(Nintendo 64)

Banjo-Kazooie (Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Banjo-Kazooie Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Bowskill

Platforming perfection…

Back in the days of the N64’s prime, there was one firm that still managed to stand out from the rest, Rare. The UK based outfit were responsible for some of the greatest games the world has ever seen – Goldeneye, Diddy Kong Racing, Perfect Dark, and not to forget, the classic Banjo Kazooie...

Staring Banjo, the placid bear with a ferocious sense for adventure, and Kazooie, a sarcastic, loudmouthed, breegull who always puts her foot in it, Banjo Kazooie has become a benchmark for platforming excellence that has rarely been replicated since.

Set in the home of the Bear and Bird, Spiral Mountain, the game starts when Gruntilda – a hideous rhyming witch – kidnaps Banjo’s sister Tooty in order to steal her ‘beauty’. Shocked and outraged at this, our fury and feathered duo set out to retrieve Tooty and teach Grunty a lesson in the process. To do this they must battle through Grunty’s castle; fighting her countless minions, exploring many strange and bizarre levels, and destroying each of her music-sealed doors – the favoured defence mechanism of old hags, apparently.

The music-sealed doors are what prevents Banjo and Kazooie from getting to Grunty, and to break these seals our hero and heroin must collect the musical notes scattered throughout the game’s 9 levels – 100 on each. Of course, they can’t simply wonder around collecting the notes – Gruntilda has made sure that their adventure is packed with many obstacles and perils. To get musical notes, the duo must first unlock the various levels, which are all sealed by that other renowned resource witches commonly use… jigsaw pieces (we’re not making this up, honest!). So not only are you required to collect musical notes, you also have to gather the 10 jigsaw pieces – affectionately known as ‘Jiggies’ – that are located within each of the 9 levels, so that you can unlock new worlds.

Each of the aforementioned 9 levels has their own charm, and they are all exceptionally diverse and incredibly well designed; you’ll go from a mountain range, to a beach, swamp, desert, winter wonderland, cemetery, ship, forest, before partaking in a life or death quiz. Within each of these levels you’ll find many of Grunty’s cronies, and come across numerous quirky, memorable, and entertaining characters that are perfectly written into the game’s humorous script. None of these are more important than Mumbo Jumbo – the skeletal shaman who has the power to turn Banjo in to all manner of creatures - and Bottles – the short-sighted mole who teaches the bear and bird all their moves in the game.

The transformations that Mumbo will perform are just fantastic; the duo will turn into a bee, walrus, termite, crocodile, and even a pumpkin – truly the stuff of fairytales. Bottles, our thick-glassed friend, is also essential to the progression of the game: when Banjo and Kazooie stumble across his molehills, he will teach them a new move: his thorough training regime includes; shooting eggs out of Kazooie’s mouth (and behind), flying, swimming, jumping, rat-a-tat-tatting, and even wearing wellington boots (Arthur Wellesley would be proud!)

Because of the diversity of levels and the wide range of moves and transformations available, acquiring Jiggies is a richly varied process; sometimes you just need to land a sledge on a gluttonous polar bear, other times you’ll have to steal from a sharp-toothed treasure chest, oh, and then there is turning into a pumpkin and getting flushed down a toilet, eating turnips as a crocodile, playing the piano with a ghostly hand, feeding a totem pole, saving a dolphin, and rescuing hyperactive little birds called Jinjos. This variety to collecting Jiggies is what makes the process forever interesting. Combine this with the various hostiles, impeccable level design and thoroughly enjoyable dialogue and you have an unbelievably rich and engaging experience.

