Photo Courtesy: Smashpedia
If there is a retro-game that has a strong Nostalgia factor and lots of fun to remember, then it’s the Banjo-Kazooie. Retrogamers’’ all-time favorite. I would pay anything to see this game hitting the consoles again. It was just a classic game on its level.
The gaming world is changing drastically. The old consoles are fizzling out, making way for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. But still, the rate of release of games has drastically reduced.
Is this the end of game consoles? It seems the online gaming is taking over!
In the year 2020, there were very few big names released, apart from some indie games like Kentucky Route Zero’s final act. This week I decided to go back to the late ‘90s, to a game that meant everything to me back then: Banjo-Kazooie.
Today we will visit this old classic game that consumed our life back in the late ’90s to mid-2000s. When I was a kid, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie were my favorite weekend pastime. Surprisingly, the game is still entertaining over 20 years down the line.
Right from the uniquely entertaining Banjo-Kazooie intro.
And to the Banjo-Kazooie Theme song
The combination of the theme song and the intro just gives me goosebumps even before I start playing the game.
Let us dust our Nintendo 64 and embark on a 20-year-old journey back in time. The video game world has evolved. The feeling you get playing the game is still ecstatic, but the gameplay, graphics, and the technology behind it have dramatically improved.
Understanding the Background history of Banjo-KazooieRare was a gaming industry’s force to recon with back in the 1990s with a full repertoire of classics such as Battletoad, Killer Instincts, and Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, including the trendsetter of the gaming industry GoldenEye 007, and Donkey Kong 64. The list can go on and on; there were loads of fun games back in the days.
If you happened to have a Nintendo 64 back in the days, you had one Rare cartridge in your archives. One of the most memorable titles from Rare at the time was Banjo-Kazooie, that debut in June 1998 after prolonged delays. The game was well received and highly praised back in the days. It was considered the greatest game ever made at the time.
Two years later, Rare launched a widely awaited Banjo-Tooie series, which added loads of new features, including a competitive multiplayer and the ability to divide the character title and play individually. Just like Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie was received well by its fans.
The gaming hardware has seen great changes since the 64-bit processor was invented. A PS4 is 7,997 megabytes more RAM than the N64, mostly because there have been almost two decades of development in technology between the two consoles.
Nevertheless, Banjo-Kazooie’s sound and feelings are entirely timeless. The stylized architecture of the game world itself is different from everything the AAA game industry does today. The effect of Rare’s signature is everywhere, from the fact that everything is tall, from water buckets to tombstones, to the grunts and movements of the characters through the hilarious dialogue.
The writing is smart and frequently breaks down the fourth wall – almost to the level of utter discomfort – by continuously cracking jokes at the player’s expense.
With every interaction that seems to establish the overall feel of the strange world you are discovering, every character feels unique and considered. From Banjo and Kazooie's magic friends, Mumbo and Wumba and your game guide Bottles and his brother Jamjars to Gruntilda and Blobbelda, the detestable witch antagonist, all characters are unforgettable, humorous and add something special to the entire experience.
Although many independent games like Night in the Woods have a vivid selection of characters as unforgettable as those in Banjo-Kazooie, in recent years, not many big-name games with the same enthusiasm and imagination were made.
The Banjo-Kazooie game World
The Banjo Kazooie world is exciting, and each level is subject to a different motive. You will discover pirate bays, rivers, sewers, dank swamps, snow-covered mountain tops, ghost cities, Mesoamerican temples, deserts, ancient landscapes, carnival, and much more as you play through the games.
Whenever you hop to a new level, something unforeseen will happen that generates an authentic sense of wonder as you explore the globe.
Modern games have complicated maps and extraordinary set pieces that create a fluid, realistic, and dynamic world, and they also feel the same when you play. In Banjo-Kazooie, you may go from desert to tundra, but there is no shift in the mechanics. Banjo-Kazooie’s genuinely funky maps don’t just sound like skin from the place you were, but rather show its unicity and offer an impression that you will remember forever after playing.
Although some levels are more unified than others, especially when you compare Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, they all seem distinctive and memorable. Rare did a great job working on the mechanics back in the days to give the gamers a sense of control of the game up to a point.
The mechanisms and controls have also astonishingly aged well. The first trip into 3D gaming in the world can end up with mixed results; it is hard to imagine when controls of the Super Mario 64 will no longer be flawless; imagine the nostalgia in that.
‘90s nostalgia usually hits me hard when I imagine how swift I used to control Banjo-Kazooie. The movement felt quick and accurate, Banjo’s leaps are clear and easy to pull off, and Kazooie’s Talon Trot provides a handy sprint. This helps you to feel amazingly fulfilled by the tightness and responsiveness of the controls at times.
