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Banjo-Kazooie

Rated E for Everyone

Platform:

Nintendo 64 (N64)

Publisher:

Nintendo

Developer:

Rare

Released:

June 1998

ROM Size:

128 megabits

Players:

One

Genre:

3D Action/Adventure

Save:

Cartridge (3 slots)

Optional:

Rumble Pak

 

 

> Final Rating: 4.7 out of 5.0

Introduction

Banjo-Kazooie was originally first revealed under the moniker of "Dream." Well, since then, we've found out that the game really has nothing to do with dreams or even the musical instruments from which the characters are named. Nevertheless, Banjo-Kazooie could very well be called a "dream game." This Rare-developed title for Nintendo only goes to show how delays can make a game that much better. If you've been disenchanted with your Nintendo 64 recently, it's time to succumb to the system's magic once again.

 

Banjo-Kazooie, quite simply, is the evolution of Super Mario 64 and its 3D platforming action. It takes a familiar concept to the next level. But if you think Banjo-Kazooie is too much like Super Mario 64, then you better think again. If you miss out on this game, then you're missing out on one of the best games of the 32/64-bit generation.

Gameplay & Control

When you turn on Banjo-Kazooie for the first time, you're treated to the same loud, robust, clear stereo sound that you've come to expect from Rare. If you don't touch any buttons, you're treated to a little real-time introduction of some of the game's characters playing musical instruments. Pretty cool. Now once you start the game, you're thrown into the file select screen. Unlike other games that have static file select screens, Banjo-Kazooie is so polished and detailed that the individual save slots are picked from three scenes inside a cabin. The first one has Banjo sleeping, the second one has Banjo cooking, and the third one has Banjo playing Game Boy. Further evidence of Rare and Nintendo's attention to detail is that the music and sound effects change to suit each theme. Unbelievable. If you're selecting a slot for the first time, you're then treated to the story of the game.

 

A summary of the story is that Gruntilda—she's an old, dirty, ugly witch—has kidnapped Tooty, who is Banjo's little sister, because she's the "prettiest of all." Kazooie, the wise-cracking bird friend of Banjo, hears the ruckus outside and wakes Banjo up. So the polite honey bear grabs his backpack with the Breegull in it and heads outside to save Tooty. Bottles the mole warns Banjo and Kazooie that there is a difficult quest ahead and offers to help them along the way. Thus begins the great adventure.

 

Once you're into the actual game, you come out of Banjo's house into a world that serves as training. Bottles will help you out by teaching you techniques. You can't use a particular technique until you're taught it. You'll also be learning more techniques in other worlds throughout the game. This training world is where you're start to grasp the game's incredible depth and beautiful surroundings.

 

Before talking about how the different moves and techniques in Banjo-Kazooie are used, a generalization of the play control should be mentioned. Basically, the control is similar to Super Mario 64 but slightly different. You still use the Control Stick to move, the A button to jump, and the B button to attack. But the camera is a little different. Being a second-generation N64 game, the camera in Banjo-Kazooie, though not perfect, is much more intelligent and useful than previous 3D action games. Hopefully, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will virtually eliminate all camera problems, but Banjo-Kazooie has taken a step in the right direction.

 

The Left and Right C buttons are used to rotate the view around. It works pretty much exactly like Super Mario 64, except you can go a full 360 from any position. The Top C button is used to go into a stopped, first-person viewpoint. Again, unlike Super Mario 64, you have 360 of viewing no matter where you're at. The same button must be pressed again to get out of the perspective. That leaves the Bottom C button to zoom in and out. But there's also a great new function for the camera. Tapping the R button will move the camera behind Banjo and holding it down will force the camera to follow directly behind. So now you don't have to stop, rotate the view, and struggle with the camera like in Super Mario 64.

 

A few parts of the control are quirky, however. Like Super Mario 64, it's difficult to become proficient at swimming in Banjo-Kazooie. You just can't seem to move Banjo underwater exactly like you want to move him. Also, shooting eggs doesn't make full use of the numerous individual steps of the analog controller. It's difficult to aim exactly where you want.

