North American Nintendo 64 cover art
4J Studios (Xbox Live Arcade)
Microsoft Game Studios (Xbox Live Arcade)
|Release date(s)||Nintendo 64
Banjo-Kazooie is a platform video game developed and published by Rare for the Nintendo 64 video game console. It was first released on June 29, 1998 in North America and on July 17, 1998 in Europe, and later re-released as an Xbox Live Arcade game for the Xbox 360 on December 3, 2008. Banjo-Kazooie is the first installment in the Banjo-Kazooie series, and chronicles the titular characters' encounter with series antagonist Gruntilda. The game's story focuses on Banjo and Kazooie's efforts to stop Gruntilda's plans to switch her beauty with Banjo's sister Tooty. The game features nine open levels where the player must complete a number of challenges like solving puzzles, jumping over obstacles, gathering objects, and defeating opponents.
Banjo-Kazooie was under development for more than two and a half years and was originally intended to be an adventure game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The game was a critical and commercial success, selling nearly two million copies in the United States and receiving aggregated scores of 92 out of 100 and 92.38% from Metacritic and GameRankings respectively. The game was praised for its detailed graphics, immersive sound, and intricate level design. In 1999, it received two awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences: Console Action Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics. The critical and commercial success of Banjo-Kazooie led to the release of a sequel, Banjo-Tooie, which was also developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64.
Banjo-Kazooie is a single-player platform game in which the player controls the protagonists Banjo and Kazooie. The game is split into nine open levels where the player must gather musical notes and jigsaw pieces, or "Jiggies", in order to progress. Players transit from one level to another through Gruntilda's lair, which acts as the game's central overworld. Jiggies allow the player to complete jigsaw puzzles which open doors to new levels, while musical notes grant players access to new inner sections of the overworld. Like Super Mario 64, the gameplay is designed in a way that is very nonlinear, since players are not forced to collect all the Jiggies and all the musical notes of one particular level to proceed through the next one. It is also possible to skip certain levels as long as the player has enough of these items to reach a farther one.
Each level is composed of a number of challenges that include solving puzzles, jumping over obstacles, gathering objects, and defeating opponents. The game also features some elements of action-adventure games. Players often have to speak with NPCs and then figure out a way to help them. It is also possible to increase Banjo and Kazooie's energy bar by collecting extra honeycombs that are hidden throughout the levels. Banjo and Kazooie can perform a wide range of abilities, such as jumping, climbing, swimming, flying, and rolling into enemies. Most of these moves are learned by finding Bottles, a friendly mole, inside the worlds. Some moves require specific items so that they can be executed; for instance, red feathers are used for Banjo and Kazooie to fly, while gold feathers shield them from all damages. Some items also allow the character to gain temporary abilities in a particular moment; for instance, the turbo trainers provide a speed burst to reach a certain destination on time.
Banjo and Kazooie are occasionally aided by their friend Mumbo Jumbo, a shaman who can use magical powers to transform them into several creatures, including a termite, a pumpkin, a bee, a walrus, and a crocodile. These transformations have their own special features and allow the player to access areas that were previously inaccessible; for instance, the walrus can resist the effects of icy-cold water. Mumbo Tokens that are scattered throughout the game allow the transformation process. The game also includes cheats that the player can unlock by collecting spellbooks from Gruntilda's book, Cheato.
Set in Spiral Mountain, Banjo-Kazooie follows the story of Banjo, a male brown honey bear, and Kazooie, a red female bird who is always kept in Banjo's backpack. The game begins when a foul-tempered witch named Gruntilda learns from her cauldron that Tooty, Banjo's younger sister, is the most beautiful girl of all, making Gruntilda extremely jealous. In retaliation, Gruntilda creates a machine which can transfer a person's level of beauty to another, which she intends to use with Tooty. She then abducts Tooty from Banjo's house while he is sleeping. In response to the kidnapping, Kazooie wakes Banjo up and the two set out to rescue her.
