5 out of 5

Written by Dr_Worm on April 19, 2008

A young comedian, Demitri Martin once said that to make a mythical creature, you just take a regular animal and give it wings. A lion becomes a griffon. A horse becomes a pegasus. A hawk becomes a double hawk. And a bear would become Banjo-Kazooie. This platform game for the Nintendo 64 takes Super Mario 64, shoves it into a blender, drinks it, spits it out and says, "You call that a game?" While not as revolutionary as Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie is better in just about every other aspect.

The story is simple. It involves a pretty young bear named Tooty, who was planning on a day of adventuring with her older brother Banjo and his cocky feathered friend Kazooie. Tooty decides to visit at the worst possible time as Gruntilda, an ugly witch, becomes jealous of Tooty's good looks and kidnaps her so she can exchange her ugly mug for a more attractive physique. As both Banjo and Kazooie, you must traverse the witches lair, rescue Tooty, and get revenge on the witch. The characters in the game are easy to like and easy to hate; both because of their easy-to-understand personalities and unique traits. The dialog in Banjo-Kazooie is well-written, but it's not a major part of the game.

If you've played Super Mario 64, you'll find this game has many similarities to the plumber's first leap into the third dimension. Running, jumping, getting collectables, beating baddies, it's all here. But what Mario doesn't have is a plethora of moves you learn progressively through the game. Banjo and Kazooie are a team and require a team effort to reach Gruntilda and you almost forget that you're controlling two characters and not one. Bottles, a friendly, short-sighted mole, can give you many abilities to gain the upper hand, such as shooting eggs, temporary invulnerability, climbing steep slopes, flight, super speed, and then some, all required to reach the top of Grunty's Lair, making Banjo-Kazooie unique in its own way.

There's always something to collect in Banjo-Kazooie. Notes to get to different parts of Grunty's Lair, Jiggies to access different worlds, eggs for ammunition, feathers to stay in the air during flight, golden feathers for invulnerability, unnecessary 1-up trophies, and hollow honeycombs to increase maximum health. Gather enough Mumbo totems and take them to Mumbo Jumbo, the somewhat eccentric witch doctor, to transform Banjo into many different things, such as a termire, a jack-o-lantern, and a bumble bee. And then there are Jinjos, which you have to collect 5 of on every world in order to get a Jiggie. Some people find theses guys adorable. I find them annoying. Quit yelling at me! It's not my fault you got yourself stranded on the side of a freaking mountain.

The levels themselves range from fairly small (Mumbo's Mountain, Clanker's Cavern) to fairly large (Treasure Trove Cove, Bubblegloop Swamp) and each one of them is unique considering that they're mostly the generic lot of levels you'd expect. An example is how you'd expect the beach level to be the one in which you do the most swimming, when it's actually the industrial/cave level. The visuals are amazing... for 10 years ago. But considering that the game came out almost 10 years ago, you have to take yourself back in time (if you can remember that far) to understand the experience.

Banjo-Kazooie isn't entirely unique in terms of gameplay, but it does enough to set itself apart from the crowd. It's a little short for people who are playing it for a second go, but what game isn't, you know? Take Mario 64, throw in some clever dialog, unforgettable characters, eye-pleasing visuals, and gameplay that expands the genre, and you've got one of the best games of 1998. 5 out of 5.