Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie is that rare breed of video game that is so incredibly good that it can get away with repeatedly messing with our expectations, as demonstrated below. THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS TOPIC PAGE.

Just The Facts

  1. The Banjo-Kazooie games on Nintendo 64 are some of the best-selling games of their time, totaling 5.25 million or so in sales.
  2. The series stars a male brown bear named Banjo and a female red-crested breegull named Kazooie.
  3. The perennial (only) villain of the games is the witch Gruntilda Winkybunion, who, over the course of the series, gets trapped under a giant boulder, transfers her soul into a time-traveling robot, becomes skeletonized, and eventually is whittled down to just a talking skull.
  4. Every last thing in these games has a unique voice and strange googly eyes, from toilets to Christmas presents to that one scary fucking shark.
  5. Kazooie is a fucking bitch.

Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie started out as a Super Nintendo game called Dream, which starred a young boy named Edison and his quest to defeat the evil Captain Blackeye. After a little bit of retooling, it turned into the platforming adventure of a bear and bird on a quest to rescue Banjo's sister from the evil witch Gruntilda. We're not entirely sure how this change happened, but given that Rareware is responsible, we suspect it involved a lot of pizza and alcohol.

The larger (why not) of the two main characters is Banjo, a bear with a fondness for backpacks and horrific yellow shorts. For most of the first game, Banjo plays the straight man and pretty much does whatever people ask of him in his quest to save his sister Tooty; by the time the second game rolls around, he is understandably fed up with everyone's shit, and becomes a bit more of a sarcastic bastard. For some reason or another, Banjo ends up with top billing in this series, even though the second game clearly illustrates that without Kazooie, he is more or less completely useless, mostly being used to hold down switches. When your job can effectively be carried out by a large enough rock, you may want to rethink your place in life.

The far more interesting of the two characters is Kazooie, a red-crested breegull with a Ph.D. in Being A Fucking Bitch. Uncouth, ungrateful, and clearly packing some aggression issues, she tends to treat everyone she comes in contact with with a total lack of respect, with such brazen, colorful insults as "Hut Boy"; if you leave the controller idle long enough, she'll even mess with Banjo, who will promptly wring her neck in a hilarious, if not sadistic, exchange. Kazooie ends up doing pretty much anything of interest in this game series, including pecking your eyeballs out, dive-bombing enemies, firing eggs as ammunition, cheating at poker, effortlessly figuring out complex machinery, and rendering herself completely invincible, effectively emasculating Banjo and pretty much everyone else in a two-mile radius.

For some reason, Kazooie spends all her time in Banjo's backpack even when the two aren't out adventuring; additionally, if you try to leave her behind in a given world, she'll start to complain about how she doesn't want to be left alone. It seem that under her tough exterior, Kazooie is harboring a powerful and crippling co-dependency syndrome, leading her to gratefully and eagerly risk life and limb to help her one true friend save his sister from the clutches of evil. Goddamn, we just depressed ourselves with that one.

The most helpful compatriot is Bottles, a short-sighted mole who seems to have a creepy obsession with just how agile and flexible and male bear and a female bird get when they are together, seeing as he teaches you every last one of your moves. He and Kazooie often trade insults, and Kazooie, a confessed bitch, inevitably comes out on top with masterful slanders like "Goggle Boy" or "Jam Jars". After that, you have the shaman Mumbo Jumbo, who will turn you into a number of things ranging from potentially awesome (a tiny-ass crocodile) to borderline retarded (a hopping Jack-O'-Lantern). According to the instruction manual, Mumbo Jumbo was made nice and ugly by Gruntilda for some reason or another, maybe she was pissed that all she can do is ride on her broomstick and throw the occasional Hadouken. He was to become handsome again upon Gruntilda's defeat, a premise that Rareware quickly ditched upon realizing it was really fucking stupid.

As shown on the cover of the game, you collect a shitton of stuff here. The most important of these things are Jiggies, which are magical jigsaw pieces. These things can help you unlock new worlds by... filling in paintings of the worlds? ...okay, sure, we'll buy that. Also scattered around each worlds are musical notes, which... break down doors in the overworld that are... controlled by music? You'll also be collecting eggs, statues, skulls, whatever the fuck Jinjos are and you know what you get the idea. Let's move on.

As you progress through this labyrinthian, arbitrarily-obstructed overworld (who exactly puts narrow rock bridges suspended over lava in their homes, besides Bruce Lee?), you'll encounter the following highlights from the game:

The Music: Is fucking awesome. It will get stuck in your head and you will not care because you'll be too busy bobbing your head to the tune of Treasure Trove Cove. We're listening to it right now.

Everything Has Eyes: Throughout the course of your adventure, you will be assisted by a talking absolutely fucking everything. Trees, boxes, lightbulbs, worms, statues, feathers and more have all been given creepy googily eyes and a unique voice consisting of a series of repeated noises.

This Fucking Shark: This is Snacker the shark, and he will ruin your shit. As soon as you hop into the waters of Treasure Trove Cove, the music from Jaws will start playing, and he will slowly and surely close in on you to take a nice big bite out of your furry ass. For a ten-year-old gamer this is one of the scariest things ever.

Mr. Vile: Fuck Mr. Vile and his fucking challenge. You need to race him in eating these weird Grumbly things, and he's fast as hell. The running shoes makes this easier, but this challenge just isn't any fun.

The Final Battle: The final confrontation with Gruntilda the witch is one of the best ever. The music is excellent, there's a sense of urgency and constant danger, and you get to FUCKING DOGFIGHT. Plus the Jinjos finally grow a pair and become total badasses.

So Why Is This Disappointing?

Two and a half words: Stop N' Swop. At the very end of the game, if you suffered through the trials of Mr. Vile and collected all 100 Jiggies in the game, Mumbo Jumbo showed off a number of items locked away deep within the game. These items were supposedly unlocked by somehow combining Banjo-Kazooie with its upcoming sequel, Banjo-Tooie, using a little-known feature of the Nintendo 64 that would allow data to be stored for a small amount of time after a game is shut off; gamers would head to a certain menu, turn the game off, quickly switch the two games, and voila. This was, to young Topic-Page-editing gamers, ridiculously appealing, and the long wait for the sequel began.

The problem? When we say this was a little-known feature, we mean that absolutely nobody but Rareware gave a shit about it. In the middle of Banjo-Tooie's development, Nintendo decided fuck those guys, and made some changes to the console to make it affordable. One of these changes was that the held data would no longer be there for ten seconds, but for all of one, so unless you're Agent Smith, you're not going to be doing any game-swapping trickery anytime soon. This effectively ended any plans for Stop N' Swop in the next game, though if you download Banjo-Kazooie for Xbox Live Arcade, this functionality is re-instated. The rewards are, unfortunately, highly anticlimactic, as we will see shortly.

Banjo-Tooie

Despite the lack of Stop N' Swop, Banjo-Tooie is still Banjo-Kazooie on steroids and awesome. It takes everything that was awesome about the original game and adds stuff like:

  • Significant self-deprecating, fourth-wall-breaking humor
  • People actually dying/becoming zombies
  • Girls with some serious racks
  • Reanimated witch skeletons
  • Turning into an enormous goddamned T-Rex
  • Giant floating cheese wedges
  • The fucking Breegull Bash

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge

Banjo-Pilot

What the fuck is this doing in here. We're not even going to look at this one, much less write about it.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts