Banjo Kazooie Review
May 4, 2018
Banjo Kazooie was one of my very first video games, we got it for Christmas in 1998 when we got our Nintendo 64. Twenty years later, I just beat it again on the Xbox One, and it holds up extremely well. This is my review.
Banjo Kazooie and Super Mario 64
Most reviews can't mention Banjo Kazooie without also bringing up Super Mario 64. Both characters got their start as minor characters in Donkey Kong games. Both also star in epic 3D platformers on the Nintendo 64. Super Mario 64 came out first, and showed what was possible bringing platforming to 3D. Tight controls and huge worlds to explore made the game great. Mario never got a sequel on the system, but Banjo Kazooie was better than any fan could have asked for, continuing the fun worlds, almost identical platforming controls, and more.
The graphics in Banjo Kazooie were amazing back in the N64-era. The game makes excellent use of textures on most surfaces, giving each level much more detail than on similar games from the same time period. The characters and enemies look great too. The graphics are cartoony with nice, bright colors- a refreshing break from a lot of the realistic games of today. Sadly, Nintendo 64 games don't look very good on modern widescreen TVs. Thankfully, the Xbox One version looks amazing. It is not a remake, the graphics are the same as they were on the N64, however, it is made to be played on a modern TV. The widescreen aspect ratio looks great, and the graphics have been sharpened for an HD display. It looks amazing. I like that other 3D platformers have been making a comeback recently, but I don't particularly care for the new graphics. Banjo Kazooie is perfect with the original graphics, they help preserve the personality of the original game.
If you've seen my favorite video game songs page, you know I think Banjo Kazooie has some of the greatest music in video games. Every level has great music. As you move around the overworld area, there is one main theme that plays, seamlessly changing its instruments as you move to different areas. For example, the theme turns into an accordion version when you near the treasure chest entrance to the vaguely pirate themed Treasure Trove Cove. And when you go underwater, the music changes again, sounding like your speakers have been submerged in water. Characters in the game don't speak English, they speak in weird, muffled sounds, that are either hillarious or annoying. The sound effects in the game are great too.
Good levels are one of the most important parts of a 3D platformer. Banjo Kazooie has nine huge levels to explore, plus an even bigger overworld area. All the levels are memorable. Treasure Trove Cove is one of my favorites, as you platform your way up a huge mountain, surrounded by shark infested water. So you don't die if you fall, keeping the stakes low and fun, but you definitely don't want to fall either! Another great level is Click Clock Wood, which is the same level in a forest four times: In fall, winter, summer, and spring. Each season of the level has a great song, and the tree and characters change with the seasons. There are some difficult levels too, Rusty Bucket Bay, a big boat in a polluted shipyard, is the most difficult in my opinion. Scattered across each level are enemies, charactrers, and tons of stuff to collect.
I've heard a lot of modern reviewers joke about how the platformers of the 90's were over-the-top "collectathons" where you have to run around collecting tons of stuff. Banjo Kazooie's levels are great, and collecting the notes scattered across the levels is fun and encourages exploring. Many modern games like Assassin's Creed or Fallout have huge worlds, vastly bigger than Banjo Kazooie's, but they can seem lifeless and too big. The levels in Banjo are big and very well thought out. They all have personality, and there are no "empty spots" in levels. I love trying to find all the notes and puzzle pieces on a level. The platforming is excellent, and the levels are some of the best in 3D gaming.
The overall gameplay is similar to Super Mario 64, except because Banjo has Kazooie in his backpack, Kazooie can flap her wings to give Banjo an added boost to his jumps, making the platforming more forgiving than in Mario. Kazooie can also fly and shoot eggs. Your goal for each level is to find 100 notes and ten puzzle pieces. My favorite parts are climbing to difficult-to-reach areas in search of a puzzle piece. The worlds are big, but for the most part, you can beat them and be done with them, which is something I like in video games. You can explore the levels however you want, there is very little tutorial. You learn a new move here and there, but you can pretty much just start playing and immediately know what to do. Banjo can occassionally turn into an animal to access new parts of a level. There are a few minigames that aren't very fun (stupid crocodile game), but they are quick and mostly painless. The game is mostly easy, though the final (and only) boss fight in the game is difficult.
Overall, I think Banjo Kazooie is awesome. It is one of the best video games of all time. It has the perfect combo of great levels, gameplay, music, and a good vibe that make it very memorable and fun. I recommend it to gamers of any age. Especially the new version on Xbox One fitted for modern TVs. It is worth buying an Xbox for this game alone. Banjo Kazooie is a masterpiece.