Forgot password?  |  Register  |    
User Name:     Password:    
Blog - General Entry   

Retro Review: Banjo-Kazooie

On 07/27/2019 at 11:19 AM by The Last Ninja

See More From This User »


This bear-bird combo platformer is quite delightful 

If you've been a gamer for any amount of time, you probably know about Banjo-Kazooie (the pair just recently were announced for Smash). Developed by Rare, this colorful 3D platformer was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. Apparently the game was Rare's answer to Super Mario 64 as it shares many similarities with Nintendo's amazing launch game. Banjo was actually introduced a year earlier as a playable character in Diddy Kong Racing (although Kazooie was not with him). While the N64 is host to a lot of 3D platformers, there are only a handful of really good ones, and Banjo-Kazooie is certainly one of them. 

The story is simple: the evil witch Gruntilda has captured Banjo's sister Tooty so that she can do a beauty swap--Gruntilda will become very beautiful while Tooty will look ugly (you can actually see this happen if you get a Game Over). So of course, Banjo (along with his bird friend) must rescue her. In order to do that, he will have to explore Grunty's lair, finding pictures which need to be completed so he can enter nine different worlds and eventually open the path to facing Grunty herself. Collectionists will especially enjoy the game, as there are two main things you have to collect in order to progress. Each world has 100 music notes; these will be used to unlock doors to new areas of Grunty's lair. The other is jiggies, puzzle pieces which you can use to place into pictures and open access to the worlds. Each world has 10 jiggies as well as a witch switch which causes a jiggie to be dropped in Grunty's lair. 

pic 1

Banjo and Kazooie have a pretty amazing moveset. The first few worlds will have you learning new moves. There are the basics, such as a double jump, blackflip, roll, talon trot, aerial attack, and a super high jump using green platforms. But there are also other moves, such as shooting eggs, becoming temporarily invincible, and even flying. This great moveset really opens up the game as you will have to figure out which move to use in order to overcome certain obstacles in each world. There's also Mumbo Jumbo, a shaman who appears in about half the worlds; by collecting his tokens, you can be transformed into various animals in order to access areas which Banjo would otherwise not be able to. However, as said animal, Banjo cannot perform any of his regular moves or even attack, so you have to be careful. 

The worlds themselves are excellent! Each world is oozing with creativitiy in the form of multiple areas to explore, mini games to play, and goofy characters to interact with. You can spend a long time in each world. Worlds include Mumbo's Mountain (a great first world which introduces you to many of the game's staples), Treasure Trove Cove (an ocean/beach pirate world), Clanker's Cavern (a huge water world with a giant mechanical shark), Bubblegoop Swamp (a world with crocodiles and frogs in a swampy area), Frezeezy Peak (the snow world), Gobi's Valley (the desert world), Mad Monster Mansion (a spooky world with a mansion, church, and graveyard), Rusty Bucket Bay (a huge ship that's sitting at a dock), and Click Clock Wood (a world with four different areas, each one a different season). Each world has a charm of its own, and figuring out how to reach jiggies or finding ways to unlock them is a joy. Each world also has five Jinjos to find, and when you find them all, you get a jiggie. 

pic 2

The game's music is also outstanding. Grant Kirkhope takes a page of Koji Kondo's book by having the music seamlessly transition when you go underwater or when you move into a new area of a world. Each world has a distinct theme, and these themes are very fun and enjoyable. The entire game is bright and cheerful (except for the mansion world, of course), and this is conveyed so well by the music. Not only that, but each collectible has a distinct sound that plays when you grab it, which is a detail they didn't have to do. I'll put a couple of my favorite themes below, be sure to give them a listen. 

