UWG Top 10: #7 – Banjo-Kazooie

Image by Flickr user wheresthebrain
Image by Flickr user wheresthebrain

When I write about or speak of my gaming history, Banjo-Kazooie is a game that comes up… a lot. I’ve found joy in many games, but none of them quite compare to the pure bliss I experienced with in the delightfully colorful world of Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird. It’s a game that helped me through a real-life rough patch. It’s a game that needled itself so deeply into my mind that I can conjure up the sights and sounds of the game without much thought. It’s a game that continues to hold its own even among 3D adventure platformers of today. It is, pure and simple, Banjo-Kazooie.

Okay, enough with the hyperbole, right? It’s easy for me, for any of us, to sit here and gush about the games we love. But the fact of the matter is that Banjo-Kazooie isn’t just another game. But before I get to deep into investigative territory, if you’ve not played the game, you might be wondering just what the heck is Banjo-Kazooie?

Banjo-Kazooie was a Nintendo 64 game from Rare (makers of Donkey Kong Country) released 16 years ago in the summer of 1998. It presented the story of Banjo, the aforementioned bear, who had to save his kidnapped sister from the clutches of an evil witch named Gruntilda. Banjo did not face his journey alone as he was accompanied by his good friend Kazooie, the aforementioned bird. Along the way, Banjo and Kazooie collected puzzle pieces and musical notes, solved numerous puzzles, defeated sizable caches of enemies, and met up with friends and helpers.  Like any good platformer Banjo-Kazooie offered up lots of opportunities for running, jumping, swinging, flying, and swimming in order to navigate the terrain. And there was no shortage of secrets to discover either.

Banjo-Kazooie played out much like Super Mario 64 in a variety of rich and very explorable 3D environments.  Each character had different strengths, which you used to your advantage throughout the game. Need to get across a large gap? Just ask Kazooie to stretch her wings! Need to get up a ladder? Banjo is a natural-born climber! Learning each of the moves, as well as the moves they performed together, wasn’t a demanding task, but it was necessary to figure it all out to get the most out of the game. With transformative help from their pal Mumbo Jumbo, Banjo and Kazooie could also take the shapes of various creatures in order to reach a particular destination. And all of it took place inside a game that was nothing short of gorgeous! Seriously, the difference between Banjo-Kazooie and its predecessors like Super Mario 64 is like the difference between Toy Story and Up! The substance remained, but the animations, textures, and overall atmosphere were immensely improved. Plus, it had an awesome soundtrack. Bouncy, bright (and dark at times), lively, all the best things one could ask for in a game soundtrack.

Banjo-Kazooie stands proudly at our #7 spot, which is really awesome — it’s such a likeable game! As far as Rare titles, this one definitely stands out. Though some might say (and I’d probably agree) that it’s sequel, Banjo-Tooie, is the better game, there wouldn’t have been a sequel if Rare (and Nintendo) hadn’t taken the chance on a new IP. They originally planned for the game to be on the SNES, but thank goodness that didn’t happen! Rare took full advantage of the powerhouse of the N64 and made one of the best looking and playable games up to that point. Shoot, it’s still one of the best 3D platformers ever made. Not to shabby for a fun-loving bear and a bird.

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In addition to United We Game, the greatest* site on Internet, Cary also contributes to Geek Force Network and maintains her own blog, Recollections of Play.

*possibly a slight exaggeration

 

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Matt says:

    It is indeed one of the finest 3-D platformers ever made. There is nothing about it that is short of outstanding.

    It still floors me how it gigantically improved upon what Super Mario 64 had done just two years earlier. It is hard (impossible perhaps) to find a bigger leap in quality within one genre on such a short span.

    Like

    1. cary says:

      Yeah, the evolution that happened between the two is quite remarkable! And it wasn’t just the graphics that got an overhaul, the gameplay, though not totally comparable to that of Super Mario 64, was also fantastic. Banjo-Kazooie was really quite the pinnacle of its genre, outranked only by itself in the form of Banjo-Tooie.

      Like

      1. Matt says:

        I agree that Tooie is the better game of the outstanding duo.

        I know many did not like the backtracking on that game, but I was just floored due to how they were able to connect all of the worlds.

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      2. cary says:

        Oh, I loved the level design of Banjo-Tooie. It was done so ingeniously, and it was fun traveling between worlds.

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  2. duckofindeed says:

    I just love this game. Even after all these years, it’s still a huge blast to play. But, you already know that, so I don’t need to say any more than that. So awesome.

    And it was originally going to be on the SNES? How weird.

    Like

    1. cary says:

      Can you imagine what we might have gotten if this game had appeared on the SNES? I don’t doubt that it would have been a fun, but it wouldn’t have been a 3D platformer. Maybe just another Mario clone? Hmmm…thank goodness Nintendo had the good sense to wait!

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  3. Hatm0nster says:

    This game is one of the greatest arguments in favor of the 3D platformer genre! The game is still fun even after all these years, and I know it’s not just nostalgia talking there. The whole genre could still be producing blockbuster hits if anyone had bothered to continue developing in it.

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    1. cary says:

      It’s a shame that the franchise just kind of petered out the way it did. I’ve not played Grunty’s Revenge or Nuts and Bolts, but I’ve read that neither was all that popular with fans. (Though Nuts and Bolts seemed to have fared better overall.) It seems that the fan-made Banjo sequel, Project Imagination!, is still rolling along, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes of that.

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      1. Hatm0nster says:

        I hate to report this, but the project was officially declared dead last week. The devs said that they just couldn’t make the time for it anymore between their day jobs and family life. Unfortunate but understandable, hopefully someone will make a new game to carry the 3D Platformer torch.

        Like

      2. cary says:

        That’s sad to hear, and after it seemed to be making so much progress too.

        Like

  4. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    To round out United We Game’s first birthday celebration, we’ve been counting down our top 10 favorite games of all time! UWG admins and contributors got together, formed a super-duper ranking process, and proceeded to narrow down a list of many of the greatest games we could think of to the ten winners. Here’s my post for our number seven pick, Banjo-Kazooie. The rest of the games up to number six have been posted, so please head over and check them out. And stick with UWG all week for the rest of the list!

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  5. I couldn’t resist commenting. Well written!

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