I've probably spent hundreds of hours playing the Banjo-Kazooie series. When the original came out, I thought it was a silly kids' game and dismissed it. Little did I know some fifteen years later I'd be obsessive over the degree of fun the games provide. They seem like child's play, but pick up any of the four released games and you'll find that they're significantly harder than most platforming games. As an adult I get as much out of them as I did a kid, in fact it wasn't until age 21 that I picked up Banjo Tooie (The second game in the series) and replayed it, and beat it, because as a kid it was just so mind numbingly difficult I couldn't finish it in the short rental phase I had to. I know one of the developers online which is cool, he sadly confirmed to me there are not going to be any more Banjo-Kazooie games, which is tragic, but of the four released, two are near-perfect, one is great, and this little GBA cart is average.
The case with the Gameboy Advance game is that it just shrinks down the elements of the originals and makes a facile game out of them. Platforming is fun-to-dull, minigames are repeated, and the overall fun factor is...acceptable. The graphics are very nice for Gameboy Advance. The concept of collecting jiggies to unlock new stages and move forth is in full effect, but there are only five stages this time around, and they're significantly shorter than any in the N64 games.
Basically Banjo is a bear, Kazooie is a bird, and they go on an adventure to stop the evil witch Gruntilda. I have to say Gruntilda is probably the best villain in gaming. In the N64 games, she'd erratically pop up to do nothing but insult you, and everything she said rhymed, which was strangely hilarious, because in a 20+ game seeing this character pull off nothing but rhymes is painfully funny. The game has an overworld that is basically a shrunk down edition of Spiral Mountain from the N64 games. There are ten jiggies on the overworld, and ten on each stage, making for a total of 60, though you only need 50 to finish the game, making an already easy game easier. There's only one really challenging stage, in fact the first three offer almost no challenge. There are puzzles, but the majority of the game is platforming. You start out with just banjo, a bear, who has no moves, but learns them by collecting notes and talking to Bottles, a mole.
Unlocking the fifteen moves lets you collect the jiggies and progress. There are no new moves in this game. Kazooie sits in Banjo's backpack, and helps along with the moves by doing things like picking up banjo and running with him or floating midair when jump is pressed twice. There are pads that make you jump hire, you can fire eggs from a cannon, roll, and do a drill beak press. The combat, and puzzles are ok, but it's mostly very simple item collection and the combat consists of just rolling into enemies or occasionally needing to fire eggs. There are plenty of mini games, but they are one of three types: an FPS style shooting game (You don't move, just aim at a fixed screen) a fishing sort of game, and a game where you're rolling down a slope. These are all very lazy and to be honest the game feels very lazy, and lacks the challenge of the originals. This game was not made by Banjo-Kazooie's original developers, and it shows. There is a boss fight on each stage, but again it's recycled one of two, either a version of the Klungo fight (This green guy in a lab coat) or a battle against a mechanical gruntilda. It's kind of disappointing to see a game with promise just start becoming mind numbingly repetitive, but the game is always playable, and completing it is fun.
I have just a few more comments. The graphics, while good, can make it very difficult to see the elevation levels of different platforms because nothing casts a shadow. This means more often than not I'll try to jump to a platform next to me only to find it's directly above me, or below me. Annoying. Also the music, while great, is weird. What made Banjo-Kazooie so timeless for me is just how good the audio is. Every song is ridiculously melodic and tuneful. This game has similar songs, which while not nearly as good, are strangely decent because they're like more generic renditions of songs from the original games. Overall, this game is only worth looking into if you happened to really like Banjo Kazooie as a kid and want to finish all four of the released games, especially since there aren't going to be any more released any time soon, or ever, in fact.
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