polar bear children, forcing a camel to give water to a tree, playing a giant piano with a ghost hand or even fighting a horde of enemies.

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But what would varied gameplay be without solid controls to go with it? Well, I can say that the controls are fantastic. There is the standard running, jumping and attacking but with the help of Bottles the Mole, you will learn more advanced techniques that include freeform flight, invincibility and other surprises. In classic video game form, you use these new found techniques to complete each level’s challenges. Sometimes, you will need to play later levels to unlock skills needed to complete challenges that you will encounter early on. Its a fun aspect that never gets boring. Not to mention, this game also includes transformations, curtesy of Mumbo Jumbe the shaman. If you find enough Mumbo Magic Tokens, he will transform the bear and bird into something else. These range from a Pumpkin to a Bee and even a Walrus, yep a Walrus. It’s awesome to use thes transformations to unlock new areas. Speaking of areas, I have to mention one of the final areas of the game, *Spoiler Alert If you dont want this part spoiled go to the next paragraph* Ok, for those that are still with me, one of the final areas involves a tv game show type setting where you must answer trivia or complete challenges to free Tootie. It is even followed by a false ending as well, that is rather amusing. The game literally has a sense of humor and parodies itself constantly. Its great.

On the subject of parody, I have to discuss the humor within the game. Firstly, there is Gruntilda, who rhymes everything she says. Its not so much funny as it is just plain clever. Also, the game is self aware. It knows that it is a video game about a bear and a bird and makes fun of itself a lot. There will be characters that say they are the toughest in the game or the meanest in the game. Its really funny how it does this, I honestly haven’t seen it in any other game series and would kill to see it elsewhere! 1

Finally, I need to talk about graphics and the music. All of the levels are just plain gorgeous, for its day, and feature rich textures and some pretty good animation. Apparantly I am not the only one of this opinion as the game won numerous awards in the graphics department. One being from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.  Also, the music is extremely addicting. I love it so much that I actually made a top 3 list for you to listen to, you can find it at the bottom of the review. However, despite all of thise, I should note that there is one thing that may bother some players. When the characters talk they make some rather annoying noises instead of just simply displaying text. It doesn’t bother me at all but I figure I should warn some of you.

All in all, this is one of my favorite games, not just on the 64, but of all time. Its pacing is amazing, the sound and graphics are rich and the gameplay is second to none. While Mario 64 did it first, Banjo Kazooie did it better!

10/10

Personal Top 3 Banjo Songs! I should note that these uploads aren’t mine, I just found them on youtube to share with you! Enjoy!

1. Spiral Mountain

2. Click Clock Wood Spring

3. Freezeezy Peak

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Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Review)

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I seem to be on some sort of fps kick lately with a review of the entire Halo franchise (sort of) and now a review of Turok on the Nintendo 64. Well, what can I say, fps games can be seriously fun at times. Anyway, for those that don’t know, Turok was one of the first shooters for the 64 and predated Goldeneye by a few months. It was made by the now defunct Iguana Entertainment and is based off of the Turok: Dinosaur Hunter comic book series. It is also worth noting that this was the first third-party game released for the 64. Now with that in mind, lets dive into the review.

For starters, this is a game I just recently acquired so I haven’t played through all of it yet. But I feel I have experienced enough to write a full review for you. Anyway, the gameplay is fairly simple, you control The Turok, some mystical being whose goal is to extinquish evil. And the evil in this case is known as the Campaigner. He is trying to assemble the Chronoscepter and use it to rule the world. So Turok vows to find the scepter first and destroy his foe with it. To be honest, most of this isn’t really important. What you need to know is that you play as a Native American type guy and shoot dinosaurs, aliens and humans in the face with a variety of weaponry. If you play enough, you can assemble the Chronoscepter and use it to kill everything really quickly. But the game isn’t just about slaughter, you need to collect level keys to access new levels. And finally, there is the occasional boss fight.