Essentially, Banjo Kazooie is like all the ‘old school’ platformers; collecting is the name of the game. Not only do you have the musical notes, Jiggies and Jinjos to find in each level, but you also have eggs, feathers, honeycomb pieces, Mumbo tokens, extra lives, caterpillars, and etcetera to collect. All of these items will assist you in some fashion or another: through Kazooie you can use eggs to fire at enemies, knock out bad teeth of a mechanical shark, and fertilise plants; while feathers, depending on what type, will give the feathery loud-mouth short-term flight or invulnerability; and caterpillars, well, they can be used to feed giant baby eagles, obviously. There is so much to do that it really makes the game feel much deeper than the 10-hours it actually lasts. What’s really great about it all is that nothing ever feels like a chore – all the elements fit together like a jigsaw!

Despite all its gameplay and level design greatness, the game would be nothing without the dialogue: from start to end, Banjo Kazooie is one of the funniest tongue-and-cheek scripts around. Each level has a massive variety of characters that are a joy to speak to (and torment), and the relentless rhyming snipes from Gruntilda will give you constant chuckles. Mix this in with a captivating soundtrack that pulls you into this beautifully crafted would, and we have gaming perfection.

Conclusion

In its day, Banjo Kazooie revolutionised platforming: it brought together impeccable gameplay, fantastic level design, great music, and a perfect story - from start to finish, the game was a joy to play. There really are no gripes about it: the controls work, it’s the right length, and there is immense replayability present. Over a decade has passed by since its release, yet still to find fault in this game would be splitting hairs – everyone should own a copy!

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User Comments (51)

CorbsAdmin

#1

Corbs said:

You nailed that one down. One of, if not THE greatest platformers ever made. I just finished playing through the XBLA version and it's as fresh today as it was back on the N64. I'd still be playing it on my Nintendo 64 console but it finally bit the dust, sadly.

DrakeStaff

#3

Drake said:

Better than Super Mario 64 if you ask me. Tooie was a massive disappointment though :(

#5

said:

A great read for an amazing game. It certainly deserves the 10/10 score, and it's a shame it can't return from whence it came and be on the Virtual Console.

If you haven't played it, well, you probably never owned an N64. There's no other excuse than that. You didn't have an N64 and you missed out horribly on SM64, OoT, MM, and everything Rare made. If you own a 360 and still haven't played it, go hang your head in shame. :P

A word of advice: If somebody says they didn't like Banjo-Kazooie, gift them Super Thunder Blade. Then gift them, say, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa. Don't pick something like Super Mario Bros 3 or Castlevania III. Ask them which one they like more, and if they say Super Thunder Blade, cease communication with them and have them admitted to your local asylum using this as proof of insanity.

They'll know you expect them to pick a big name game, so that's the one they'll probably pick. Try using Cruisn' USA instead of Super Thunder Blade. It's a 3D N64 game, so you'll know right off the bat if they play games for the graphics or hate platformers.

Nanaki

#7

Nanaki said:

Tooie was a good game, but Rare decided to spread their resources a bit too thin when creating it - they simply made it too big. The great thing about BK is that it's relatively short, and you won’t get bogged down with a whole host of controls, moves, and backtracking to go through. I've lost track of the times I've completed this game - well over 100 - and it's one of the very few I have/will ever score a 10/10 for.

Tooie is undoubtedly a great game, just it pales when compared to the first title. Expect a review for that soon.

Digiki

#8

Digiki said:

Yay 10/10 totally a fitting score.

But Tooie is better doods :wink:
Just expand on the foundation, and do it right and you're set: Banjo-Tooie

Oh and this has 9 levels.

DrakeStaff

#11

Drake said:

The multiplayer is indeed pretty fun, but that hardly makes up for the rest of the game. It has a ton to do, but when none of it is fun, while the first game was one of the best platformers ever, it's a pretty sad state of affairs.

Donkey Kong 64 has exactly the same problem, IMO, can't believe people are actually looking forward to its eventual VC release :p

Nanaki

#12

Nanaki said:

The thing is, Tooie was too close to Goldeneye in the multuplayer mode... just not as good. Was fun for a while, but ultimately not gripping enough.

I for one will get DK64 - just for the rap!

