The Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Possible Birthday/Decemberween season is upon us once again. As all you gamers are desperately awaiting that joyous day when you toss wrapping paper everywhere and get a shiny new silicon disc/cartridge, the waiting can make you feel miserable. Young people like me find themselves praying for Skyward Sword, or perhaps Skyrim or Modern Warfare 3, if that’s your sort of game. As the clock ticks away and the Advent Calendars are filled with less and less chocolate, it might be a good idea to use this waiting time to take a look back at some classic games everyone should know and love: in this case, Banjo-Kazooie.
Banjo-Kazooie (for Nintendo 64 and Xbox Live Arcade) developed by Rareware (back when it wasn’t known as “Rare”) is a game that pretty much made my childhood what it was. With fun gameplay, creative worlds, ubiquitous humor, and amazing music (thank you, Grant Kirkhope) it was one of the best games that N64 had to offer.
Banjo-Kazooie starts quite peacefully. The pleasant hills of Spiral Mountain oversee farmland, lakes, a waterfall, hostile vegetables, and… an evil witch’s lair. Inside this fortress of evil, the despicable Gruntilda is gazing into her magic cauldron, asking it who the fairest of them all is. Just so he won’t anger his boss, the cauldron is sure to tell Grunty that she is. But wait a minute, who’s that? The great all-seeing cauldron spies Banjo the bear’s little sister Tooty. This girl must be the fairest of them all! Well, hearing that doesn’t make the witch very happy. She hops on her broomstick and zooms off to kidnap the girl! Hearing this ruckus causes Kazooie the Red-Crested Breegul (who lives in Banjo’s backpack) to wake up and alert Banjo. After they go outside and Bottles the Mole tells them what happened, they go on a quest into Gruntilda’s Lair to rescue the girl!
Inside of Gruntilda’s Lair, there are many gateways to other worlds, each with their own particular theme and cast of wacky characters. There’s Treasure Trove Cove, a tropical beach world, with vast amounts of treasure and hostile crabs. There’s Gobi’s Valley, an Egypt-ish desert with talking sphinxes, camels, mummified hands, and trees, not to mention quicksand. And then there’s Rusty Bucket Bay, which is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever endured. Polluted waters that consume extra air while you’re underwater, Evil life preservers that jump off the boat and attack you, and some of the hardest missions in the game. Hidden in each level are five “Jinjos,” mysterious creatures that resemble a kangaroo-lizard hybrid. If you find all of them in each level, they reward you with… well, you’ll see in the next paragraph.
Now you may ask yourself: “Self, what could this ragtag pair possibly be trying to find in these weird worlds?” Good question, noble reader. The answer is Jigsaw Pieces. GOLDEN Jigsaw Pieces. Scattered throughout the witch’s home are puzzles with pictures of worlds. By putting the Jigsaw Pieces in these puzzles, one could gain access to these worlds. And in each world, who’s waiting for you? Bottles the mole, that’s who. If you find him, he’ll teach you cool new moves, like the Beak Buster. Essentially, Banjo and Kazooie leap into the air, then slam down onto the ground, smashing whatever’s below them using Kazooie’s beak. There’s also the Shock Jump, where Kazooie gains the power to jump to insane heights. Bottles also teaches Kazooie to shoot eggs out of her mouth like a cannon, and even fly into the air.
Another prominent feature is Mumbo Jumbo the shaman. Give him enough silver Mumbo Tokens and he’ll gladly transform you into… something. The transformations include a termite, a crocodile, a walrus, a pumpkin, and a bee. Kind of weird, I know, but essential for completing the quest.
After navigating the lair, you close in on the witch. Oddly enough, Gruntilda has set up a board game-like quiz show in a lava filled room, called “Grunty’s Furnace Fun.” It’s insanely hard, but very fun. There are questions about the game, the characters, the worlds, and physical challenges involving some of the tasks from the game. Some questions are actually about Grunty’s personal life and are total guesswork if you don’t find hints from Grunty’s sister Brentilda. After winning the challenge, Grunty flees. You’re free to pick your prize for winning the game! Let’s see, there’s a stuffed animal, a washing machine and Tooty. Kazooie wants that washer, but Tooty’s the whole reason we started this quest. You’re almost ready to party when you realize that the witch is still at the top of the tower! You follow her up there and eventually bash her off her broomstick. Suddenly, the great and powerful Jinjo god, the Jinjonator, helps deliver the final blow. Grunty is tossed off the tower and slammed into a Grunty-shaped hole in the earth. If that wasn’t bad enough for the witch, she’s then trapped under a huge boulder. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!
Overall, in my opinion, this game is utterly spectacular. After much debate, the Game Hunter’s top scoreologists (people who study scores) award this game a 9.5 out of 10. Sorry B-K, but I couldn’t give you a perfect ten just because of how infuriatingly hard Rusty Bucket Bay was. Oh well.