Review by Retro

Reviewed: 09/24/01 | Updated: 05/20/02

Takes the feel of Super Mario 64 and takes a step further up the ladder

Banjo-Kazooie is an adventure in which a redneck bear named Banjo and a smart-mouthed, but hilarious bird named Kazooie, team up to find and seek revenge against an evil, ugly witch named Gruntilda. Gruntilda has became the Bowser of Banjo and Kazooie's world because she has kidnapped Banjo's sister, Tooty. The reason Gruntilda kidnapped Tooty is because Tooty is pretty, but Gruntilda is not so pretty, but she longs to be. Therefore, Banjo and Kazooie have a mission to fulfill if Banjo ever wants to see his sister again.

Banjo-Kazooie is a lot like Super Mario 64 in many ways. It's enough like it that you've probably heard a lot of people call it a Mario 64 clone, but really it's not. Banjo-Kazooie takes the feel of Super Mario 64 and goes farther in some ways by providing innovative and new kinds of challenges and attributes to its repetoire.

Like Super Mario 64, Banjo and Kazooie have to collect a great number of something, in this case, puzzle pieces, in order to get anywhere in the game. Just like Mario collects up to 100 coins in each world, Banjo and Kazooie have the chance to collect up to 100 golden musical notes in each world. Banjo-Kazooie is also played much like its idol. The worlds are all huge and fully explorable, there are bosses to fight from time to time, and so on.

However, Banjo-Kazooie takes it a step farther when it comes to gameplay, so you can't call it a complete Mario 64 clone. First of all, the biggest problem that most people had with Super Mario 64 was its part-time frustrating camera angles. You can control the camera angles in Banjo-Kazooie just like you do in Mario 64, such as looking around through the eyes of Banjo, zooming in and out, and using the left or right yellow-C buttons in order to toggle the camera in those directions. But even better, you can keep hold of the R button while you move and the camera will move around in the direction that you make Banjo or Kazooie move in.

Like I said a little earlier, Banjo and Kazooie are on the same team. Depending on your choice or the terrain of the place you're currently exploring, you can use either Banjo or Kazooie at any time. Kazooie (the bird) stays in the backpack that Banjo is always carrying with him. When you press certain buttons (you'll learn them), Kazooie will come out of the backpack and do things such as fly for a few seconds, peck at his enemies, shoot an egg, or even run around with Banjo on his back.

Even with this unlikely duo teaming up against just one evil witch, Banjo and Kazooie will need a lot more than just each other to get past Gruntilda, because she's not only an evil and ugly witch, she's a powerful one. Throughout most of the journey, Banjo and Kazooie will be able to find Bottles the mole hiding out in one of his hills of dirt. Bottles is the one that will tell you how to get Banjo and Kazooie to perform new moves like Kazooie's beak attacks, learning how to use launch pads for flight, using a golden feather for invincibility, putting on different pairs of shoes and finding what they're used for, using eggs as a weapon, and much more. Therefore, when you find and collect golden or red feathers, pairs of shoes you can't yet use, or even pads that seem to just be there for decoration, don't fret because Bottles will tell you all about them.

Banjo and Kazooie also have one other friend who can greatly make their adventure less of a hassle. This other friend comes in the form of a mysterious skeleton man with magic powers, and his name is Mumbo. Give Mumbo a few of the spinning skulls that you find and he will turn Banjo into a smaller creature such as a walrus, bee, crocodile, and even a pumpkin.

A few of these creatures have attacks or another ability they can use, such as the crocodile's bite and the bee's flight. Others such as the walrus and the pumpkin, can't use attacks, but they are small, which can enable them to get through tight spaces that Banjo couldn't normally fit through. There are other good features that you can use while Banjo is making his impression of one of these creatures, such as the walrus being able to endure the icy waters and the bee being able to go into a beehive without being attacked.

There are many worlds for Banjo and Kazooie in which to explore every crack and crevace for music notes and puzzle pieces. There is a haunted house, a sweltering desert, a frigid mountain that features a towering snowman, one that features the four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter in case you didn't know), and many others. In each world, Banjo and Kazooie's main goal is to rack up as many of the 100 musical notes and 10 puzzle pieces that they can find.

The puzzle pieces can be found in a variety of situations and by successfully completing many puzzles. Some of the pieces of the puzzle can be found out in the open, a boss guards some of them, and Banjo and Kazooie will have to complete many puzzles and challenges in order to obtain the majority of them. For instance, you get the chance to earn a puzzle piece by freeing a dolphin from a heavy anchor, for composing a song for Tiptup (the turtle driver from Diddy Kong Racing), by finding your way through a maze before time runs out, and so much more.

Finally, there are many Jinjos throughout the huge game of Banjo-Kazooie. Jinjos are small, cheerful-looking creatures of five different colors that are waiting to be rescued in each world. If you collect all five Jinjos in a world, you'll earn yourself a puzzle piece.

If Banjo-Kazooie being a fun platformer that goes a step farther than Super Mario 64 isn't enough, Banjo-Kazooie tries to have a sense of humor, and sometimes it's successful. Some of the characters that Banjo and Kazooie talk to sound so goofy that they made me grin, and Kazooie's wisecracks can be humorous.

If you like platformers and you haven't played this game yet, do yourself a favor and at least rent it. But I recommend buying it even more.

GRAPHICS - Banjo-Kazooie has spectacular graphics. Almost all the environments are neatly detailed, equally colorful, and just plain good to look at. At the time it was released and I first played through it, it had the best graphics I had seen for the Nintendo 64.

SOUND - A few of the sounds, mainly some of the characters' voices, are a little on the overly goofy or strange side, but for the most part, the sounds of Banjo-Kazooie aren't bad. Most of the music fits the levels to a tee and the majority of the sound effects are fluid and well done.

CONTROL - Unlike Super Mario 64, I haven't ever had any major problems controlling Banjo-Kazooie. Even with all the special moves, controlling Banjo and Kazooie is a breeze. However, it could've been a little easier to aim where the eggs are going to go once you shoot them.

REPLAY VALUE - Banjo-Kazooie is a long game since its worlds are so big. It's about as long as Super Mario 64, which isn't half as long as Donkey Kong 64, so after you go all the way through the game, you just might want to start all the way over and do it again one day. I've played it from start to finish 3 times, so I think its replay value is pretty good.

OVERALL - Banjo-Kazooie takes the gameplay of Super Mario 64 and adds some new innovation to it to make it a game that can successfully stand alongside the revolutionary Super Mario 64. Banjo-Kazooie is fun, challenging (but not overly challenging), and its other attributes, such as the graphics and control, are equally as good.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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