Banjo-Kazooie is a platform video game developed by Rare and originally released for the Nintendo 64 console in 1998. It is the first game in the Banjo-Kazooie series and follows the story of a bear, Banjo, and a bird, Kazooie, as they try to stop the plans of the witch Gruntilda, who intends to steal the beauty of Banjo's younger sister, Tooty, for herself. The game features nine nonlinear worlds where the player must use Banjo and Kazooie's wide range of abilities to gather items and progress through the story. It features challenges such as solving puzzles, jumping over obstacles, collecting items, and defeating opponents.
Microsoft Game Studios (Xbox 360)
|Platform(s)||Nintendo 64, Xbox 360|
Originally conceived as an adventure game named Dream for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Banjo-Kazooie was designed to appeal to players of all ages in a similar vein to Walt Disney Animation Studios films. The game was a critical and commercial success, selling nearly two million copies in the United States. It was praised for its detailed graphics, dynamic soundtrack, 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 game was remastered for the Xbox 360 in 2008 and included in the Rare Replay video game compilation for the Xbox One in 2015. A sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was released in 2000.
Banjo-Kazooie is a single-player platform game where the player controls the protagonists Banjo and Kazooie from a third-person perspective. The game features nine worlds where the player must gather musical notes and jigsaw pieces, called Jiggies, to progress. The player travels from one world to another through Gruntilda's Lair, a region that acts as the game's central overworld. Jiggies allow the player to complete jigsaw puzzles which open doors to new worlds, while musical notes allow the player to access new areas of the overworld containing more advanced worlds. Like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie is very open and allows the player to collect Jiggies and musical notes in a nonlinear order. It is also possible to complete certain worlds out of order, assuming the player has enough Jiggies and musical notes to reach a more advanced world earlier than intended.
Each world is composed of a number of challenges that involve solving puzzles, jumping over obstacles, gathering objects, and defeating opponents. The game features action-adventure elements, and players often have to interact with non-player characters and help them. It is also possible to increase Banjo and Kazooie's health bar by collecting extra honeycombs throughout the game. Banjo and Kazooie can perform a wide range of abilities, such as jumping, climbing, swimming, flying, and rolling into enemies. These moves are learned by finding their friend, Bottles the mole, throughout the game. Some moves require specific items to be performed; for instance, red feathers allow Banjo and Kazooie to fly, while gold feathers protect them from damage. Some items allow the pair to gain temporary abilities in a particular moment; for instance, the Turbo Trainer shoes provide a speed burst used to reach a destination on time. Additionally, found in each world are small creatures called Jinjos that, upon collection of the entire world's population, grant the duo a Jiggy.
Banjo and Kazooie are occasionally aided by their friend Mumbo Jumbo, a shaman who can use magical powers to transform them into several creatures. These include a termite, a pumpkin, a honey bee, a walrus, and a crocodile. Creatures have their own abilities and allow the player to access areas that were previously inaccessible. Before a transformation process is allowed, the player must find a required number of "Mumbo Tokens" in the worlds. The game also includes cheat codes which can be unlocked by finding Gruntilda's spellbook, Cheato.
In a region called Spiral Mountain, a foul-tempered witch named Gruntilda learns from her cauldron, Dingpot, that Tooty, a brown honey bear, is more beautiful than she. Jealous, Gruntilda creates a machine to transfer a person's beauty to another, which she intends to use with Tooty. Gruntilda kidnaps Tooty while her older brother, Banjo, is sleeping. Banjo's friend Kazooie, a female red-crested "Breegull," wakes him up and the two resolve to rescue Tooty. While Banjo and Kazooie collect musical notes and Jiggies to traverse through Gruntilda's Lair, they are aided by Bottles, a mole who is Tooty's friend, and Mumbo Jumbo, a shaman who used to be Gruntilda's teacher, and rescue Jinjos, small creatures that Gruntilda imprisoned in each world.
