The N64 was a breeding ground for 3D platform gaming. Since the birth of Super Mario 64, developers were constantly looking for their chance to take a bite out of the genre. While there were some blunders, we did get some really great ones. This week, there was the release of Yooka-Laylee, a new 3D platform game for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & PC from ex Rare developers who had previously worked on Banjo-Kazooie. It’s a sort of spiritual successor to Banjo. While I haven’t played it yet, it looks like it has a chance of recapturing the magic of the old school 3D platforming days for a new generation.
This Throwback Thursday, we’re taking a look at one of my favorites on the N64. I loved this game. The first time I got a taste for what it was all about was when Nintendo Power sent out a VHS tape to subscribers before the game launched. This video pushed me from “possible purchase” to “I HAD TO HAVE IT”.
There were so many things to love about it; the ridiculous characters (BOTTLES!), the transformations, the different abilities, the charm, the secrets. The list goes on and on. I remember beating the game with all 100 Jigsaw pieces, which allows you to see little hints at the end. These secrets were 2 eggs and a special ice key, and they showed you where they were located (hint: they were unobtainable until the 2nd game, tragic I know). I actually had 2 fully completed save files, with a 3rd in the works (I regret nothing), hoping to uncover the mystery behind these secrets.
The game starts with Banjo’s sister Tooty having been kidnapped by the evil witch Gruntilda. Gruntilda wants to steal Tooty’s beauty (of course). It is up to Banjo and Kazooie to save her. The goal is to progress through Gruntilda’s lair and the various worlds within it. Your job within these worlds is to collect items, and lots of them. These include Jiggys, which are golden jigsaw pieces that are used to unlock new worlds; and music notes that open up certain doors in Gruntilda’s lair to help Banjo and Kazooie on their quest. You go through your typical ice, fire, water levels (there was even a haunted house level, no shame in copying Mario 64) that were all too common for these types of games.
Collecting everything required the use of the different abilities at your disposal. Most of them were upgrades to Kazooie, allowing her to fly or use her tiny thin legs to quickly run you up a steep hill. A shaman by the name of Mumbo Jumbo could transform you into all sorts of things; a termite, pumpkin, bee, walrus and crocodile. These transformations allowed you to access previously inaccessible areas, to find all those damn collectibles. The game was huge. You’re looking at around 40-50 hours to find and complete everything. The graphics and music were fantastic for their time. The only thing that drove me insane was the way the characters talked. They mumbled everything they said. Even watching the video below makes me cringe. So…..much…..mumbling.
There were a bunch of sequels, these include; Banjo-Tooie (N64), Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (Xbox 360), Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge and Banjo-Pilot for the Game Boy Advance. While they all have their great qualities, the original will still be my favorite in the series. Banjo-Tooie took the collecting of the previous game to a whole new level, to the point where it was exhausting (much like Donkey Kong 64); while Nuts & Bolts got rid of the collecting and had you building vehicles to progress. If you’re interested in giving the first 3 games a go, you can pick them up on Xbox One as part of the Rare Replay Collection. It’s a steal of a deal considering the pedigree of games that are included in it. You’ll get plenty of 3D platforming action to last you a very long time. If that’s not enough, you can give Yooka-Laylee a try to sate your hunger. – NVJ