 

Now let's take a look at the vast array of moves in the game. Banjo (the male bear) and Kazooie (the female bird) need to use teamwork in order to rescue Banjo's sister. Besides the standard climbing, running, and swimming moves, there are many other special moves the duo can learn. "Feathery Flap" is the double jump in the game (sorry, there's no triple jump here). Just jump and press A again to have Kazooie flap her wings to give them a little more height. "Forward Roll Attack" is accomplished by running and pressing the B button. It's a safe and easy way to beat a lot of enemies. "Rat-a-tat Rap," which is done by jumping and pressing B while in mid-air, enables Kazooie to use her beak to attack enemies that are higher up in the air. "Flap Flip" is the somersault jump in this game. It's performed by holding Z and pressing A to jump. You can steer with the Control Stick while in the air, too.

 

As you head from the training world (Spiral Mountain) into the actual game, you'll find even more moves to learn. For instance, the "Talon Trot" lets Kazooie extend her legs and carry Banjo around. This move is needed to get up steep slopes and can be used to move the duo even more quickly than Banjo by himself. The move is accessed by holding Z and pressing Left C. Then you have to keep Z held down while running around. "Beak Buster" is a powerful stomp attack. It's done by jumping and pressing the Z button while in mid-air. "Egg Firing" is a very cool technique that's not only used for attacking but also for puzzles. You need to have eggs to use this, though. In order to fire an egg forward, you must hold Z and press Top C. To send an egg backwards, just hold Z and press Bottom C instead. There's also the "Beak Barge," which is a powerful sliding attack. You can use this by holding Z and pressing B.

 

No, we're not done yet. There are six more moves to learn! The "Shock Spring Jump" enables Banjo and Kazooie to reach new heights. You must simply find a green Shock Spring Pad, stand on it, and hold down the A button (then let go) to spring up. You can steer in the air with this move, too. And what good would a bird be if it couldn't fly? "Flight" is accomplished in Banjo-Kazooie by doing two things: 1) Picking up Red Feathers that enable you to flap your wings, and 2) Finding red Flight Pads from which to launch. Just press A to jump when you're on one of those Flight Pads. And once Kazooie is flying in the air, you can press the B button to send her at something like a heat-guided missile. This move is called the "Beak Bomb."

 

If you haven't lost interest by now, then imagine if I didn't split this up into multiple paragraphs! Remember, there are three more moves to learn. If you have Golden Feathers, then you can do the "Wonderwing" technique. Just hold down Z and press Right C. With Z held down, you are invincible. But the problem is that a Golden Feather is used up every two seconds. These last two special moves are aided by new footwear for Kazooie. The "Stilt Stride" can be used when you find a pair of green Wading Boots. It lets Kazooie, for a limited time, carry Banjo through otherwise impassable parts of worlds—piranha-infested water or super-hot quicksand, for example. Finally, there's the "Turbo Talon Trot." You must find white running shoes to activate this move. It will enable you to achieve certain tasks that would not otherwise be possible with Banjo's slow speed, Kazooie's regular Talon Trot, or even by flying. Both of these moves involving footwear start automatically and can be ended prematurely by pressing B.

 

Whew. Now that all of the moves you'll learn in Banjo-Kazooie have been described, let's move on to some of the items. There are two equally important items that must be collected in order to progress further into the game. First is the Jigsaw Piece, or "Jiggy." They're kind of like stars from Super Mario 64. There are 10 hidden in each world. Jiggy pieces are needed to complete picture puzzles of the worlds. For example, in order to enter the first world, "Mumbo's Mountain," you must first find one Jiggy piece. Subsequent worlds will need increasingly more Jiggy pieces to enter. Once you have the Jiggy in hand, you can find and stand on the puzzle switch in front of the picture to the world. Unlike Super Mario 64, though, you don't jump into the picture. You're shown a cut-scene of the entrance to the world and then must find it yourself. Beyond the closely linked picture and entrance of the first world, you'll find that the other worlds can be downright perplexing to find. The other equally important item in Banjo-Kazooie is the Musical Note. These are kind of like coins from Super Mario 64. There are 100 hidden in each world. Your grand total from all worlds in the game is used to open up Note Doors. Passing through those will let you get to other parts of Gruntilda's Lair.

