Banjo-Kazooie is a platform and action-adventure hybrid video game developed by Rare and published by Nintendo in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. The game is the inaugural release in the Banjo-Kazooie series. The game's story focuses on a bear named Banjo and a bird named Kazooie as they set out on a quest to rescue Banjo's sister, Tooty, who has been kidnapped by the evil witch Gruntilda. Banjo-Kazooie went on to become one of the most popular games for the console.
The game received a significant amount of hype partly due to being marketed as the game that would be to the N64 what Donkey Kong Country was to the SNES in terms of an advancement in graphics. It was originally supposed to be released as Nintendo of America's big holiday game for 1997 with a Taco Bell toy promotion lined up, but Rare needed to delay it several months. Diddy Kong Racing took its place and features Banjo as a playable character.
Like Super Mario 64 before it, the player proceeds through the game by finding tokens. There are three kinds of tokens that help the player progress through the game, namely jigsaw pieces, musical notes, and Mumbo's tokens. Jigsaw pieces open doors to new worlds by collecting enough to complete the corresponding jigsaw puzzle. There are ten Jiggies (as they are sometimes called) in each world: nine must be sought and found, and one is granted by finding all five Jinjos on each world. (Unlike Super Mario 64's stars, though, the player doesn't have to exit the world every time he collects a Jiggy.) Musical notes open magic note doors that allow Banjo and Kazooie to progress further into Gruntilda's lair. There are 100 notes in each world, and 900 total in the game. Mumbo's tokens grant the player magical transformations at Mumbo's hut when the player collects a sufficient amount. These transformations include termite, crocodile, walrus, pumpkin and bee.
Besides these primary tokens, players may also collect items which are used in performing certain moves. Bottles the Mole must teach Banjo and Kazooie the move before the item can be utilized. Items include blue eggs, red feathers, and gold feathers, which can be held in quantities up to 100, 50 and 10, respectively. Blue eggs are fired as projectiles or ejected from Kazooie's rear, and bounce slowly until they either hit an enemy, or break on their own; red feathers are utilized in flight and flying attacks; and gold feathers are for the most powerful attack, Wonderwing, which uses Kazooie's wings to make her and Banjo invincible and can kill most any enemy, or at least protect the bear and bird. Furthermore, rarer temporary items can be found which have specialized use in puzzle-solving, namely wading boots, which enable the crossing of hazardous terrain, and turbo trainers, which grant extra running speed, often as part of a race or a time-based puzzle. Finally, there are power-ups such as extra lives, which look like golden Banjo statues and grant one extra life each, and honeycomb energy, which incrementally increases the player's health and can be found in each level. Collecting six hollow honeycomb pieces (called extra honeycomb pieces) gives the player a permanent increase of one honeycomb of health.
A large feature of gameplay is that the characters make limited speech-like sounds when they talk. The voices were not real speech, but rather a looping of voice-like sounds when text bubbles were displayed. This artistic choice was likely made due to memory limitations on Nintendo 64 cartridges; however, this added considerably to the atmosphere and uniqueness of the game.
Besides the technical aspects, Banjo-Kazooie's rich characters were what really made the game come alive. Gruntilda the witch always spoke in rhymes (which she would declare inexplicably as Banjo and Kazooie wandered about her lair), such as, "It really does sound quite absurd, adventure of a bear and bird!" Kazooie was always very annoyed at Bottles the Mole, and various other smaller characters made memorable appearances. One notable motif is that nearly all objects, including wrapped presents, mines, and vegetables, had eyes.
Meanwhile, the witch Gruntilda (or "Grunty" for short) is hunched over her cauldron in her mountain lair, admiring her own "beauty"; even though she is the ugliest hag of all, she remains convinced that she is the loveliest in the land. Asking her magical cauldron, Dingpot, if she indeed is the fairest of all, assured that she will hear her own name, Dingpot answers that it is in fact not her, but Tooty who is the fairest in the land. Gruntilda is enraged by this and sets out to Tooty's house to kidnap her and steal her beauty.
Back outside Banjo's house, Tooty is talking to Bottles the mole when Gruntilda sweeps down and kidnaps Tooty, who does not go without a fight. Banjo, of course, sleeps through the whole thing (despite Kazooie continually yelling at Banjo to wake up), and only walks out of the house shortly after Gruntilda has flown away with Tooty. After hearing what transpired from Bottles, Banjo and his friend Kazooie begin their journey up Spiral Mountain and inside Gruntilda's Lair to save Tooty.
Along this journey they venture through different worlds, all branched off of Gruntilda's Lair. Some are cold and rigid, some hot and dry, some wet, some damp, and even some frightening. All the different worlds give the player a different mood on the game, in turn keeps the player in the game. All the while Gruntilda and Tooty wait within a machine built by the witch's main assistant, Klungo, which will swap their levels of beauty.
Towards the top of the lair, Banjo and Kazooie are challenged by Gruntilda to play a board game set over a pit of molten magma, with answers based on elements from the entire game up to this point. If they win the game, then Tooty will be set free; if they lose, they will be thrown into the inferno. The duo win and rescue Tooty while Gruntilda escapes. They begin to celebrate with a barbecue back home until Tooty reminds them that the witch is still at large.
Banjo and Kazooie make their way back up the lair until they finally reach the roof, with help from Dingpot. There Gruntilda challenges them to a more direct confrontation. However, with the help of the Jinjos, small creatures who were imprisoned throughout the worlds by the witch and rescued by the duo, Banjo and Kazooie defeat Gruntilda and ultimately knock her off her tower. She lands in a hole in the ground which is covered by a large rock that fell from the tower, trapping her. Banjo and Kazooie finally take a well-deserved break at the beach, where they and their friends anticipate the sequel, "Banjo-Tooie," while Gruntilda, whose minion Klungo is trying to rescue her, swears revenge.
Metacritic: 92 of 100 (Based on 19 reviews)
Game Rankings: 92% (Based on 13 reviews)