Let’s Nostalgia: Banjo-Kazooie

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Let’s see… what can be said about Banjo-Kazooie?

It’s a simple story about a bear and bird trying to save the bear’s sister from a vain old witch. It’s a platforming action-adventure game that took everything great about Super Mario 64 and built upon it. It took the collect-a-thon style of gameplay and made it into a challenge.

The entirety of Banjo-Kazooie’s charm (and what sets it above Super Mario 64, in my opinion) is its multitude of characters that add on to its simple story. It’s clearly not just a tried and true retelling of a plumber going above his station to save a princess—they gave us the simple story of “go defeat the evil witch” and built upon it with lazy polar bear dads, a Jaws-inspired shark named Snacker, and a poor beleaguered camel who just can’t catch a break.

It gave us a multitude of side characters, each inhabiting their own tropes and personalities that give each world another level of enjoyment.

Not to knock on Super Mario 64, but there’s something not-as-cool about most of your interactions coming from Toadstools and generic Bob-ombs (if their defining feature is that they’re pink then they aren’t standing out all that much from the others, just saying).

Now, while it didn’t sell anywhere near the range of Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie did more than well enough to warrant a sequel—and it’s not too much a stretch to say that that was because Rare wasn’t afraid to take the premise of an existing game and make it better.

Banjo-Kazooie was the start of a short-lived game series that could have gone places. Granted it was only a matter of time before the overall gameplay of the series would need to be reinvented. But for now I’m content to just revisit both Kazooie and Tooie.

I’m okay with the game series never being rebooted or reinvented.

I’m kinda glad they haven’t. Just think of how horrible that would be!…

Oh wait…

Do you hear that vague, sorrowful, “no” being shouted somewhere in the distance? It’s far enough away that it’s only just loud enough to pierce the walls of your home at a soft whisper.

Yeah, that’s me.

Banjo-Kazooie was a beautiful game series that did not deserve this treatment.

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It did not deserve to be openly mocked by its creators. It did not deserve some “Lord of Games” character inserting itself into the world of Spiral Mountain and then trivializing and ridiculing the gameplay of the original two games. Banjo-Kazooie did not deserve the “New 52” treatment that made players feel like crap for liking the original games.

(It’s incredibly off topic but I need to give “New 52” some context. The New 52 was a revamp and relaunch of DC comic’s entire line of ongoing monthly super hero comics; they basically told readers that everything they had loved about DC’s various storylines never happened… but now they had this shiny, new, series to endear themselves to! Hooray!…)

Now Rare didn’t relaunch Banjo-Kazooie, but they did revamp it in much the same manner that DC did to its comics. They took what we loved about Banjo-Kazooie, ridiculed it, and then gave us vehicle-based gameplay while, for some reason, keeping the collect-a-thon style.

Turns out these two methods of gameplay didn’t interact well.

They took all the characters I loved, removed them from their native settings, placed them under the jurisdiction of the “Lord of Games”, and made them into nothing more than prop pieces for each world you visit in Nuts & Bolts.

(I don’t know if you have guessed this already, but I don’t like Rare anymore. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are beautiful games, filled with characters you will love, all wrapped up in simplistic story of a bear and his snarky bird friend foiling the plans of the vain rhyme-spewing witch, Gruntilda.

And I’m happy to say that as of October this year of 2016 we will be blessed with a beautiful successor to the original Banjo games in the form of Yooka-Laylee.

We don’t know much yet about the story of Yooka-Laylee, but it’s from the creators who gave us Banjo so I’m more than willing to bet it will be capable of bringing a smile to my face from start to finish.

And if you can’t wait for Yooka-Laylee, you can pick up both Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie on Xbox one’s Rare Replay for $29.99 along with a plethora of other nostalgic Rare titles (including Nuts & Bolts, much to my chagrin.)

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