In the start of the N64s life one game dominated the rankings of best game. That game was Mario 64, and why shouldn’t it be. It was designed by the company that made the console, reinvented 3d platformers which previously had been just long corridors as seen in Crash Bandicoot. But a game from a developer already skilled from the Donkey Kong country games was about to dethrone Mario at his own genera not just the console.
Banjo Kazooie was released in 1998 for the N64. The game stars Banjo a brown bear and a Breegul named Kazooie who primarily lives in Banjo’s backpack. They live in Spiral Mountain at Banjo.s house. The plot of the game has the Witch Gruntilda kidnap Banjo’s little sister Tooty so she can steal her beauty (something you see happen in a game over sequence). To rescue her Banjo and Kazooie must delve deep into Gruntilda’s lair (also in spiral mountain. It’s shaped after her face you can’t miss it.) To do this you have to find the magical Golden Jigsaw pieces or Jiggys as well as other collectibles like musical notes and Jingos in each level (found by using the Jiggys to complete Jigsaws).
It’s clear why people compare this to Mário 64 as this is a game that shows its collectathon nature refined from what Mario did. Each world has 10 Jiggys to find and 100 musical notes as well as items for extra max health, items to use for transformations (will get to later) and new moves to learn, all in each of the many and varied levels.
The opening area Spiral Mountain is designed perfectly to introduce you to the mechanics BUT also reward you for doing some tasks that can be done with or without the tutorial. The tutorial is optional for learning abilities so if you are replaying you don’t need to wait about and hear how to do things and just get right to using those abilities. And what’s your reward for doing that? complete all the challenges and an addition to your max HP is your reward.
Once you get into Gruntilda’s lair and into Mumbo Mountain the first level the main game starts. This level will introduce you to all the collectathon elements and introduce you to Mumbo Jumbo (he also appeared in the opening that you should watch at least once in full). By giving him the Mumbo skulls you can have him turn you into an animal for that level (and a bit outside the level, yes there are things to find in Gruntilda’s lair too) . Transformed gives you different abilities that range from simply able to walk up steep inclines that even using Kazooie you can’t get to, to more active abilities like a little crocs munching skill.
The game is highly enjoyable and there’s even some hidden secrets and cheats located in areas for you to enjoy after you have beaten the main game (or earlier I suppose, if you’re that way inclined)
The game is filled with a quirky charm which is in all the characters you meet. Such as the villain Gruntilda’s constant rhyming.
You also have to give it to the music. Composed by Grant Kirkhope these are some of my all-time great musical tracks. They all have a nice little bounce to them even the final boss track and I highly recommend looking them up… before you inevitably find all the remixes by fans. This actually makes somewhat of a problem as the music in some of the earlier scenes was so synced up with the frames of the game that later releases that smoothed them up now don’t sync up.
Tragically one planned feature involved in what you find if you 100% the game (something beating the game before doing that tells you to do) didn’t work out so its connection to its sequel was sadly left out as it had been originally intended ( I’ve heard the XBox rerelease maybe has it but I’m playing the original N64 version)
Banjo Kazooie is well worth your time. It’s fun, quirky and a great game in all regards, Just a little sad you can’t fight the final boss a second time without restarting the game.
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