When I first played Banjo Kazooie I was perhaps four or five years old, far too young to understand the story behind the games development, much less that this game was much older than I was already. Prior to this, my father had a Super Nintendo, and a Playstation, and I remember fondly rushing through the games at my disposal, so I suppose 3D wasn’t a new concept to me, yet what was, was the absolutely infinite world at my disposal when I powered up this game each time.
Renting games was a weekly activity for me as a kid, as I imagine it was for many children in the late eighties and early nineties. I can attest that I must have rented this game three months in a row at times, and I never believed I would ever see the end. To this day I haven’t beaten the game, but I’ve come close, and seen the ending through others. At the time, it was the biggest challenge I’d ever known, and the near infinite world that my young eyes saw in that game seemed a great deal bigger than what little of my own world up to that point.
Looking back, it’s still impressive, with nine large and colorful worlds to explore and journey in. This wasn’t like all those games I was used to at this point, this wasn’t go to the end and pass the goal and stay alive, their was a health bar of honeycombs, a collection of music notes and eggs and feathers and all manner of things, each with it’s own distinctive purpose. It was a fairy tale, and I was right there, moving and making the decisions. Thinking back on it is bittersweet, because it impacted me in a way I can never articulate to anyone else.
Right from start up your welcomed by the kindling sounds of nature which rises to a welcoming by a chorus of our main characters, before the story is laid out before us. Our main hero, Banjo the Bear, is cast with rescuing his sister Trudy from the evil witch Gruntilda. Uncomplicated as it may sound, Gruntilda’s lair is large enough to serve as an over world to the nine other worlds ahead of you. Moving from quite and easier places like the lush Mumbo’s Mountain and the sandy beaches of Treasure Trove Cove, you’ll find yourself plunged into levels such as Rusty Bucket Bay and Click Clock Wood, which still to this day have hindered me from moving any further.
The game manages to walk the ling, almost seamlessly at times, between a collect-a-thon, platformer, puzzler, and action adventure game, with many objectives having you talk to various NPC’s throughout the level’s and figure out what to do on your own. At a young age this game instilled problem solving into me, and the genre jumping style which would become more prevalent in the gaming community.
Rare’s efforts to repackage and collectively reface their earlier Project Dream game was clearly a move which paid off in spades. The creation of Banjo Kazooie not only created one of the greatest Nintendo 64 games ever made, but it lead to a sequel which many hold in even higher regard. The game also received a Gameboy Advanced title which received mixed reviews. Currently Rare still holds Banjo Kazooie as a franchise it is proud of, and rightly so. For sentimental value alone I would give it the highest score possible, but I could never give this game a rating. It’s simply something that had not only a profound impact on me as a child, but which continued to sprinkle itself into my life as I continued to grow.
In closing, I’d recommend this to anyone whose been unfortunate enough to have never heard of it. The younger you are, the better it will be, but there’s a level of bouncy, whimsical charm that almost anyone with a gaming hobby could enjoy. Regardless of what genre you look for, there’s something in this worlds that will satisfy.
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