 

The coolest item, however, has to be the "Jinjos." There are five of these cute, small creatures hidden in each world. If you find all five, they'll give you a Jiggy. And when you get near them, they call for help. Who can resist that? Eggs are an important part of nutrition and are important in Banjo-Kazooie, too. As described above, you can use these for attacking and for completing puzzles. You can hold up to 100 of them. Red Feathers, as stated, are used for flying. You can hold 50 of these. Finally, there are the Golden Feathers that make you invincible. You can only hold 10 of them, though. You'll also find Extra Lives in the form of golden Banjo statuettes; Honeycomb Energy, which can be acquired individually by beating enemies or collectively by swatting beehives; and extra Honeycomb Pieces, which will add one to your life meter every time you find six pieces. Adding to your health meter worked in Metroid and Zelda, and it certainly works here.

 

Wait…did I forget something? Of course not. How could I forget Mumbo Jumbo? Mumbo is a Shaman who practices the art of voodoo magic. He's not in every world, but you'll meet him more than a few times. For a small fee in the way of Mumbo Tokens, he'll turn you into a native animal, such as an ant or an alligator. You can then stay as that animal for as long as you like and use its abilities to get Jiggy pieces. As a nice gesture, it doesn't cost anything to get turned back into your normal self.

 

Confused about all the items and moves yet? Don't worry. Banjo-Kazooie takes a very proactive approach to teaching you about all the numerous special moves and items; there's no passive learning here. Absolutely everything is taught to you on a step-by-step basis. In fact, even all of the individual items you pick up for the first time end up talking to you, telling you what they're used for.

 

So let's tie this all together and go into the gameplay of Banjo-Kazooie a little bit. Inside each of the worlds—Mumbo's Mountain, Treasure Trove Cove, Clanker's Cavern, Bubblegloop Swamp, Freezeezy Peak, Gobi's Valley, Mad Monster Mansion, Rusty Bucket Bay, and Click Clock Wood—are Jiggy pieces to be collected and Musical Notes to be found. Sounds like Super Mario 64, right? Well, only in theory. In practice, Banjo-Kazooie requires you to solve puzzles—which so happen to be more complex and clever than in Miyamoto's game—for every Jiggy piece and to search every inch of the world to find all 100 Musical Notes. (There are only 100 on each world and no more.) Another great thing is how the worlds in Banjo-Kazooie are much larger than Super Mario 64, too. In addition to the core of each world, there are many sections to be explored. So you'll be exploring plenty of rooms in the most of odd of places.

 

But the one really, really cool thing about Banjo-Kazooie is how it remembers everything you've done in the world. There are two sides to this. For example, say you leave some Honeycomb energy pieces lying around on the ground in Treasure Trove Cove. Now if you go inside the pirate ship and come back out, you'll find that the pieces are still there! How many other games keep track of that? The other side is the information the game saves. The game will save how many Musical notes you got, how many Jiggy pieces you got, how many Red Feathers you got, how many Golden Feathers you got, how many Eggs you got, and how many Mumbo Tokens you got. When it comes to Musical Notes, they will reset once you exit a world. So they will only be added to your grand total once you pass your previous record for Musical Notes in that world. Jiggy pieces, on the other hand, are saved for good. You can go back and do the same thing to get a Jiggy, but you'll find that it won't appear if you've already got it. Also, you'll find that extra lives are not saved.

 

Gameplay-wise, what really separates Banjo-Kazooie from Super Mario 64 cannot be classified as one thing, since there are so many things that help. The game just takes the whole search-and-find concept to a new level. Because of the tremendous variety in the puzzles, it doesn't get tedious to find Jiggy pieces like in Super Mario 64. And a lot of the variety can be attributed to the many special moves, which are the result of the character's team nature, that must be used in various situations and the fact that you can be turned into different animals by Mumbo.

 

Another thing that really helps is that you aren't taken out of the world after finding a Jiggy. Remember, in Super Mario 64, after finding a star, you were transported out of the world. That meant everything would reset. That's not the case in Banjo-Kazooie, and it's much better that enemies stay dead and that energy doesn't reappear. Speaking of which, when you go underwater, you have a separate meter for air, which means you can't just jump in the water to get health.

 

Another important facet of Banjo-Kazooie is its personality. Along your quest to save Tooty, you'll find many magnificent and creative characters and worlds. The Jinjos alone make you wonder what these guys were on. Now couple that with the witty screen text, and you've got a game oozing with personality—something that's usually missing in video games. Finally, like most of Rare's other games, Banjo-Kazooie is easy to learn but hard to master. Yes, the game is actually very challenging. Considering many of the N64's games are too easy, it's nice to have a long, difficult, and perplexing game.