Banjo and Kazooie learn from their friend, Bottles the mole, that Tooty was captured by Gruntilda and suggests they need some training to collect musical notes and jigsaw pieces to progress through Gruntilda's lair. By the time most of the musical notes and jigsaw pieces are gathered, Banjo and Kazooie face Gruntilda in a trivia game show named "Grunty's Furnace Fun". The game presents questions and challenges related to certain aspects of the game. After going through several game boards, the two win the game and Gruntilda flees. Reunited with Tooty, Banjo and Kazooie return home and celebrate their victory with their friends and a barbecue. However, Tooty reminds everyone that Gruntilda has fled and tells Banjo and Kazooie to defeat her.
The duo returns to Gruntilda's lair and use Dingpot to get to the top of the tower, where they confront the witch. Gruntilda attacks Banjo and Kazooie with her broomstick and energy blasts, but they summon four Jinjos, who are friendly creatures, and destroy Gruntilda's broom. Banjo and Kazooie then summon a giant Jinjo called the Jinjonator to send Gruntilda falling to her demise. Returning to their home, Banjo and Kazooie go on vacation at a beach with their friends and celebrate their victory. The game ends with Gruntilda swearing revenge against Banjo and Kazooie and calling for her henchman Klungo to move the boulder that is covering her.
Banjo-Kazooie was developed by the same team that developed Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest. Development of the game began in late 1995 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System under the project name Dream and used Rare's "ACM" (Advanced Computer Modeling) graphics technology, first used in Donkey Kong Country, to a very advanced level. Dream was originally suggested as an adventure game that starred a boy named Edison, who owned a wooden sword and got into trouble with a group of pirates led by a captain named Blackeye. However, Edison was eventually replaced as Rare felt he was "too generic". The developers first tried with a rabbit and later a bear, who became Banjo.
The development was then transferred to the Nintendo 64. Around the same time, Rare was interested in making a more action-based game that focused totally on Banjo and his abilities. To this end, the team created Kazooie. "We came up with the idea that a pair of wings could appear from [Banjo's] backpack to help him perform a 'double-jump'," Gregg Mayles, director of the game, explained. "We also wanted [him] to be able to run very fast when required... so we added a pair of 'fast-running' legs that appeared from the bottom of the backpack... and soon [...] we came up with the logical conclusion that these could belong to another character, one that actually lived in Banjo's backpack." Instead of actual dialogue, the characters feature "mumbling" voices. This choice was made to convey their personalities without them actually speaking, as Rare believed the actual speech "could ruin the player's perception of the characters."
The game's soundtrack was composed by Grant Kirkhope, who previously wrote half the music for GoldenEye 007. The themes heard in the game were designed to be very interactive, which dynamically change to reflect the player's location. For example, whenever the player submerges in water, the music changes into a harp arrangement of the main world theme for an aquatic ambiance. The music gradually fades from one style to the next without pause, while the overall composition loops continuously. An incomplete soundtrack album of the game was later released in 1998.
Banjo-Kazooie also employed a very advanced technique to render the graphics. The characters were created with minimal amounts of texturing in order to give them a sharp and clean look, while the backgrounds often used very large textures split into 64*64 pieces, which was the largest texture size the Nintendo 64 could render. As a result, this technique caused significant memory fragmentation issues. However, the development team managed to create a proprietary system that could "reshuffle" memory as players played through the game to solve the fragmentation. According to lead programmer Chris Sutherland, "I'd doubt many N64 games of the time did anything like that".
Rare also planned to include an additional game mode as well as more worlds to the game's current content, but time constraints dictated otherwise. In addition, a feature called "Stop 'N' Swop", which would apparently have allowed data to be transferred between both Banjo-Kazooie and its then-future sequel Banjo-Tooie, remains incomplete in the original version of the game. It was later revealed that one of the reasons the feature was never fully implemented was due to technical difficulties in the Nintendo 64 hardware. In June 1997, a working version of the game was shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Banjo-Kazooie was initially scheduled for a release in late 1997, but it was delayed several months. It was eventually released on June 29, 1998 in North America, and July 17, 1998 in Europe.
Banjo-Kazooie was a critical and commercial success, selling more than 1.8 million copies in the United States and more than 405,000 units in Japan. The game has an aggregated score of 92 out of 100 at Metacritic, which is considered "universal acclaim". GamePro described Banjo-Kazooie as a "more complex, more fluid, and more attractive game than its plumber predecessor Super Mario 64. It's sure to have even the staunchest [Nintendo 64] critics raising their eyebrows." Journalist Peer Schneider, writing for IGN, awarded the game a rating of 9.6 out of 10, stating that the game "is the best 3D platformer [he has] ever played, and a more than worthy successor to Super Mario 64".
