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.
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.
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!
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!
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!