Popyman

#13

Popyman said:

The main reason I'd buy a 360 is to play this game again. And that's only if all the other N64 games I want come out on the VC. Otherwise, I'll just re-buy a N64 =P

WarioFan63

#14

WarioFan63 said:

Bwwwwwuh? I thought the only thing Tooie was a let down in was the Overworld Jiggies.

I mean, not to say that I didn't like the new Jinjo system, I just miss the cool things Kazooie did for Overworld Jiggies.

Terra

#15

Terra said:

I loved this game on the N64. i have been planning to get the XBLA version just for Stop "N" Swop, alongside Tooie. I don't see what was so bad about Tooie. I absolutely loved it. The 360 game though, could have been better but it's still good fun. Same for Grunty's Revenge.

CowLaunch

#16

CowLaunch said:

A very good game, although I personally found the character's noises quite irritating. I played it on mute. I prefer SM64 as you apply existing abilities to new enviroments rather than learning new moves or transforming into an animal. Both very good games though, just different.

Digiki

#18

Digiki said:

I loved all of the new abilities in Tooie, that's probably the biggest factor in choosing for me.

BTW Nanaki there are 10 jiggies a level too :wink: (we need a wink emote)

HOT-ROD

#19

HOT-ROD said:

Loved this game since day 1. I am now replaying it on XBLA, and am almost done. Lol I still remember where all the jiggies are haha, so I am flying through the game.
Great review man =)

Nanaki

#20

Nanaki said:

@Bahamut ZERO,

Cheers :) This is my first review for the retro section, been with the Nintendo Life side of things for 3 years now (oh how time flies!) Hopefully you'll enjoy the future reviews too! ;)

And cheers for the corrections guys - believe it or not, this is in my top 5 games of all times... I've just seemed to decide to deduct one from every number in the review (apart from the score!)

Oh and the wink emote is ; ) ;)

Clayfrd

#22

Clayfrd said:

I've only played BK and the new one. I plan on getting Tooie, for the others were superb.

accc

#25

accc said:

Off the top of my head? Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, Mega Man X Lemmings, Civilization, Heroes of Might and Magic, Crash Bandicoot, Diablo, Paper Mario, Commander Keen, Jak and Daxter, Shin Megami Tensei, The Lost Vikings...

CanisWolfred

#27

CanisWolfred said:

^what accc said.

While I do like collecting things, I hate it when it becomes the core part of the game. If there's anything particularly annoying to get, I can't just leave it, I have to get: It's what I came here for. It often leads to massive amounts of frustration more than any genuine amounts of fun.

In all honesty, the only Collectathons I liked were Jak & Daxter and Daxter(unless Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper, and Rayman 2 are somehow classified as collectathons). While Daxter had an enourmous amount of thing you had to collect, you only needed less than half of them in order to complete the game, and most of them were used as markers in order tell you where needed to go without holding your hands. That meant that whenever I was having a hard time finding something, I could just leave them without feeling like the game is somehow gonna punish me for it. In fact, I completed the game with only about two-thirds of the collectables, less if you count the secret stuff that is more or less superfluous, and I have no intention of going back and getting the rest.

Jak & Daxter is closer to what I would call a collectathon. You spent much of your time aimlessly running around levels trying to collect things, something of which I would've taken fault with in any other game. J&D, however, exploring the interesting environments and solving the incredibly fun platforming puzzles necessary to obtain those collectables was so incredibly fun that I completely ignored the fact that all I'm doing was collecting things(although considerably few amount of things than, say, Banjo Kazooie).

I also used to like Donkey Kong 64 back when I was a kid, but it was too hard back then, and nowadays it would probably be too boring for me to go back to. I also played Star Fox Adventures, which had potential, but ultimately fell flat.

Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie were probably the worst collectathons I've ever played. The amount of things ou have to collect are simply overwhelming, yet the sheer number of tings there are to collect per level really just takes the fun out of collecting things. What's the point of going through so much work just to collect more knick-knacks when you already have a hajillion knick-knacks? Not to mention the game itself just feels childish(which was okay when I was a kid, but now it just makes the game harder to swallow), and to be quite honest, the game was just an average platformer with an excessive amount of useless knick-knacks that you have to collect.

