Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Challenge – Banjo-Kazooie

Chronological Challenge – Banjo-Kazooie

January 15, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hello! Today we have another 3D platformer! Enjoy!

Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Rare | Year: 1998
Played on: Nintendo 64

Goal: Save Tooty from Grunty

Actual Outcome: Tooty saved

Rare today is not the Rare of the 1990s. Instead, the Rare of the 1990s is now called Playtonic and they’ve moved from Twycross to Derby. They’re also working on their first game, which they funded through Kickstarter and will be releasing by the end of 2016. This game, Yooka-Laylee, is an attempt to return to the games that made Rare such a beloved household name in the N64 days. Years of being forced to work on soulless Kinect Sports games had clearly sent them stir-crazy, and you can’t really blame them.

Full disclosure – I supported Yooka-Laylee. It’s the only crowdfunding campaign I’ve ever contributed to, in fact. And I did this despite the fact that I…uh…never played Banjo-Kazooie before. Whaaaaat?

I recognised that this was a grave error on my part. Despite Banjo-Kazooie being exactly the kind of game I would have played the hell out of on the N64, for some reason I never did. And since Rare’s acquisition by Microsoft, I’ve never been able to play any of its re-releases. But after supporting Yooka-Laylee and realising that, hey, I own an N64 again, I decided to pick it up on eBay and rectify this.

Naturally, my first point of comparison for this game was Super Mario 64. Same system, both published by Nintendo, both 3D collect-a-thon platformers. And while I stick by my (possibly controversial) opinion that Super Mario 64 has aged badly to the point of being borderline unplayable today, I am pleased to say that Banjo-Kazooie has not gone the same way.

There are many places where Banjo succeeds over Mario. The controls are much smoother, with the Bear & Bird being lovingly animated without sacrificing player control, unlike Mario’s wide turning circle and dazed head-shaking after an attack. The environments feel a little more alive than SM64’s rather flat locations, with lots of bouncy inhabitants, and googly eyes on basically everything. The camera system is also very tight and easy to manage, unlike Lakitu’s frequent freak-outs and insistence on avoiding Mario’s back at all costs. As a result, Banjo is the N64’s much more enjoyable 3D platformer.

It’s also the first N64 game in this challenge that I’ve not thought “man this has not aged well”. I don’t know what it is about the N64, but more often than not its games are just not as fun now. But Banjo doesn’t fit that description at all. I had a lot of fun with it, for all the reasons stated above, but there’s also the sound design, that gave this game such a wonderful character that I cannot fault it. Everyone speaks gibberish, but it’s delightful gibberish. It helps that the voices are subtitled with quirky dialogue that knows full well it’s a video game, and plays with the medium as much as it can. Every aspect of the game’s design has fun in mind.

However, while I enjoyed Banjo-Kazooie for the most part, there were still a couple of things that annoyed me. The first of these was the hub world, which was confusing to navigate and didn’t come with an in-game map, meaning a lot of the game was spent being lost. It didn’t help that some levels were tucked away in some obscure places (Clanker’s Cavern, I’m looking at you) and this stalled progression from time to time.

On top of that, I’m glad I wasn’t going for 100% completion, but even then this was still a problem due to trying to unlock Note Doors. Many collectibles reset themselves upon death or leaving a level, and this became a serious issue when attempting to collect notes in a level. A single mistake can leave you in the position of needing to gather everything a second time, and it feels a little too much like padding, just like the issues of the overworld. Jiggies don’t reset, thankfully, but if it was possible to do it for those, why do the Notes keep resetting? Why, Rare, why?

Another minor issue that reared its ugly head was in the final level, where you have to navigate a board game/quiz show hybrid that asks you questions about the game. While a fun idea, and forces you to really pay attention to the world around you, it’s the questions about baddie Grunty that I had a problem with. The answers to these questions were discovered by chatting to Grunty’s sister throughout the hubworld. It’s another example of awkward padding for no good reason, and pretty much required keeping a notebook at hand to keep track. The game’s failure to explain the importance early on meant that I struggled through the quiz a few times blindly and had to go on a mini-quest to discover the answers I needed.

But all of these things, while annoying, were not enough to dampen my enjoyment of the whole game. Banjo-Kazooie remains a fun, classic platformer with charming art and sound design. And now I’m glad that I funded Yooka-Laylee, because knowing that I’ll be getting to play another game in this style by the end of the year makes me very happy indeed.

  1. James
    January 21, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Banjo-Kazooie is amazing, as is it’s sequel, and as I’m sure it’s spritual successor will be. This game is the reason I bought a 360, ofcourse second hand and cheap, it’s a great game but it’s not worth that much, but being able to play both (both, you hear me, it’s rally sad they never made a sequel!) Banjo with a good draw distance and without the notes issue was well worth my £70 console purchase and I got to play Infinite Undiscovery and Lost Odyssey.

    • January 22, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      I would have picked up a 360 for it too, but I couldn’t justify buying one to play a couple of old N64 games (this and Perfect Dark), when there was little else I wanted to play on the system!

  1. March 31, 2016 at 4:46 pm

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