Graphics & Sound

Complementing the incredible gameplay is equally incredible graphics and sound. The graphics in Banjo-Kazooie are just phenomenal. The animation is stellar, from the movements of Banjo and Kazooie to the involved, fully animated worlds. There are also an unbelievable number of textures in the game. While many other N64 games use either many basic textures or a few detailed but repeating textures, the developers of Banjo-Kazooie somehow managed to fit tons of different graphics into the game. Banjo-Kazooie even makes full use of the N64's ability to generate real-time sequences. The game switches to real-time sequences when talking to important people or when something special happens. It makes great use of it.

 

Banjo-Kazooie also manages to eliminate the three graphical problems associated with 3D games: fog, pop-up, and clipping. First off, there is absolutely zero fog in the game, but there are many distant horizons. On the second world, you can go to the lighthouse on top and look down at the world below without having anything impede your view. Second, there is a surprising lack of clipping. It's probably impossible to eliminate it completely, but there are many carefully planned camera angles to avoid it. Plus, it just didn't happen as often as I thought it would. Amazing. Finally, pop-up has been kept to a minimum. OK, there is some occasional character-based pop-up in the game, but it sure beats the constant background pop-up of other games. Rare has apparently developed a proprietary technique that only draws the characters and items when you get close enough to see them. For the most part, it works very well. You will sometimes see Musical Notes or such just pop-up in front of you, but that's no big thing. A few other times, though, it does seem a little odd. For instance, on the first world, when you get to the top of the mountain and look down at where Conga is supposed to be, you'll notice that he's not there. This trade-off is certainly worth it, though, as it beats slow down and dropped frame rates.

 

The sound in Banjo-Kazooie is just as remarkable, so it makes you wonder how all of this was fit onto a 128-megabit cartridge. Somewhat surprisingly, the sound effects get the nod more so than the music. There are just tons and tons of different sound effects for the characters and situations. The sound effects are just great; it's almost like a cartoon. There's not really any Super Mario 64-like voice, either. Oddly enough, instead of having full speech for the characters, Rare decided to go with a generic Star Fox-like mumbling. Each character has his or her own sound, though. It was originally a little annoying, but I've grown to like it. As far as the music goes, it makes fantastic use of MIDI. It is composed very well, and it fits each world perfectly. Impressively enough, while each world has its own music, there are different parts in each world where the music will change slightly. You can still tell it follows the same rhythm and timing pattern, but instruments might be added or changed and it might be sped up or slowed down. This is the best use of MIDI yet and demonstrates how it's better than CD-ROM's red book audio when used properly.

Conclusion

How can Rare be so good? It might soon surpass—if it already hasn't—Nintendo's EAD teams as the world's greatest game designers, because Banjo-Kazooie just rocks. Is it better than Super Mario 64? When viewed as the sum of all parts, yes, it is better. There's more strategy, technique, and control because of the dual-character nature. There's more variety to the gameplay. The presentation is more immersive and engrossing—"interactive cartoon" probably fits. The story is more involving and has more personality.

 

And for all the gamers out there who cringe at "cutesy" games, rest assured that Banjo-Kazooie has enough humor and challenge to keep you interested, yet isn't too happy to make you want to vomit. Yes, friends, Banjo-Kazooie is type of game that makes you realize the reason you bought an N64 in the first place. As of this review, it stands as one of the two best games for the system, along with that other Rare game, GoldenEye 007.

 

Graphics:

4.8

Sound:

4.7

Control:

4.5

Gameplay:

4.8

Lastability

4.3

OVERALL:

4.7

 

DOWN THE ROAD

Banjo-Kazooie was supposed to supplant Super Mario 64 as the pinnacle of design with regard to 3D platformers. But it didn't quite reach that lofty plateau after looking back at the game a few months later. Why? There's too much emphasis on collecting a laundry list of items. This makes Banjo-Kazooie lose its focus on the action and on the levels themselves, which ultimately leads to a loss of interest in the game. A big advantage of Banjo-Kazooie, however, is its personality. The game comes alive with intelligently written text, original characters, and impressive worlds. Rare's Donkey Kong Country (Super NES) may have gotten a bum rap from some diehards, but Banjo-Kazooie definitely doesn't deserve the same fate.

 

Review by: Scott McCall

First Reviewed: July 14, 1998

Appendix Added: December 18, 1998

 

 

 

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