Banjo-Kazooie is not a perfect game. While I don't mind collecting things in a game, I don't like it when a game forces you to collect everything. BK forces you to collect 90% of the music notes and jiggies in order to make it to the end. This wouldn't be such a problem if not for the fact that when you die or exit a world, you have to start over collecting ALL the music notes again. So if you had collected 60 music notes and you die, now you have to start over at zero. This is really frustrating as certain worlds have tricky sections which will kill you if you mess up (I'm thinking specifically of Rusty Bucket Bay, I died a TON in that world). There is also a game show level near the end of the game which can be a grind. Finally, the game doesn't have any boss fights until the final boss, which I thought was disappointing. 

pic 3

Final Verdict: 4 Stars--Recommended 

Despite its flaws, Banjo-Kazooie is an exceptional game. The debate rages on whether it is better than Mario 64 or not. In my opinion, Mario is the better game. Mario 64 has more levels, has you collecting only one collectible, and has boss battles (and c'mon, it's hard to beat swinging Bowser around by the tail). Collectionists, however, may prefer BK to Mario 64, and I get it. Either way, this game is one of the very best on the N64, being only one of Rare's many wonderful games on the console. 

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts and memories of this classic game below. 

Music Links

Clanker's Cavern 

 Click Clock Wood (Spring) 



Cary Woodham

07/27/2019 at 07:57 PM

I don't remember if I reviewed the first game at The Dallas Morning News, but I know I reviewed the second one there.  That was when I was at the top of my game at the newspaper.

Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel are VERY good games.  And when I replayed them on Xbox LIVE, I discovered that they aged very well.  Much better than DK64, which hadn't aged as well when I replayed it again on the Wii U Virtual Console.  

I don't know if I like Mario 64 better than B-K or not.  I think I like them both about the same.  I'm also probably the only person who liked Nuts & Bolts.  I'll probably even download the B-K characters in Smash, which will be the first time I get DLC for a Smash game.

The Last Ninja

07/28/2019 at 12:50 AM

Hm, you like them the same? You can't do that! jk

Having Banjo and Kazooie in Smash is gonna be awesome. 


07/27/2019 at 08:39 PM

I noticed that change in the music when you are underwater when I played it on Rare Replay last year - very cool. I do remember getting lost in the world a few times. I needed a map. 

The Last Ninja

07/28/2019 at 12:51 AM

Yeah, Gruntilda's Lair can be a bit confusing, as there are a lot of different areas to access. 


07/28/2019 at 04:47 PM

Every time I've watched footage of this game, I've never seen any actual platforming. Just running around large empty spaces and the occassional jump onto higher ground, which hardly qualifies. Same with Conker. But many people praise these games as a platformer, so it must be in there somewhere.

The Last Ninja

07/28/2019 at 06:44 PM

To be fair, there ARE a lot of wide open spaces to run around in, but yes, there is plenty of platforming. The platforming here is not as good as Mario 64 IMO 


07/29/2019 at 10:30 AM

I loved the BK games when they came out. I have them on my Xbox 360 now and I may still have the original cartridges in a tub somewhere.

What I enjoyed is that I could play them to finish the levels and my then young son could just goof around, take a swim, without really paying attention to what was supposed to be happening.

The same was true with Mario 64, he loved to swim in the moat or even the fountain.

Turned out he wound up getting much better than me after a while and he beat those 3 games easily.

The Last Ninja

07/29/2019 at 11:21 AM

Wow, impressive. I don't think any of those games are easy, so props to your son. I'll admit, it's fun to just mess around in the different worlds. 


07/31/2019 at 01:15 PM

I played this on the N64 when it came out. I got 100% and then shelved the game. It was definitely a console gem. Looking forward to BK in SSB Ultimate. 

The Last Ninja

08/01/2019 at 02:12 PM

Wow, nice! It is certainly one of the best games on N64. 

I think everyone is super excited to have BK in Smash. I've been hoping they would be included as I think they deserve to be in the game. 


07/31/2019 at 10:55 PM

I liked Mario 64 better, but this game was pretty for its time. It was like most Rare games save for Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, or Blast Corps - a graphically prettied up version of something Nintendo (or in the case of KI, Midway) had already done, without all the bloat and padding that Rare used to put in their games. 

The Last Ninja

08/01/2019 at 02:14 PM

That's true, most of the N64 Rare games looked very good (I think they even used some kind of enhanced chip to make Perfect Dark look ahead of its time). 


08/02/2019 at 01:57 PM

I know that PD did require the N64 expansion pack to play the campaign. 

Log in to your PixlBit account in the bar above or join the site to leave a comment.

Game Collection


Friend Codes