As fans of particular genres, whether they be action movies, mystery novels, or in my case, mascot platforming games, chances are that despite our perceived expertise in our areas of interest, there will always be a film, book, or video game in our niche that we have not experienced. For me, this was Banjo-Kazooie: a whimsical 3D platformer released for the Nintendo 64, featuring “collect-a-thon” gameplay in the vein of Super Mario 64, a childhood favorite of mine. I knew that this game was up my alley, and had heard high praises sung for Banjo for quite some time, but did not get the chance to play it until about six months ago. Needless to say, given the title of this post, I had an absolute blast!
The game, as its name shows, has the player control a bear named Banjo, who’s moveset is augmented by his bird companion, Kazooie; if the former jumps, the latter can flap her wings to pull off a double jump, for example. The duo travel through nine large, open levels ranging from a pirates’ cove to a Christmas-themed winter wonderland. The worlds the two explore are filled with collectibles, each containing ten jigsaw pieces (or “Jiggies”) used to unlock new levels, as well as one-hundred musical notes, which are needed to open pathways to said levels. Secondary trinkets and additional moves can also be obtained throughout the adventure.
Now, I am aware that many prefer a more straightforward, level-to-level approach to their games, so Banjo-Kazooie‘s emphasis on thoroughly scouring each area to collect every item might be a turn-off to some. However, I personally feel that Banjo’s levels are not as expansive as they initially come off to be; although I was slightly overwhelmed whenever I arrived in a new world, but in due time, was able to intuitively traverse it. Additionally, I would argue that the game is not much more sprawling than the rather similar Mario 64, a classic that many people my age played as children, with the “Power Stars” in that game being analogous to the Jiggies in Banjo as gold coins are to musical notes. Heck, it is even possible that some players would consider the admittedly tighter controls of the bear-bird twosome easier to manage than their Italian counterpart’s more slippery handling.
If readers decide to indeed heed my advice on Banjo-Kazooie, I truly hope that they enjoy the similarly blissful experience I had. From the moment of booting it up on my old N64, I knew I was in for something special when a fun, quirky opening cinematic featuring the titular characters playing their namesake instruments was shown. To me, being left to explore such open worlds and collecting each and every item in the game felt incredibly rewarding, and I even found myself dancing along with Banjo and Kazooie each time they collected a Jiggy. In addition to the great levels and game mechanics, the game just has a great “feel-good” atmosphere to it in general, especially in terms of the soundtrack, which contains some of the most “hummable” music from a video game, a solid example being shown below.
Discovering a new great work in one’s favorite genre of film, literature, or gaming is a very gratifying experience, as is the case with me and Banjo-Kazooie. This game made me feel the same sense of wonder I had as a child when first playing similar titles, and not only do I recommend this game to platforming fans, but I also recommend readers try out new things in general both within and outside their interest ranges.
P.S. You don’t need a Nintendo 64 to play Banjo-Kazooie! It is available as a digital download on Xbox 360 for $14.99, and as part of the “Rare Replay” compilation for Xbox One!