Video Game Thoughts: Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie was a 1998 platformer game by Rare, originally for the Nintendo 64, that I played on the Xbox 360. I never played this game when it was new. I heard about it coming out, but the characters looked funny to me. I also already had a good 3D platformer game in Super Mario 64. In addition, I had gotten the Nintendo 64 late compared to others. I was still catching up on the hit games of the earlier years like Goldeneye 64. I didn’t need a new game yet.

I didn’t end up playing Banjo-Kazooie until 2009. I had just finished playing the much newer Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts game. Microsoft, the new owners of Rare, re-released the original Banjo-Kazooie to capitalize on this new game in the series. I happened to see it, watched the short trailer movie and liked what I saw. It was going for a low price compared to the size of the game. After a little more research, I decided to pick it up.

Banjo-Kazooie did not disappoint. The technical aspects of the game were pretty outdated in 2009 when I played it, but the good gameplay showed through. The player controlled a bear named Banjo and a bird named Kazooie to save their lands from the evil witch, Gruntilda. Banjo & Kazooie were not separate characters. Banjo would run around carrying a backpack that contained Kazooie. At certain points, Kazooie could open her wings to fly Banjo around. She could also help perform some attacks like pecking enemies with her beak. Banjo handled the mobility side of things.

Like Super Mario 64, the game had one large overworld and all the levels branched off of it. There were nine levels total. The levels had many of the same themes like desert or forest, but they also had new ones like a level in the treetops and another on a rusty submarine. Instead of collecting gold stars, Banjo & Kazooie collected gold puzzle pieces called “jiggies”. Instead of jumping into picture frames as in Mario 64, the door to each level was made up of a jigsaw puzzle, with the jiggies being the pieces needed to complete the door.

All these similarities in Banjo-Kazooie compared to Super Mario 64 are why I never bought it on the Nintendo 64. I already had a game they played close enough to it. However, at the bargain price it was going for on the Xbox, it was a fun experience. After playing it, I even went back to Nuts & Bolts. Now I could understand who all the characters were. Banjo-Kazooie was one of those game series where references to other games were rampant. The more games in the series a player finished, the richer their experiences in the rest of the games.

I had a lot of fun playing Banjo-Kazooie, but it did get a little to hard finding the last few jiggies. I explored and explored but just couldn’t find them. I eventually looked up a guide. After having so much fun with this game, I was even planning to get buy the sequel, Banjo-Tooie. A few months later, however, other games interested me more. I didn’t feel too bad though, because from what I read, the sequel wasn’t all that different compared to the first game. It was just more content.

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