The camera was a little confusing, especially in the first game, because it turns in unique segments with the C button of the N64. Fortunately, in the second title, camera controls were greatly improved.
Of the entire control system, the camera was the only thing that I constantly had problems with.
The Amazingly simple Banjo-Kazooie gameplay.
There are many levels of Mumbo or Wumba, who can both perform magic by transforming Banjo and Kazooie into various shapes. It can be as solid as a T-Rex, or as strange as a washing machine or as mysterious as a real van. Each type changes the gameplay and provides access to several challenges to earn more Jiggies. All is gamified in Banjo-Kazooie.
You wouldn’t just press “f” to honor a coffin; there will be a timed mini-game to build the coffin first and then tap “A” as quickly as possible to pay your respects whether it is kickball, a UFO flying, a game show flying through magic rings, or a temple battle using Kazooie as an armed gun, the doom style, all turns into a mini-game.
Even the literal unlock of levels was played out in Banjo-Tooie, as a timed puzzle must be completed to open up the next level. Some work well, creating a fun and challenging mini-game that helps break the monotony of collecting endless notes. Some of them just seem to frustrate you and make you try a different jiggy.
The nostalgia factor of Banjo-Kazooie
Banjo-Kazooie has a powerful nostalgia factor. It did nothing different from other games, but it did it all perfectly. Unlike other games, it was fun to play a game without knowing the rules or the strategy; that was the joy of the game.
Banjo-Kazooie’s nostalgia is extreme and instant. The entire game was so perfectly blended. The way that all the characters spoke in a Pokémon-like repetition of one or two syllables seemed to offer the broader depth of their characteristics.
Banjo’s hi-yuk elevated him from a pile of jagged polygons shaped into something like a bear in a well-meaning but not well-educated doofus, with a golden hear, if you squat. The screaming of Kazooie makes her a grumpy, acid-tongued sidekick who can’t hide her adventure love.
Playing Banjo-Kazooie makes you feel like you have met the characters and become friends. The dialog breaks down as the screen text makes the game feel epic, strangely timeless. I found it exhilarating when Gruntilda spoke only in rhyming couplets that made her seem Shakespeare to me back in the days.
The Banjo-Kazooie Video Game Characters
Gruntilda Winkybunion (a.k.a Grunty) is one of the main characters in Banjo-Kazooie. She is an evil witch with magical spells that can do anything, including death. She also loves rhyming, which somehow bothers Grunty’s three sisters.
Grunty even keeps her spells in a book called Cheato, who doesn’t like the plans of Grunty to become beautiful. In the game, Grunty kidnaps Banjo’s sister Tooty and plans to steal her beauty to be the finest woman in Spiral Mountain. Two months after Grunty’s Revenge, she lives in a Mecha-Grunty robotic shape and plots to prevent Banjo and Kazooie from the meeting.
Two years later, her sister Mingella and Blobbelda joined her in Banjo-Tooie to return her former body to Grunty.
Mumbo Jumbo (aka Mumbo) is a skull-faced shaman who appears in each game in the Banjo-Kazooie series; Mumbo is related to the Witchdoctor. Mumbo typically likes to support people and has a powerful loyalty streak. He has never stopped being a friend of Banjo’s because he is a permanent rival of Humba Wumba.
Humba and Mumbo seem to disgust each other, as they kick you out when you go to her Wigwam as Mumbo. English does not seem to be the first language of Mumbo Jumbo; he always talks in the third person and does not always refer to people by name. For example, Banjo and Kazooie are sometimes referred to as “bear” and “bird” respectively.
Kazooie is a red-crested breegull that lives most of the time in the backpack of her pal Banjo, poking her head just to beat other people with jabbing and insults. She occasionally leaves the backpack, but her friendship with Banjo always lead her back.
Like Banjo’s, Kazooie’s name is based on a musical instrument: kazoo.
Coincidentally, Kazooie is also an experienced Kazoo player, but the only time she has ever been seen playing her kazoo was when she was at Banjo-Kazooie. Oddly enough, Kazooie’s kazoo doesn’t look like a kazoo; it is more of a bugle than a kazoo.
Banjo is a brown honey bear designed by Rareware. He is a leading character in Banjo-Kazooie. He is blue-eyed and features a beige belly. He has a couple of yellow shorts, a black belt, a necklace of shark tooth, and a blue backpack.
