Name: Banjo Kazooie
Format: Nintendo 64
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1998 (UK)
Back in the late nineties the N64 had a incredibly strong library of platformers under its belt and one of the surprise hits came from Nintendo’s second party developer at the time 'Rare,' with its title Banjo Kazooie.
In the game you play a cute looking bear (Banjo) and his feathered friend (Kazooie) who resides in his blue back pack, how she fits in there is a bigger mystery than how Mary Poppins stores and entire lamp in her back. So Banjos younger sister Tooty gets kidnapped by the evil witch Gruntilda for being cute looking and its up to the bear and the bird to save the day before Gruntila uses a weird machine to steal Tootys good looks. This being a N64 game the characters just make funny noises followed by subtitles to translate. The story is simple and filled with a lot of comedy including jokes about the characters and levels to the game even poking fun at itself. The whole story is a amusing and one memorable ride.
Banjo Kazooie on the surface seems very much a kids game however, the dialogue features some surprising jokes more aimed at the adult audience coming especially from the cheekily mouthed Kazooie. This was a common occurrence from 'Rare' games. The game plays as a 3D platformer with a heavy emphasis on collecting items. After a quick tutorial from 'Bubbles,' the mole you enter Gruntilda's lair which acts as the hub word from there you have nine stages to explore which are unlocked using 'jiggies'. These are unlocked by several means whether you just find them lying around or usually you have a task to complete. The best part about the collection aspect in this game is you can actually obtain all ten 'jiggies,' in each level without leaving each time you collect one which saves a lot of unnecessary back tracking. Musical notes are also a major collectable item, there are one hundred per stage and are needed to unlock new areas of Gruntilda's lair.
The levels are quite varied in design. All pose quite the cute vibe with plenty of colour and a large area to explore. There is a level set around a ship in a dock yard, a level where you can explore inside a giant fish and even a impressive level which changes with the four seasons of the year. Though all the areas are unique you can't help but feel levels like the pyramid level, the icy Christmas level and the Halloween level are playing it safe.
Graphics are colourful and varied and every zone is bright and vibrant. Enemy and character sprites are solid though look slightly dated today. The music and sound is pretty impressive for the N64, while other consoles at the time were rocking much higher quality compact discs Rareware proved they can pull of a large selection of happy tunes for the levels that are well suited to the games cute appearance.
Banjo and Kazooie have a large selection of moves at their disposal from flying which requires a red feather to use, as well as Kazooie shooting eggs out her rear end or mouth (leading many to ask how?), protective wellies to walk through deadly environments and many more. Moves are unlocked through finding 'Bubbles' the Mole who is usually hidden in each level somewhere. Whatever the move the game controls solid and the camera is rarely a pain when exploring the 3D world.
On a first playthrough Banjo Kazooie will probably take you quite a long time and keep you busy for a few days maybe even weeks depending how often you play. The game is quite challenging though, death in a level carries a heavy burden as it will reset your highest note score. You have to obtain all one hundred musical notes in each level without dying which is not easy for newbies, 'Jiggies,' however are saved on instant collection. Fortunately you don't require every single note or 'jiggy' to finish the game. Should you loose all lives or even just quit out on the game you are greeted with a entertaining game over cut scene which bring back memories of older retro games which used to do the same. Once you master the game however you will be flying through it one hundred percent in no time.
There is a very special treat of a stage towards the end which requires you to have good knowledge of the the game should you last that long. The game really only has one proper Boss fight which is right at the end that rings thoughts of a crying shame and a missed opportunity and collecting absolutely everything in the game will net you a few rewards towards the end, though since by this point you are nearing the finish the rewards seem fruitless.
Verdict:- Banjo Kazooie is a classic fun platformer that will melt the hearts of most gamers. Of course if you are not a fan of collecting this game is most definitely not for you.
Most will enjoy the use of humour and just general fun factor the game has to offer. You would have to have one ice cold heart to say no to Banjo's face.
Second Opinion:- Banjo Kazooie is another of the killer games that RARE produced during their time at their peak for Nintendo. As a game it is simply splendid with fantastic characters, great use of colour and some moments of real stand out awesomeness.
Transbot must increase the scores for this essential N64 title and anyone who loves 3D platformers simply must play this right now, that's an order humans!!!
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10