“UH-YUKH!” Having reached the 22-year milestone of Banjo-Kazooie, now is a great time to revisit the magical and charming bear-bird adventure! If you haven’t played it yet, I’d certainly recommend checking this game out. In short, see how great 3D platformers were in their prime! If you’re lucky enough to have the Nintendo 64 and a B-K cartridge, fire it up and relive some platforming fun developed by Rare. Alternatively, you can play the HD Remaster on Xbox.
So, Gruntilda has kidnapped Banjo’s sister, Tooty! Gruntilda is a green faced, ugly and miserable witch that plans to steal Tooty’s youth and beauty. It’s up to Banjo and his wise-cracking bird friend, Kazooie, to rescue Tooty before it’s too late. Journeying from world to world, Banjo and Kazooie must collect enough jigsaw pieces called Jiggies to unlock other areas. Work your way through Gruntilda’s Lair, defeat the witch and save Tooty!
One of my favourite things about Banjo-Kazooie is the level design. The overworld game hub is Gruntilda’s Lair, which hides many secrets in its nooks and crannies. First you have to locate a platform that will unlock the doorway to a new world (if you have enough Jiggies), and finding the doorways after unlocking isn’t the easiest thing to do. The overworld is huge. It is complex. It is also a complete joy to explore and uncover its hidden secrets. The overworld connects 9 distinct worlds, which act as the nonlinear play areas where most of your adventure will take place.
Getting JIGGIE with it!
Each world is full to the rim with things to do. Collect up to 100 musical notes per world to access other parts of Gruntilda’s Lair. Collect empty honey comb pieces to increase your health bar capacity. Each world holds 5 Jinjos, the cute little creatures, where finding them all is advantageous in defeating Gruntilda at the end. There are 10 Jiggies to be found in each play area. Collect a Jiggie, have a little celebratory dance and you’re back to finding more.
You mainly control Banjo, while Kazooie is tucked up in Banjo’s backpack. Jump in the air and attack with Kazooie’s beak (popping out from the back pack) or duck down and have Kazooie do a beak charge attack to enemies in front. You can also fire eggs at your foes! However, that’s not all as you can learn many new moves as you progress through the game.
Jump in the air and smash to the ground with Kazooie’s beak, have Kazooie protect Banjo turning her protective wings into an invincible shield, or soar through the skies using launch pads. You can also turn into different animals! Be a termite. Carwl as an alligator Race as a walrus. You even get the chance to be a pumpkin! All of this is to access areas that are, otherwise, inaccessible.
Banjo-Kazooie: Stop ‘n’ Swop
Ahead of its time, Rare worked on a feature for the original game called Stop ‘n’ Swop that would transcend between different games. For instance, unlock secrets in sequel entries by finding items in Banjo-Kazooie. However, due to technical and time constraints, this wasn’t fully realized in 1998. Now, as long as you have save files for Banjo-Tooie and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, you can access content across the 3 games on Xbox. It’s a very clever system and one that could have been a new gaming staple.
The sound effects have a typical old-skool Rare quirky quality and charm. Each character has their own unique sounds when conversing. The music is just perfect! Full of charming and memorable tunes, you actually may find yourself humming long after you put the control pad down. I know I did.
So, is it a timeless classic?
The graphics hold up very well in today, especially with the HD Remaster, where each world distinctly has its own character. From the greens of Mumbo’s Mountain, to the beach of Treasure Trove Cove, or from the spooky Mad Monster Mansion to the snow lands of Freeseezy Peak, each area is unique.
Impressively Click Clock Wood is divided into the 4 seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. The art direction in this level alone is beautiful and its level design is pure genius. The unique characters will also remain embedded in your memory. From Gruntilda and her rhyming dialogue, to Mumbo’s ‘Eekum-Bokum’ sounds, for instance, the characters feel organic to their world.
So, in a world where post-apocalyptic, action, shooting and military games are today’s gaming staples, Banjo-Kazooie offers a refreshing change of pace. To clarify, oozing with quality from start to finish, there is enough charm and variety in gameplay mechanics for the entire family to enjoy. Children and adults alike will find something to enjoy in this bear-bird adventure. It was brilliant when it first came out and it is brilliant now. In conclusion, Banjo-Kazooie is a timeless classic.
Banjo-Kazooie is fun for all!
Originally seen as a Super Mario 64 clone, Banjo-Kazooie is a 3D platform game for the N64 and remastered for Xbox 360. With the magic of backwards compatibility, however, you can play the HD Remaster on Xbox One. Alongside its sequels Banjo-Tooie and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, the game is also included as part of Rare Replay; a packed to the rim collection of Rare classics.
To sum up, a lot of gamers are in anticipation for a 3rd adventure! Looking at the fanbase alone shows how popular the lovable Bear and Bird duo actually are. And, if rumours are to believed, we may see something for the upcoming Xbox Series X. Well, we can always dream…