Chunky_Droid

#28

Chunky_Droid said:

This was a great game, and I also will get DK64 for the rap.... also for some reason I like collecting crap, lol... oh and there's an ape in it called Chunky (teehee).

I do see how it degrades from the rest of the experience though.

As for Banjo-Kazooie, it took me forever to get one particular Jiggy, the one with the boat, it was horrific trying to jump to Grunty's switch in that level!

ttplayer92

#29

ttplayer92 said:

I have been playing this **** on the 360 for the first time ever. Really good game and better then the 3rd one IMHO and I never played Tooie either. :) Even though the worlds are smaller, there is much more exploring to be done then in BK N&B.

CowLaunch

#30

CowLaunch said:

Tooie does have good and varied multiplayer, but for most fun you have to have a go at Conker's multiplayer modes. Hugely underrated, get the N64 out (don't know what the Xbox one is like) and some friends round and you'll be playing for hours.

stubag

#31

stubag said:

Never played Tooie, will pick it up for the N64 eventually. However I agree with many people Mrio 64 set the standard, Rare and BK raised the bar. An amazing game still today and definitely worthy of 10/10

StarDust4Ever

#34

StarDust4Ever said:

Hmmmm, I'll have to truck it to my local Replays or Game-X-Change and get this, fire up my old N64, and have a go with it; sounds like fun ;)

carson

#37

carson said:

my favorite! I recently experienced the magic all over again on the xbla. Great Great Game

geek-master

#38

geek-master said:

this game better come to the wiishopchannle! this was the first game i ever player! i played it when i was 3!!!

Turbo_Genesis_64

#41

Turbo_Genesis_64 said:

This really is the best platformer on the N64. Amazing stuff. It far surpasses Super Mario 64.

Anyways, I agree that Banjo Tooie just didn't have the same magic. A perfect example that sometimes a "bigger" sequel isn't always better.

RetroNL

#45

RetroNL said:

The visuals,the music,the puzzles. . This game is in my opinion a masterpiece and one of the best games ever made. For me its the best platformer I have played so far (in feeling) I like it even more than Galaxy.
I will never forget the first time playing it on the N64 in 1998, and yes I know the camera critics, but what early 3d game didnt have that flaw ?
I hope they will release this on VC some day though Microsoft owns Rare now, that means the chances are very slim.

Deviant_Mugen

#46

Deviant_Mugen said:

This game is definitely a 10 and it was through playing my cousin's copy that I knew I wanted a Nintendo 64 (which I got the following Christmas, along with a copy of Banjo-Kazooie). I still regret having loaned it out to that 'friend' who never returned it to me... What a douche...

But, I digress--great review...

Wardy

#47

Wardy said:

Many reviews I found online comparing this game with Tooie say that the latter is better, but I disagree. Partially I think it's because I played this game when it came out thus creating a nostalgia for me and I didn't play Tooie until about a year ago, but Tooie seemed to be very sluggish and it wasn't as straight forward as this game. I have to designate a huge chunk of time and build up a ton of energy to play Tooie and it's not worth it. This is my favorite N64 game and in my top 5 of all time.

Rarewarefan7495

#49

Rarewarefan7495 said:

I love Banjo Kazooie, probably the best platformer of all time only to be bested by Tooie. It's definitely better than Super Mario 64 because of the more variety in moveset, music, and levels and the fact that Super Mario 64 has a lackluster camera. Banjo had the perfect camera: holding R to keep it always behind you. Even though the game is easier than most Rare titles and it's not that long, I still can enjoy this game every single time I put it in my beloved N64. Great review.

SkywardLink98

#51

SkywardLink98 said:

"– everyone should own a copy!" I do, I got it from my cousins when I was little, except I think I broke it (Or it was broken when they gave it to me along with their N64) because I only remember it working once, and I only remember the "Press Start" screen.

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