Banjo can’t move fast, and his jumping also needs some support from the birds. When Kazooie leaves his pack, Banjo can use it in many ways, including the improvisation of a sleeping bag or potato sack, not to mention his sole offensive arm.
The backpack also appears to have unlimited storage space, which easily holds most objects. Banjo is an outstanding swimmer, and he has learned to paddle more easily and keep his breath longer. In comparison to Kazzoie, Banjo can climb structures and grab ledges with his fingers to make the adventure of the duo challenging to achieve.
When Banjo is paired with Kazooie, he has much more abilities. The duo can perform forward roll when fighting enemies; Kazooie can use Banjo to perform the Rat-a-tat rap, use flight pads, and use the capability of Kazooie to shot various kinds of eggs.
Image courtesy: fandom
Tooty is Banjo’s youngest sister, whose piccolo is the favorite instrument. She has played a significant not only in Banjo-Kazooie but also in Banjo-Tooie and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. There were speculations that she would appear alongside Brentilda, Quarrie, and Colliwobble, but later this turned out to be hearsay.
Tooty is a young, spunky, and outgoing girl who loves adventure as much as Kazooie does and looks at Banjo (the older brother of Tooty). Still, often she will wander away to enjoy the sun while Banjo is taking a nap as seen when Banjo-Kazooie starts.
While adventurous, Tooty still seems to be a little shy as she can easily be frozen when Gruntilda swoops down to take her. This may be done in the family; Banjo is also described as being not very smart.
Like Banjo and Kazooie, Tooty is also musically talented when she is seen to play piccolo in Banjo-Kazooie and again when Dingpot and Gruntilda watch her from the castle. When Tooty turns ugly, her voice turns into a raspy groan, and she gets mad at Banjo for not stopping Gruntilda.
Cheato is the magic spell book of Gruntilda. It is found in Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie. He is responsible for supplying Banjo, and Kazzoie cheat codes in the first two games, gain Gruntilda, and unlock Banjo’s additional features in Banjo-Pilot.
Cheato gives you three cheat codes in Banjo-Kazooie: Blue Eggs, Gold Feathers, and Red Feathers. He’ll offer them to Banjo and Kazooie if they can find him hidden in Gruntilda’s Lair. Cheats can be activated only when Cheato is found.
Jinjo are tiny creatures found in the Banjo-Kazooie series in every game. These bipedal bear-like teddy breaks come in a range of colors and are smarter than their looks. It is never clarified in dept, but Jinjos seems to have some supernatural abilities, which involves a flight.
Jinjo also seems to be capable of breathing underwater and surviving in harsh conditions, since many Jinjos are found underwater or in dangerous environments.
It was revealed at Banjo-Tooie that Jinjos live in a small village and are ruled by King Jingling, a very huge, much larger yellow jinjo of the size of the usual Jinjo. There are also evil versions of Jinjos, also know as Minjos, who dress up as Jinjos and attack Banjo in his effort to collect them.
In Banjo-Kazooie, the five Jinjos, blue, green, orange, yellow, and purple Jinjo, were concealed by Gruntilda all over the world (as a punishment for their rebellion to her). When all five Jinjos have been saved, the player is rewarded with one of the ten Jiggies of the planet. Like musical notes, Jinjos’ locations are reset once Banjo leaves the world, which means that if he misses them all first, he must go back and collect them all again.
Even, after all, jinjos reappears in a world and gives Banjo and Kazooie an Extra Life rather than another Jiggy if they are collected again. They remain contained in the XBLA version, like the notes.
In the Banjo-Kazooie series, Bottles is a recurring character. He is a short-sighted mole that teaches Banjo and Kazooie skills around the Banjo-Kazooie. He is also Jamjars’ brother.
Bottles is a gentle, meek, intelligent mole. In general, the bottles can not be agitated, as seen when the player talks to him constantly at Banjo-Kazooie’s first molehill. Bottles is also not scared of tossing back banter when it comes to badmouthing of Kazooie.
At Banjo-Tooie, Bottles is seen to be somewhat unaware of his world as he is the only one who ends up in the mortal spell of the witch.
ConclusionAmong the games that deserve a revival and adoption in the new consoles, I would vote for Banjo-Kazooie and its affiliates Banjo-Tooie and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. These games made my day back in the late ‘90s to mid-2000s.
Yes, it had its fair share of issues and quality concerns, but still, Banjo-Kazooie brilliance shines 20 years later. Things have changed in the gaming industry, but the plot behind Banjo-Kazooie is timeless.
Banjo Kazooie had a special feeling that everyone would wish for. It was widely enjoyable, rude, and charming at the same time. It offered an experience that everybody wanted irrespective of age.