Banjo-Kazooie - Nintendo 64

A Bear of a Game

  • Size: 128 Megabit
  • Style: 1-Player Action/Adventure
  • Special Features: The Bear Necessities, The Simple Bear Necessities; 2 Playable "Co-Joined" Characters; 16 Worlds Separated in an Overworld; Mid-Level Bosses; Tons of Objects To Collect; 24 Moves (Including Flying & Swimming); Transform Into a Termite, Walrus, Aligator, Pumpkin, & Bee
  • Created by: Rare, Ltd. for Nintendo
  • Available: June 29 for Nintendo 64




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Since we last updated, Banjo-Kazooie has moved up in the release schedule from July 27 to June 29. This daring release juggle does put it into Nintendo's first half line-up (kind of), and really makes you wonder. Is Nintendo making changes based on things we say? First we ripped on Kobe Bryant being a bench player and Nintendo changed him to a starter in the game. Then, we ripped on Howard Lincoln for saying Banjo was a first-half release that actually fell into the second half. Nintendo has since changed the release date so that it falls into the first half. Strange happenings indeed.

Anyway, we're not here today to predict Nintendo's future. We're hear to talk about Rare's hot new platformer Banjo-Kazooie. Kids be excited. Banjo will blow your socks off. Nintendo was just in town with a nearly complete burn, and we couldn't believe how much this game has changed since last seen. For starters, Rare has incorporated a huge overworld (the Witch's Lair) and has changed the gameplay a tad. When you first start the game you will only have one move available -- the jump. To acquire more moves you will have to go through the pre-game training. Here you can also find six Honey Comb pieces, that when gathered give Banjo and Kazooie another hit point for the rest of the game.

After completing training, you will be thrown into the Witch's Lair. This overworld is massive, and yes, it will take a while to find levels. The overworld also contains many secrets like Spell Books, Cauldron Warps, and even valuable Puzzle Pieces.

As for the game, even after the third level you will not have all of the moves. Most of the levels grant our forest friends a new move or two, but of course you will need to find Bottles, the training mole, before you can use them.

The last time we played the game we said that it didn't have too much platforming. This statement holds true for the first few levels, but soon evaporates into tricky jumps and perils in the later levels. Banjo-Kazooie has just as much platforming as Mario and even more exploration.

This is a tight game in graphics, sound, and playability, but we still cannot get over the fact that there is no level exit. To leave a level you must pause and exit to the Witch's Lair. In a way this is nice because it allows you to find everything on a level without having to enter again, but the pause technique just doesn't seem like Rare's style. Of course, everything else in the game like the character designs and environments fit Rare's massive universe perfectly, and thankfully, we haven't seen that pesky squirrel Conker yet. We have nothing against him, it's just that we don't like games that blatantly advertise another upcoming release by a company.

Okay, let's get down to the good stuff -- comparing Banjo-Kazooie to Mario. Sure, we joked the whole time we played about this being Mario 1.5, but let's just leave it at that -- a joke. Banjo-Kazooie does follow in Mario's footsteps, but leaps above the plumber in the size of the game and in detail. Mario didn't have too many textures, but Banjo-Kazooie does, and they are beautiful. Not too mention the effects. When Banjo walks through shallow water or doggie paddles in deep water, an onslaught of effects attack your eyes. Each footstep makes a ripple in the water, which is cool by itself. But Rare also added drops of water that fling off Banjo's feet as he continues to walk. These drops create new ripples, and well, you can guess what we're about to say. It looks absolutely fantastic!

Here's something rather odd, and it comes in the sound found throughout the entire game. First off the bad. When Banjo jumps he sounds just like Mario, but when he talks or laughs he sounds like Yogi. So, if Rare is reading this then will you please make up your mind. Is Banjo a bear like Yogi or Mario in a bear costume? We have no beef with the music though. All of the songs fit the levels and are actually quite catchy. Some are comparable to tunes in Mario, but are for the most part completely new jingles that will willingly crawl and jam themselves in your head.

Now onto the gameplay. Yes it plays like Mario and the camera works in the same way as Mario, but really, are we going to complain about another Mario-like game? Heck no! Banjo-Kazooie takes what was cool in Mario and stretches it to the limit. The only thing in the game that is not much better in Banjo is the camera. Sometimes it's really hard to find the perfect view, and at other times the game won't let you change the perspective. It's not a never ending struggle to keep the thing in place, but it does get annoying sometimes.

All right we've already gotten a little long winded, yet we still feel we have much to say. But hey! That's the beauty of the web. We can update at any time. Stay tuned and we'll have more on how to unlock the secrets, character morphing, and maybe a few more Mario comparisons or two.


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Howard Lincoln himself said that Banjo-Kazooie was one of the sure-fire hits in Nintendo's first-half line-up. We beg to differ. With a release date of July 27, Banjo-Kazooie is not a first-half game, but rather a second-half release. But we do see eye-to-eye on the sure-fire hit statement. From the look, to the play, Banjo-Kazooie is a massive game that pits gamers not only against a slew of hideous villains, but also against some unique gameplay surprises.

From its debut at E3, everyone had two things to say about Rare's bear game: (1) it looks amazing, (2) it plays just like Mario 64. Both of these remarks are true. Banjo-Kazooie is very much like Mario 64, but its emphasis is less on the platforming and more on exploration.

On each level, Banjo and the bird must find 100 Music Notes, 5 birds, 10 Jigsaw Pieces, and several Mumbo Tokens and Honey Combs. Believe us, with the size of each level, completing this task (while having to complete several other side-quests) will take some time. We spent well over an hour on level 1 alone. But it isn't so bad. The levels are all extremely beautiful with tons of textures, amazing enemy animations, and great secrets around almost every corner.

We talked about the co-joined gameplay and how all of the moves between the two characters work, but now it's been fine tuned. Banjo and that bird have some seriously unique techniques under their belt for flying, swimming, and just about everything else. As you know, the bird is best at flying, and surprisingly enough, he is also great at swimming. Banjo has more control in the water, but Kazooie can seriously get around. With his 2 ft. wingspan, Kazooie can whip through the water like no one else. Other notable moves include the super jump. The technique involved is just like Super Mario 2. You'll need to hit the duck button, then quickly press jump. The great thing is, both characters help in this jump: Kazooie spreads out his wings to add a glide, and Banjo uses his legs to give you a massive boost into the air.

We only played five levels (since that's all that Nintendo wanted us to see), but what we saw was great. The level objectives range from fighting a big ape to retrieving gold for a power-hungry pirate. This game pushes adventure, and combines a few key elements of action/platforming as well. However, we never died from falling off of a ledge. You can't. There are no hazards such as this in the game. Not yet at least.

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