Reviewers also praised the title for its detailed graphics. Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot wrote: "graphically, Banjo-Kazooie takes it to another level. The game maintains the look and feel of Mario 64, but instead of flat, shaded polygons, BK uses a lot of textures". The game's long draw distance, solid frame rate, and differently themed worlds were highlighted very positively. Critics also praised the game's dynamic soundtrack. Peer Schneider remarked that this feature "lets players know where they are going. This happens all the time and in every level. It's all very Disney-esque." The sound effects received similar praise, with many editors crediting the unique and diverse speech patterns of the characters.
The game was often called a Super Mario 64 clone for its similarity in gameplay. Gerstmann compared it favorably to Mario, saying that "it doesn't stray too far from the formula, but it makes the logical progressions you would expect Nintendo to make." Game Informer observed that, while both games are very similar, Banjo-Kazooie has less emphasis on the platforming and more on exploration. Schneider noted that the worlds in Banjo-Kazooie are "bigger, more detailed and are filled with interactive characters at every corner." Colin Williamson of Allgame stated similar pros, crediting the level design as "simply delightful, loaded with creativity, secrets, and memorable characters." Additionally, the characters interaction and writing were said to be "clever", featuring double-meanings in certain moments. One habitually-criticized aspect of the game was its flawed camera system. Game Revolution remarked it can occasionally be in a bad angle to gauge a jump properly.
In 1999, Banjo-Kazooie received two awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences: Console Action Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics. Similarly, IGN awarded the game Overall Best Graphics of 1998, Best Texture Design of 1998, and Best Music of 1998. In 2000, the game was ranked number seventh on IGN's list of The Top 25 N64 Games of All Time. In 2009, Game Informer ranked the game 71st in their list of the Top 100 Games Of All Time.
Banjo-Kazooie's critical and commercial success led Rare to begin development of a sequel titled Banjo-Tooie, also for the Nintendo 64. Banjo-Tooie was released on November 20, 2000 to very positive reviews, and largely adopts the gameplay mechanics of its predecessor. The characters Banjo and Kazooie proved to be popular and made cameo appearances in subsequent Rare games such as Conker's Bad Fur Day and Grabbed by the Ghoulies. The series continued to be developed with the release of the handheld games Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and Banjo-Pilot for the Game Boy Advance. In 2008, a third main game titled Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts was released for the Xbox 360 to generally favorable reviews. The gameplay of Nuts & Bolts is a departure from the previous games in that, rather than learning new moves in order to continue, the player must instead build vehicles of all shapes and sizes to complete challenges.
An Xbox Live Arcade version of Banjo-Kazooie, developed by 4J Studios, was also released for the Xbox 360 on December 3, 2008. This version runs in a full widescreen mode, includes achievements, and supports the "Stop 'N' Swop" connectivity that was incomplete in the Nintendo 64 game, used now to unlock features in both Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and the then-upcoming Xbox Live Arcade version of Banjo-Tooie. The Xbox Live Arcade version was generally well received by critics, featuring an aggregate score of 77 out of 100 at Metacritic. While some publications such as Eurogamer considered the relatively unchanged game to be outdated, several agreed that the Xbox Live Arcade version is a solid resurrection of a classic. In 2009, IGN ranked it seventh on its list of Top 10 Xbox Live Arcade Games, with editor Cam Shea stating that while the game is "not perfect, it was a landmark title for a reason". The Xbox Live Arcade version of Banjo-Tooie was eventually released in 2009 to a similar reception.
On September 27, 2012, it was announced that a group of former Rare developers are planning a Banjo-Tooie spiritual successor. The group, which includes series composer Grant Kirkhope and artist Steven Hurst, have set up a new Twitter account to gauge support. The platforming gameplay of Banjo-Kazooie is cited to be a major inspiration for the upcoming 2014 video game A Hat in Time. The game will also feature music from Grant Kirkhope.
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