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Now, for the gameplay, well, its not the best at times. Now, this is before Goldeneye created the standard for N64 shooters so I give it a pass. But it has to be noted that the controls take some getting used to. Movement is done with the C buttons and aiming is done with the control stick, its very awkward.  Not to mention, the stick has an inverted axis, so moving the stick up, looks down and vice versa. However, once you get the hang of the controls, it becomes rather easy to manage, until you have to do some platforming, those parts can be brutal. Thankfully, the game has some good save point locations, many of which are before sections that require a lot of platforming. If you can survive the platforming, then you are treated to a wealth of bullet and blood soaked goodness. The action is fast and the enemies are varied. As said earlier, you fight a variety of foes. Some use guns to take you out from a distance and others love  to close the gap and try to club you with a stick. But I find that they are all easily dispatched with a couple of bullets. Its also worth noting that there are very few dinosaurs in the earlier levels. But they dinos get bigger and badder in later stages. On top of that, we have bosses and sub bosses. I won’t spoil it for you but they can be a royal pain to defeat  as they tend to just eat bullets like its nothing. But if you did your job right, and played through the levels in order, you will have the equipment to defeat them.

Another  thing that I have to mention is the fact that the field of vision is really bad. You can only see what is in close proximity to you. Sure it adds to the tension and makes you nervous because you never know whats ahead, but I find that navigation can be tough because of it. Thankfully, there is a map system. Now, if there is one complaint I have about the map, its the fact that it takes up the whole screen, a mini map would have been extremely useful. Its a minor complaint but it kind of bothers me when I get mobbed by enemies and have to close the thing so I can see.

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Now, It may seem that I have a lot of complaints about this game but for the most part, they are minor especially because the game has some fantastic level design. All the areas are  different and provide unique challenges, one example is a forest where the combat is tight and enemies tend to give you less room to breathe. Another is a big ancient city where everything is open and the action has a sense of verticality about it, your foes could be anywhere from a street to the top of a building, its extremely fun. Also, every level has a portal that you can jump into that brings you to a challenge level. Here, you go through a sort of obstacle course  and if you survive, you get a plethora of ammunition or spiritual  points, which can in turn be used to gain extra lives.

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Finally, I need to talk about the graphics. For an earlier title in the 64 library, this game looks really good. The character models look alright but the real star is the levels themselves. There is plenty of lush forestry, and the buildings have some fantastic detail. On top of that, some of the later levels have a neat sci fi quality about them, and its rather neat to see. I should also not that each of the enemies have several death animations based on what  weapon you use or where you hit them, some of them are rather gruesome for its day.

All in all, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is a pretty good fps game. It has everything you want in a shooter from solid mechanics, good weaponry, varied enemies and levels and a solid challenge. There are some things that bothered me, especially with controls early on, but seeing as how it predates Goldeneye, I can give it a pass. Fun game

8.5/10

Goldeneye

Today, there are tons of first person shooter games on consoles. Games such as Halo and Call of Duty dominate the console market with their accessible gameplay and phenomenal graphics. With the run away success of these titles, its hard to believe that a little over a decade ago, it was very rare to have a good shooting experience on a console. It was a genre that was for those that could afford an expensive computer. And, up until now, the only shooters to make it to consoles were mediocre ports of Doom and or Wolfenstein.  Now, we move to 1997 and its time for a change!

Game company Rare released Goldeneye 007 exclusively on the Nintendo 64. It revolutionized not only shooters for consoles but shooters themselves. It also stands as the third best selling N64 game next to Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 a true feat in of itself. But what makes this game so popular and revolutionary? Well, lets find out!

Firstly, there are two different ways to play the game. First there is the single player story mode that follows a plot similar to that of the movie. The game takes some liberties but it has the same plot and scenes as the movie. This is one thing that is neat about this game, its one of the first games with a story and mission objectives. Most games up until this point involved simply getting to the end of the level. Not in Goldeneye! Each mission has several objectives that need to be fulfilled in order to complete it. These range from, hacking a network, killing a villain or even bungee jumping off of a dam. Every mission has unique objectives, which gives it a lot of replay value because it adds more objectives based on the difficulty you play on. I highly recommend playing on either Agent or Secret Agent difficulty as the OO Agent difficulty is brutal. The second way to play will be touched on later in this review.