Having gathered most of the musical notes and Jiggies, Banjo and Kazooie participate in a trivia game show hosted by Gruntilda, where they answer questions and challenges related to certain aspects of the game. Once they win the game, Banjo and Kazooie retrieve Tooty and celebrate with their friends and a barbecue, but Tooty reminds everyone that Gruntilda has escaped. Banjo and Kazooie enter the top of the lair, where they confront Gruntilda. A fierce battle ensues, but with the help of the Jinjos they rescued, the duo send Gruntilda falling towards Spiral Mountain, where she gets trapped beneath a boulder. Banjo and Kazooie go on vacation at a beach with their friends and celebrate their victory. Gruntilda swears revenge against Banjo and Kazooie, calling for her henchman, Klungo, to move the boulder.
The origins of Banjo-Kazooie can be traced back to Project Dream, a cancelled video game developed by Rare's Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest team for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Inspired by Japanese role-playing games and LucasArts adventure games, Dream was developed for 16 months and starred a boy who got into trouble with a group of pirates. The game used Rare's Advanced Computer Modeling (ACM) graphics technology, first used in Donkey Kong Country, to an advanced level. As development progressed, the character was replaced by a rabbit and later a bear, who eventually became Banjo. Because the introduction of the Nintendo 64 made the ACM technology obsolete, Rare decided to transition the development of the game to that console. The project proved to be too ambitious for the developers, who felt the game was not fun. After early versions of Rare's Conker's Bad Fur Day proved satisfactory, the company decided to retool Dream into a Donkey Kong-esque platformer. However, when Rare realized that Super Mario 64 was going to set the standard for 3D games, making their project look outdated, the company ultimately scrapped all work on Dream to produce a new game featuring Banjo.
Actual work on Banjo-Kazooie started in March 1997 with a development team of 10 people. As development progressed, the team grew to a total of 15 members, which included seven engineers, five artists, two designers and one musician. The team comprised both experienced and inexperienced people; some had been working at Rare for 10 years while others had never previously worked on a video game. Gregg Mayles served as the head designer. The 3D world of Super Mario 64 was a major inspiration for Banjo-Kazooie, as Rare intended to combine it with the look of Donkey Kong Country. The game was designed to appeal players of all ages in a similar vein to Walt Disney Animation Studios films. According to Rare, "We wanted the characters to primarily appeal to a younger audience but, at the same time, give them enough humour and attitude not to discourage older players." The music of the game, composed by Grant Kirkhope, was designed to gradually fade from one style to the next without pause, while the overall composition loops continuously.
Rare decided to make an action-based game that focused totally on Banjo and his abilities. Kazooie was later conceived during the planning of such abilities. According to Mayles, "We came up with the [...] idea that a pair of wings could appear from his backpack to help him perform a second jump. We also wanted Banjo 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 after] we came up with the logical conclusion that these could belong to another character, one that actually lived in Banjo's backpack." The character was named after a kazoo, which was considered an annoying instrument, "much like the personality of the bird," Mayles explained. Instead of actual dialogue, all the characters in the game feature "mumbling" voices. This choice was made to convey their personalities without them actually speaking, as Rare felt the actual speech "could ruin the player's perception of the characters." The witch Gruntilda was inspired by Grotbags from the Grotbags British television series.
Banjo-Kazooie employs an advanced technique to render its graphics. The in-game characters were created with minimal amounts of texturing so they could have a sharp and clean look, while the backgrounds use very large textures split into 64×64 pieces, which was the largest texture size the Nintendo 64 could render. Because this technique caused significant memory fragmentation issues, the developers created a proprietary system that could "reshuffle" memory as players played through the game. According to lead programmer Chris Sutherland, "I'd doubt many [Nintendo 64] games of the time did anything like that". The fact that the player could be transformed into small creatures was implemented to give some of the worlds a different sense of scale.
Rare originally planned to include a multiplayer mode and more worlds in the game, but these features were not implemented due to time constraints; some of these were later included in the sequel Banjo-Tooie instead. In addition, a feature called "Stop 'N' Swop," which would have allowed data to be transferred from Banjo-Kazooie to Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo-Tooie, remains incomplete in the game. The feature was never fully implemented due to technical difficulties in the Nintendo 64 hardware. The development of the game took overall 17 months to complete after Rare discarded Project Dream, the first two of these being spent experimenting with Dream's graphic technology. In June 1997, a working version of the game was shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, where it was officially announced that Dream had become Banjo-Kazooie. The game was initially scheduled for a release in November 1997, but was delayed to give developers more time to polish the game. Banjo-Kazooie was released on 29 June 1998 in North America, 17 July 1998 in Europe, and 6 December 1998 in Japan.
