You feel that tingling in your mind? That feeling that you forgotten something, yet this sense of nostalgia tingles inside you and never goes away? That is the feeling of games from your past, games that are now obscure from the public eye. Some are herald classics, others are better left in the landfill, but while they are no longer in the public eye, they still live on in some way. Each week, I plan on embracing that nostalgia, so to speak, and review one of these forgotten games in a series I like to call “From The Well.” This week, we look at Banjo-Tooie.
Banjo-Kazooie is one of the few games I would ever consider to be the best game ever made. Hell, a while back when I made a review of it, I gave an A+, something that I doubt I will do again for a long time, and something I have only done once before, for Ocarina of Time. It was the perfect platformer, the right amount of collectables, diverse and wonderfully crafted worlds and puzzles, a funny script and gorgeous music. It was truly a masterful game.
Now, Banjo-Tooie, the sequel and second game of the franchise, came out two years later, back in the latter days of the N64. Although a late 2000 release, the game had a lot to live up to, and it mostly did, expanding upon the ideas put forth in Banjo-Kazooie, and refining them two fold.
The story this time around is one of revenge, as Gruntilda, along with her two sisters, have wrecked havoc on Banjo’s home and the neighboring island they live on, Isle O’ Hags. It is up to Banjo and Kazooie, plus the help of other characters, to defeat the evil Gruntilda once and for all.
The game really is a landmark from a script aspect, because it takes the mundane form of platforming and turns it into a hilarious gag fest. Rare always had a knack for some off-color humor, and they deliver here real well. It is not as perverse or obvious as Conker’s Bad Fur Day was, but it has great moments of witty banter by the foul mouthed Kazooie and the hilariously funny side characters that include King Jingaling, the leader of the Jinjos, and of course the shaman Mumbo Jumbo. It is the humor that distracts from the games minor problems.
And, of course, the minor problem is the platforming aspects. Although in Banjo-Kazooie it was an obvious straight platformer, they hid it so well, adding special areas, secret passageways and otherwise other lovely bits that made the platforming aspects almost invisible. In Banjo-Tooie, it is much more noticeable, probably due to the grander scope of the game. The levels are twice as big, with tons of new mini-games and enemies strewn to mix up the ledge hopping in between. There are also a lot of new items to collect and contend with, almost going into an overdrive of items. Banjo-Kazooie kept it simple, Banjo-Tooie added too much. Even with the new moves learned in Banjo-Tooie, the games scope may have grown too much.
But despite that, the imagination that captured many a young child back in 1998 is still there. The worlds in this game are as varied and well layed out as Banjo-Kazooie. Hell, some of the worlds, such as the dinosaur filled Terrydacty land or the brilliantly designed half-world Hailfire Peaks, were even hinted at in the first game, which adds a lot of tongue in cheek humor to the fans of the franchise to enjoy. The puzzles are also more thought out this time around, and require some back tracking between worlds, meaning you can’t complete a world to perfection like in BK, but rather go through worlds gradually. It adds a lot of cohesion to the otherwise offshoots of each world, but it also adds unnecessary length and repetition, the by products of the entire genre.
The added multiplayer and mini-game players were also a nice touch but really seem like an afterthought to the single player experience, mainly due to the bare bones presentation of it all. It’s nice to see Rare throwing in everything and the kitchen sink this time around, but it really is unnecessary in my mind to add a multi-player mode to a single-player game. But then again I guess I am old fashioned that way.
One area that I was disappointed in was the solution of the infamous Stop N’ Swop feature. While only hardcore gamers would even remotely know what I’m talking about, the Stop N’ Swop feature was one of the best open secrets in Banjo-Kazooie, and was supposed to link up to Banjo-Tooie in some form for extra content. There are numerous videos as to what happened to the feature and why it was never implemented, but suffice to say, the solution given for it was seen by many fans as a cop-out, although the rewards in the game for finding these features may be the true purpose of the whole Stop N’ Swop mechanic. But, I am not here to tread old ground.
One thing that was upgraded is the level of detail, thanks to the increased graphical prowess of the N64 Expansion pack that added more textures and lighting to the games graphical look. There are some hiccups in the graphics though, but it is not too detrimental. The game, being a late N64 game, looked great, almost at the perfection of the graphical limitations at the time.
And while the sound in the game is not as memorable as Banjo-Kazooie, it still has some catchy moments and crazy tunes that really give flavor to the areas you’re visiting. One thankfully unchanged aspect is the dialogue tracks that are different sounds for every single character in the game. Although it’s all blurbs and inaudible speech, it’s still a nice touch to the entire game.
So overall, Banjo-Tooie is bigger, stronger, but not necessarily better than it’s predecessor. It is still a fabulous game, and a shining example of how to make a great platformer, along with any Mario platformer out there. The scope of the game shows the noticeable flaws though, but in the end, it’s still that much fun to play that you can forget the frustrations of the platforming genre and jump paw and claw into the cutsey, crazy world of Banjo-Tooie.
Final Score- A-