The banjo Kazooie franchise has been around since 1998 with their first game, Banjo Kazooie. Since then, it has had 2 sequels, 1 racing game, and 1 prequel (?). A great thing about the franchise is it never takes itself too seriously, with witty dialog, fourth wall breaks, and encouraging cheating. While they never became as popular or as well-known as Mario, the bear and bird are remembered fondly as a classic N64 game.
The first game is arguably the best game. It’s simple, straightforward, and created the most memorable characters that returned in the franchise (except for Banjo’s sister Tootie, apparently). Known for its collect-a-thon style of play, the gamer must complete a series of tasks at their own pace to collect Jiggys, the only way to unlock new worlds to explore. Each world also has 5 jinjos, helpless creatures trapped in the worlds and waiting to be rescued, and once they are all freed the player is rewarded with yet another jiggy. There are also honeycombs, musical notes, eggs, feathers, extra life tokens, and other odds and ends waiting to be gathered. It can be a little frustrating to use some of the mechanics, such as your note count resetting every time you leave a world, but over all it’s a solid game.
The game has several false endings, such as the part where the player completes the main objective and saves Banjo’s sister Tootie from the evil witch, the part where the player actually defeats the witch, and finding. ever. single. Jiggy. It still is a great game with a pretty good replay value, and secrets upon secrets like the Stop-and-Swop and hidden cheat codes.
Banjo Tooie comes two years later, and many reviews say it’s a ‘sequel done right’. There are new moves, new characters, new worlds, but still keeps the same light, adventurous tone. The game makers cleaned up the resetting note count mechanic, and also included different types of notes to grab.
You start the game off with all of your old moves, so it really feels like a follow-up closely after the old one. I feel like this game, while a fun sequel to play, lacks a little in story line (as if the first one doesn’t?) and it also feels a little over complicated. If you liked shooting blue eggs in the first one, how about making them obsolete with five other ultra powerful eggs? The game
play just felt a little over complicated by introducing new ways to play. I applaud rareware on trying to reinvent their gameplay style, it just got a bit too busy, and a bit too easy to forget. It was still a solid game, and fun to play, if a little bit crazy.
The most recent installment of the series, which came out almost 10 years ago, was arguably the worst game in the franchise. Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts takes the whole series and guts it. A ‘Lord of Games’ comes flying in, forcing Grunty the Witch and Banjo and Kazooie face off one final time, with the loser becoming enslaved in a video game factory. You are completely at the whims of this “LOG” character as he forces you to unlock new worlds to get Jiggys. Here’s the catch: Banjo and Kazooie can do nothing. They can only drive in cars to complete challenges the player must accept before unlocking, very unlike the traditional style of the games. Not only do the characters lose their personalities from the old games, but they are forced to reinvent themselves with every new world the character unlocks. Notes are used as currency, jinjos just want to compete with you, Mumbo no longer uses magic, Humba has been reduced to a token female character, bottles isn’t sassy anymore, jolly rodger is running a black market business, Klungo is a socially awkward good guy, and there still is no Tootie.
After battling in these obnoxious challanges for hours, the player finally gets to fight the witch. Again. Honestly, it would have been much more satisfying if both of them turned on LOG together for forcing them to face off against each other again and again. Instead, it’s the same ‘defeat Grunty, but for how long?’ formula from every other game which leaves the gamer feeling stilted. Sure, they try to do this showy award ceremony with the characters given to them by LOG, who, unless they forgot, was the jerk who forced them in the situation, stripped them off their free will and powers, and ripped them away from their home in Spiral Mountain to fight in a never- ending loop of challenges. Yet this character is deemed as ‘good’ when legitimately no one likes him.
To clarify, it sucked, and this isn’t even getting into the horrible mechanics that send even the most experienced gamer into a fit of frustration. We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of Banjo Kazooie, and I don’t think Rareware has planned anything, but if they decide to give the Bear and Bird a chance in the spotlight one more time, I hope they don’t mess it up.