Banjo-Kazooie is a platformer series that got lost along the way.  What was once a promising series from 1998-2000 has now become an artifact of gaming history.  Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel, Banjo-Tooie, are considered some of the finest games on the Nintendo 64.  Banjo-Kazooie is one of my personal favorite games of all time, but does it still hold up almost 20 years after release?

Banjo fights one of the few bosses in the game

The gameplay of Banjo-Kazooie is quite simple, but intuitive enough to interest expert gamers.  The goal of the game is to collect golden puzzle pieces, or jiggies.  There are 100 of these in the game, and they’re required to advance in the game.  There are also musical notes, skull tokens, honeycombs to increase your health, and ammunition for various attacks that Kazooie, the bird companion to Banjo the bear, does.  There are various enemies, but not many boss fights in the game.  Though there aren’t many boss fights, the gameplay is still made fun, since with the skull tokens, Banjo can go to Mumbo the Shaman to transform into various animals that help him travel to places he couldn’t reach before.  There are several different characters in the game with unique personalities and funny dialogue.  There’s Gobi the camel, who constantly gets beat up by Banjo and Kazooie so they can receive items, Bottles the mole, who teaches Banjo and Kazooie new moves, only to be rewarded with Kazooie’s insults, and many more.  The level design of the game varies per level, with various landscapes, ranging from the mountains to the beach to the swamp to the desert to a winter wonderland to a oil filled harbor, and more.  One of my main issues with the gameplay is that the collectable notes, essentially the equivalent of Mario’s coins, respawn when you die, and since it’s encouraged that you collect all 100 of them, so if you die with 90 notes it can be very frustrating to have to collect all of them again.  Besides the notes respawning, though, there’s no real issue I have with the gameplay.  Overall the gameplay of Banjo-Kazooie is still great.

Banjo admiring Gobi Valley, one of the later levels in the game

The controls of Banjo-Kazooie work very well.  There are a myriad of moves that you learn in the game, and all of them are simple to use.  There is little to no clunkiness, and the only problem I can think of would be the transformations and how they control, since they’re slow and awkward a lot of the time, but part of me thinks that they’re supposed to be that way, since Banjo has transformed into something he’s not.  The transformations are rarely played as, though, so it’s not much of a problem.  The controls are fine for the most part.

The graphics and music for Banjo-Kazooie were ahead of their time.  The music is great.  I still hum some of the songs to myself, and can name each song in the game just by hearing it.  The graphics are oddly good for the Nintendo 64.  Textures are quite detailed, the levels are beautiful.  The character models look great too, since most of them are animals.  I really have no qualms with the graphics or music.

Banjo about to cross a bridge in the first level

Overall, Banjo-Kazooie is still amazing.  I try to play through the game every year, and I definitely consider it one of my favorites for a reason.  I’ve loved it ever since I first played it when I was 13 years old.  Banjo-Kazooie has aged very well.

Before you go, I’d like to apologize for the length of this article.  It’s shorter than I’d like it to be, and that’s because I’ve been suffering from writer’s block the past few weeks.  I promise my next article will be longer.