Of course, on your way to your objectives you will have to do some shooting and some sneaking. Firstly, every level in the game is littered with enemies. They all carry a variety of weapons, some more deadly than others. The neat thing is that they react differently depending on where you shoot them. Shoot their hand and whey will shake their hand in the air, shoot their shoulder and you see it move backwards from the impact. I also recommend shooting them in the crotch or the butt as you will receive some rather comical feedback! While this is fun to play around with, I should also note that the AI (artificial intelligence) of the enemies is rather good. They will swarm you if they hear loud automatic fire coming from you and even their comrades. However, if you are good with a silenced weapon or at firing a loud gun like its a semi automatic, you will be rewarded as the guards wont be alerted to your presence. Its a very fun mechanic to play with. I recommend becoming familiar with it as you need it to complete the OO Agent difficulty.

While on the subject of noise and weapons, Goldeneye offers you lots and lots of options to dispatch your foes. These range from silenced pistols to machine guns to a wide variety of explosives such as mines, rocket launchers and grenade launchers. My personal favorite is the RCP-90. This beast is a high powered machine gun with a whopping 80 bullet magazine. It causes so much destruction that you only acquire it in only a couple of levels, and in one case, its only available on the easiest difficulty. But when you get it, you become a whirlwind of destruction. You feel almost godly when you wield it and it is oh so satisfying. This game also introduced a sniper rifle with an adjustable scope, this is common now and we have this game to thank for that. I must also note that the game has no reticle as you are running around shooting, however, it helps you with aim assist. There are times where James will point his gun directly at an enemy so you dont have to mess around with the aiming. Its rather nice.

Dual Wielding RCP-90’s (done with cheats)

Another item worth noting are the secrets within the game itself. Firstly, there are two hidden levels that are unlocked by completing all the levels on Secret Agent and OO Agent respectively. I recommend going for these as they are a ton of fun as well as a decent challenge. To be honest, I didn’t find it too difficult to unlock either of them, sure OO Agent is very difficult but its doable with some practice and a lot of patience. On top of the level unlocks, there are cheats that can be unlocked by performing speed runs of certain levels on certain difficulties. Many of these are fairly easy but some are almost impossible. I managed to do them but I spent days and days working on some. Prepare to tear your hair out if you try these. However, if you want to keep your hair safely in place, there are codes you can use to unlock them as well. Just use your good friend google to help you with them.

The next item of note is the graphics, they are very good for the Nintendo 64. Sure its not pretty by today’s standards but for its time, these were tough to beat. The character models are detailed and varied. You will see way more than just the enemies moving around too. In several levels, you will run into scientists and computer programmers. Make sure not to shoot them. The levels look good as well, most of them are industrial so they don’t require too much detail but its the Jungle level that truly shines. There are trees everywhere and the ground is covered in leaves and bushes. The little details placed into this particular level are amazing.

Finally, its time to talk about the best and most memorable part of Goldeneye 007. The Multiplayer. For many, this is what made Goldeneye so much fun. The game offers intense shooting action for up to 4 players at a time. It may not seem like much today but this was a big deal when it was released and I’ll be honest, there is something to be said for gaming with friends that are sitting right there next to you. Online is fun but I’m a split screen fanatic. But I digress, after you set up number of players, you can chose from the 6 available levels. Each of these are fun in their own way. For example, the Complex is like an industrial building with all sorts of different floors and passageways. On the other hand, you have the more wide open temple that has several large wide open spaces connected by a labyrinth of tight tunnels and corridors. Now you may be thinking that 6 levels is rather pathetic, well, there are several more that you can unlock by completing certain missions in the single player mode. But I will be honest, my favorite level is easily the complex. After selecting level, you choose the game type you wish to play. These are varied as well and include the standard deathmatch as the main focus. However, there are other modes to try such as, “The living Daylights,” which is basically flag tag, the longer you hold the flag, the more points you earn. There is also the, “Man with the Golden Gun,” where one man gets the one hit kill golden gun. This weapon can change hands if you manage to kill the person holding it. Other options that you can choose before you start a match are the game length (time limit or kill/score limit), weapon set, character, control style and aiming options. As you can probably tell, there is quite a bit to keep you busy here and is one of the main reasons Goldeneye became so popular.

Multiplayer Madness!

All in all, this game is a classic of not only console FPS games but all FPS games. The gameplay is fluid and varied and the multiplayer will always keep you coming back for more. Sure, there are times where you will experience slowdown due to too many bullets flying and sometimes the AI is stupid. But, lets be honest, this game rocks so hard that you don’t even care. I loved this game when it first came out and I love it now. Its a masterpiece

10/10