For years, Rareware has been a pinnacle developer in the gaming playground, crafting humorous and deep games that are tongue in cheek and fun to play. The crazy British developers have but forth a unique style that is all to their own, creating a universe of characters spawning from a myriad of games in the past ten years. Their magic was seen on Nintendo as early as the SNES, with their smash hit, and excellent revival of the classic Icon, Donkey Kong.
While Donkey Kong Country put Rare on the map, their pinnacle always was, and always will be, Banjo Kazooie. Back in the summer of 1998 I discovered this game, and by the Fall of 98, I have completed what I consider, one of the most perfected adventures I have ever played. Banjo-Kazooie may look odd, but it a deep plat former that was wisely constructed, well scripted, and easily should be ranked among the pinnacles of video gaming.
For the Nintendo 64, the graphic quality was surprisingly detailed and varied. Each world, from the rolling green hills of Banjo's home in Spiral Mountain, to the exterior of Gruntilda's Lair, are perfect. And that is just the OUTER worlds. The inner ones, are so varied, so detailed, and so majestic that you almost forget that this is inside a castle. Another surprising thing is the detail in the character interactions. There is so much going on at once, with no slowdown and no clipping. It is amazing what a cartridge can do, and Rare pushed the envelope here. You could just fly around and enjoy the view at times.
Final Score- A
Banjo-Kazooie has a fun story, that gets deeper as you play. Your job is to rescue your sister, Tooty, from the witch Gruntida Winkybunion, a ugly and fat old hag who speaks in scratchy rhymes and was hell bent on becoming a beautiful witch by stealing Tooty's youth. With the help of Banjos companions Mumbo-Jumbo and Bottles the mole, he goes through many worlds in her lair to defeat the witch and rescue his sister.
The plot seems strange, but don't be fooled, your about to have an adventure of a lifetime. Each world, from the sandy desert of Gobi's Valley to the near impossible harbor of Rusty Bucket Bay, has tons of collectables to advance. From notes to open special note doors, robin eggs to use as weapons, feathers for flying, and, of course, Jiggy Pieces.
The hardest and most rewarding task in the game is finding the Jiggy pieces. Some are out in the open, while others are well hidden. Others still you need to do numerous events to get them, from saving good hearted creatures to defeating innovated puzzles. It is in here where the platform elements of the game are implemented, along with great action and puzzle bits as well. Each level has it's own set of problems, it's own theme, and own difficulty. The first few levels could be completed in less than an hour easily, but the latter levels may take several hours, even a few days, to achieve everything. The scope just gets bigger, and the difficulty better, as you go along.
You can learn many moves to take out enemies, help with the puzzles to gain Jiggys, and to just travel across the hazardous worlds that await you. You need to pound switches, find secret alcoves, fight off baddies, and recover the pieces, the notes, almost everything in the world to achieve the final goal, a quiz game with Gruntilda? But wait, there’s more!
In addition to the nice ending of the game, there is also the famous, or infamous, Stop N Swop secret. The game had one of the most idolized and discussed mythologies about a secretly implemented system on acquiring famous items in the game, such as the ice key that laughed at everyone when it was seen the first time in a cave. While the whole idea was ahead of it's time, it is dedication to secret items and puzzles like this that make the game worth playing.
Are there any problems? Well, the game does drag on at the later levels, when the puzzles take more time to think. The difficulty also gets very hard by the Rusty Bucket Bay level, and could easily turn off casual crowds, but that should not sway many away from the game. Also, the clever yet juvenile humor might be a stretch, but the game is funny, fresh and filled with great references from Jet Force Gemini to Joanna Dark. The last problem is the automatic camera int he game, but this does not hinder the experience to much. Only when in tight corners is it noticable.
All in all, this is as close as you get to perfection. Strong, varied and tight controls. Large and varied world that are huge in scale, great puzzle elements, and extra bits to keep playing for, make the game worthwhile for years to come.
Final Score- A+
While the game has no voices, each character has a distinct sound to them. From scratchy tones, to mumbling tones, to belching, to farting, to even high pitched bird tones, the game gives character to text, a rare feat in games. The pinnacle to this, however, is the soundtrack. It is perhaps one of the best soundtracks created. In a league like Mario’s, each world has a distinct sound to it, each level a different theme, each character a different theme, hell each entrance to the worlds have a different theme, and that alone makes it worthwhile.
Final Score- A
Banjo Kazooie is living proof of the dedication, perfection and design that makes a game so good, so appealing, and, so perfect. Few games can claim to be perfect by the rabid fans and scathing critics that play them, and Banjo Kazooie is one of the few that is up there, and if not, should be. Without a doubt, this is as close to the perfect game as you can get, with the tight control scheme, great graphics at it's time, a strong score and funny story, but most importantly, that something else that keeps you playing it, that special spark that collecting random things to advance means a great achievement for accomplishing these tasks. This is the thing gamers look for in the very best that Video Games have to offer, and Banjo Kazooie has it.
One of the few games, in my mind at least, that are deserving of this sacred grade, and I only think few do to begin with. Not even some of the greatest experiences out there, from Final Fantasy 7, to Gears of War, truely deserve the sacred A+, and that is saying something coming from a game no one expects.
Final Score- A+
Overall Score- A+