Developer(s) – Rare & 4J Studios
Publisher(s) – Nintendo & Microsoft Game Studios
Designer – Gregg Mayles
PEGI – 3
Hailed as one of the greatest video games of the fifth generation, when 3D gaming was just coming into its own, Banjo-Kazooie was a game released at a time when the company Rare were at their commercial and artistic apex, and in the process of putting out some of the greatest video games of all time. I spent a lot of time playing Banjo-Kazooie when I was younger, and it whilst I don’t think it’s quite as good as many of Rare’s previous or at that point upcoming efforts, it’s still an extremely enjoyable title.
Graphics – 9/10
During the fourth and fifth generations of gaming, Rare was able to take some of Nintendo’s most well-known concepts and make truly wonderful worlds and visual styles, both conceptually and graphically. Banjo-Kazooie is no exception. Based on the world of a character from their previous effort Diddy Kong Racing, the amount of visual diversity in the game is staggering, ranging from sandy beaches, icy caves, and a haunted mansion. Compared to other Nintendo 64 games, there are a few glitches here and there, but they’re not often noticeable.
Gameplay – 9/10
Playing out identically to a few other games on the system such as Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the objective is to travel to different worlds and collect golden jigsaw pieces to gain access to other worlds and eventually complete the game. There are also a fair few side quests, including having to collect honeycomb pieces to increase maximum health and in each level, finding five of a strange animal called Jinjos. There is variety in gameplay through the many different kinds of tasks that need to be undertaken in order to collect the jigsaw pieces (jiggies), and the many different abilities that Banjo’s sidekick Kazooie can learn along the way.
Controls – 10/10
People may argue that in this game, the movement can seem quite slippery at times, and whilst that may be true, it does nothing to hinder the game’s quality at all. Out of both of the main competitors at the time, Nintendo was able to make a better job of developing 3D platformers than Sony, and the main reason behind this is because of the Nintendo 64’s inclusion of the analog stick from release. This game gives a full testament to that.
Lifespan – 8/10
To complete the game to 100%, players will typically end up clocking in about 20 to 30 hours, which for a video game was particularly impressive at the time. Although that kind of lifespan had been seen before, primarily in RPGs, games like this were a sign of the times, in that major improvements were being made to the average lifespan of video games. It’s part of the reason why I was underwhelmed by big-name releases such as The Last of Us.
Storyline – 6/10
Following one of the most exhausted tropes in gaming history, the story revolves around Banjo and his sidekick Kazooie as they resolve to rescue Banjo’s sister Tooty from an evil witch named Gruntilda, who plans to use a machine to switch with Tooty from being ugly to beautiful. The basic premise of the story was worn out even at this point in gaming history, but there are other elements present to keep things interesting; most notable of which is the strong comedic element and breaking of the fourth wall. The character Mumbo, in particular, perpetuates these things quite well
Originality – 7/10
This game was by no means the first to do many of the things that it did, but many people believe it to be a major improvement on what Nintendo did with Super Mario 64. Personally, out of all the 3D platformers on the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 is my favorite, but the overall formula was kept extremely fresh for the release of this game and is one of the many reasons why it’s so enjoyable to play.
Overall, Banjo-Kazooie is unanimously one of the best games ever ported to the Nintendo 64. It’s a very testing title with a lot of different kinds of puzzles to keep players entertained, and an experience which is more than capable of holding up made obvious by its port to Xbox 360 along with its sequel Banjo-Tooie.