The original Banjo-Kazooie had an overwhelmingly positive reception when it was released on Nintendo 64 in 1998. The graphics, sound and gameplay were all top-notch, and it seemed as though Rareware was continuing right where it left off with the success of the Donkey Kong Country games. Their new, original title featured the duo of Banjo the bear and Kazooie the “breegull” on a quest to save Banjo’s sister Tooty from the clutches of Gruntilda, the rhyming witch. The game was a 3D action-platformer, which drew many comparisons to Super Mario 64, but it was good enough to stand on its own. Larger worlds and more detailed graphics helped separate this title from the rest. The characters were also full of personality and had a plethora of memorable jokes and one-liners. As each character would talk, uniquely-voiced grunts and squeaks would play. This nonsense babble “voice acting” quickly became a staple of the Banjo-Kazooie games. In 2000, Rareware would deliver yet again with the stellar sequel Banjo-Tooie.
Banjo-Tooie was more of what made the first title great, with Rareware improving the game in every possible area. There was a huge overwold, and every level was a part of it. In the first title, you would teleport to levels like in Super Mario 64, via the hub of Gruntilda’s Lair. In Tooie, the levels fit perfectly into the landscape, and the bear and bird would visit Atlantis, Hailfire Peaks, Grunty Industries and more. As with the original, each level was unique, had plenty of things to do, and a fantastic theme song. Also accompanying every level was a fantastic boss. Weldar, the welding torch and Lord Woo Fak Fak, the angler fish, had two of the best boss themes in the game, along with some of the best dialogue.
“It clearly states in the worker’s handbook that bears are not to be let into the building.”
While much of the games’ dialogue is great, the best undoubtedly comes from Grunty. “Revenge is mine, I cannot miss. Let’s see that furry fool dodge THIS.”
In Banjo-Tooie, you could not only run and jump, but you could fly, shoot eggs from Kazooie from a first-person perspective, and even turn into a washing machine! The washing machine was a joke from the first title, but here it actually became one of Banjo’s transformations, courtesy of Humba Wumba.
As aforementioned, you could shoot blue eggs from Kazooie in the first adventure, but not in first person. In addition to that, there were now multiple types of eggs. Fire and ice eggs, grenade eggs, and Clockwork Kazooie eggs all made their first appearance. Clockwork eggs were especially interesting, because once fired, they enabled you to take control of a mini explosive Kazooie, guiding it to a target.
Unfortunately for Banjo and Kazooie, their sequel was released late in the N64’s life span, which caused it to get overlooked by many gamers. It received great reviews, like the first title, but never got the sales or fame it deserved. However, it still went on to sell over a million copies. But that’s something that the second sequel in the Banjo-Kazooie series cannot say. While Banjo-Tooie was a great game that some overlooked, Grunty’s Revenge was an impressive game that people just downright ignored.
Grunty’s Revenge featured some of the best graphics and sound that the Game Boy Advance had to offer. The music sounded just as good as the N64 titles, and every character made the random grunts when they talked. This game had it all, except for promotion. Unlike the other games in the series up to this point, it was only licensed by Nintendo but published by THQ. Now that Microsoft owned Rare, it seemed that the new owners were content to let this gem of a game fail. I’ll admit that some of the things in this game are downright ridiculous, such as learning how to climb. But the game shines everywhere else, and if you are a Banjo fan and haven’t played this game, do yourself a favor and get it now. Grunty is once again the antagonist, but this time she’s sporting a crazy mecha look. Plus, her plan is more cunning than ever as she attempts to split the duo up in time.
I tried not to give too much away about the stories of the games, but if you haven’t played any of them, and have a bunch of free time, I can’t recommend these enough. As the latest game in the series was a disaster for Xbox 360, at least here on the Nintendo side, we can play through all of the great games in our short time with Banjo and Kazooie. I could go on forever about these two, but everything has to end sometime.