Back in the day when the 3D platformer ruled all, I found myself drawn to titles in this genre without mercy. Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, Spyro, and the like were my bread and butter. But among all the games, there is one that stands out above the rest: Banjo-Kazooie (B-K). The bear and his backpack dwelling bird friend hit the N64 with a massive bang which still resounds to this day. But what made it so great?
The story was simple. The evil witch, Gruntilda, kidnapped Banjo's sister, Tooty, and it is up to you to rescue her. The duo traverse the many dangers and levels found in Gruntilda's lair, including but not limited to a swamp, the inside of a mechanical shark, Christmas world, and the beach. Each level had its own personality and set of unique puzzles to solve. Gruntilda certainly went out of her way to make sure that you had lots of different trials to get through. To top it off, at the end of the game, Banjo and Kazooie must play as contestants on game show hosted by Grunty herself. They have to make their way across a board above a pit of lava. Get the wrong answer, and things become very warm.
Many say that Mario 64 was a revolutionary game for 3D platformers (especially for the N64), but B-K took all that was great about Mario 64 and made it absolutely amazing. The controls where more advanced, not mention more entertaining (farting eggs, anyone?), the graphics were better, the characters had great personalities, and the banter between Banjo and Kazooie was priceless! And who can forget Mumbo, the trash talking shaman who turns Banjo into different creatures. If you get on his bad side, he'll even turn you into a washing machine; best to mind your manners.
Such time was taken to give every aspect of the game a unique personality and a fun feel. Beginning a new stage would essentially be like starting with a blank slate; nothing was ever used twice and Rare made sure to coax every bit of capability that the N64 had to make each experience new and exciting.
I think what has stuck with me the most would have to be the presentation. From the colorful graphics, the catchy music, and the hilarious sound design, B-K provides a truly memorable experience. The music is so catchy that I still can sing it to this day. Hell, the music from Click Clock Woods is still one of my favorite VG tunes of all time. And the sound design; oh my goodness, the sound design. The N64 was a console that was still very limited in its capabilities, but that didn't stop Rare. I can still remember the sound that Kazooie makes when he carries Banjo up a hill or the sound the duo makes when they do their double jump (don't even get me started on farting eggs sound!).
There are very few games that I can go back and play time after time, but Banjo-Kazooie is one of them; God knows how many times I've beaten it. As soon as it came out on the Xbox Live Marketplace, I snatched it up and have loved playing it ever since. If you haven't gone back to yester-year to play this, trust me, you have no idea what you're missing.