Banjo-Kazooie received critical acclaim from video game journalists, who often compared it to Super Mario 64 due to its similar gameplay. Writing for IGN, editor Peer Schneider felt that Banjo-Kazooie was "the best 3D platformer [he has] ever played, and a more than worthy successor to Super Mario 64". GamePro described Banjo-Kazooie as a "more complex, more fluid, and more attractive game" than Super Mario 64, while N64 Magazine highlighted the game's length, noting that the game can take 40 or 50 hours to fully complete.
The graphics were seen as one of the strongest aspects of the game. 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, [Banjo-Kazooie] uses a lot of textures". The game's long draw distance, solid frame rate, special lighting, transparency effects, and animations were highlighted very positively. Critics also praised the game's dynamic soundtrack. IGN remarked that it "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 some critics crediting the characters' unique and diverse speech patterns.
GameSpot remarked that, although the gameplay is relatively formulaic, it "makes the logical progressions you would expect Nintendo to make." Game Informer observed that, while Banjo-Kazooie is very similar to Super Mario 64, it has less emphasis on the platforming and more on exploration. Next Generation highlighted the game's depth and detail, stating that Super Mario 64 "looks naked and aged in comparison." Colin Williamson of AllGame stated similar pros, crediting the level design as "simply delightful, loaded with creativity, secrets, and memorable characters." Nintendo Power remarked that the game's puzzles were fresh and that the characters "have more of a loud-mouthed attitude than Mario and crew." One habitually-criticized aspect of the game was its flawed camera system. Game Revolution remarked that it can occasionally be in a bad angle to gauge a jump properly, while Edge said that its fixed position in underwater sections can be frustrating while retrieving collectables.
In 1999, Banjo-Kazooie received two awards during the 2nd Annual AIAS Interactive Achievement Awards: Console Action Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics. It was also nominated for Game of the Year and Console Adventure Game of the Year. IGN awarded the game Overall Best Graphics of 1998, Best Texture Design of 1998, and Best Music of 1998.
Upon release, Banjo-Kazooie performed very well in both the US and UK. Virgin Megastore reported that the game was topping the UK charts as of 21 September 1998. In Japan, Banjo-Kazooie entered Famitsu's Top 10 sales charts for the week ending 13 December 1998, selling 74,000 copies for a total of 117,399. At the 1999 Milia festival in Cannes, the game took home a "Gold" prize for revenues above €26 million in the European Union during 1998. As of March 2003, the game had sold more than 405,000 units in Japan. As of December 2007, it had sold more than 1.8 million copies in the US.
A sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000 and largely adopts the gameplay mechanics of its predecessor. The Banjo-Kazooie series continued to be developed with the release of Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and Banjo-Pilot for the Game Boy Advance in 2003 and 2005, respectively. The characters Banjo and Kazooie proved to be popular and were once seen as a potential mascot for the Xbox 360 console. A third main game, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, was released for the Xbox 360 in 2008. Nuts & Bolts is a departure from its predecessors and involves the player building vehicles of all shapes and sizes to complete challenges.
An Xbox Live Arcade version of Banjo-Kazooie, developed by 4J Studios, was released for the Xbox 360 on 26 November 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 was a solid revival 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".
Banjo-Kazooie is frequently cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. In 2000, the game was ranked number seven 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. In 2015, the Xbox Live Arcade version of Banjo-Kazooie was released as part of the Rare Replay video game compilation for Xbox One. In 2019, this version was enhanced to run at native 4K resolution on Xbox One. A spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee, was released in 2017. Elements from Banjo-Kazooie were released as downloadable content for the crossover fighting game Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on September 4, 2019, including Banjo and Kazooie as a tag team of playable fighters and a stage based on Spiral Mountain.
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