Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Brief Banjo-Kazooie Retrospective (old)

PROLOGUE: I feel like this blog needs a short break from Hunger Games casting news. Just to add some variety, here's a little thing I wrote up three years ago or thereabouts, about the Banjo-Kazooie franchise. It was written before Nuts & Bolts came out, which is why I refer to that god-awful turd of a taint of a game in future tense. Enjoy!


Seeing the trailer for the new Banjo-Kazooie game really made me nostalgic. This is only the third official B-K game to be released, and since A) the franchise utterly skipped 6th-generation consoles, and B) the new game appears to have designed by people from Planet Retard, I feel like looking back at the games and why I loved (and still love) them so much. Let’s take a trip down memory lane!

Many of you probably enjoyed Banjo-Kazooie on the N64 back when we were all tots. If not, I will briefly summarize it. Banjo is a bear in tight yellow shorts. Kazooie is a cranky bird who rides around in his backpack and acts as BFF/sidekick/playful antagonist/devil’s advocate. Banjo’s little sister is kidnapped by an evil witch named Gruntilda who wants to steal her beauty, and our heroes set out to get her back. For some strange reason, they literally live right underneath Grunty’s lair; I would have moved a long time ago, but whatever. You spend the game exploring the evil witch’s massive network of caverns and finding your way to various other worlds while collecting golden jigsaw pieces, musical notes, eggs you can shoot, etc. In other words, it’s your basic platform/scavenger hunt gameplay that Rareware has excelled at. Where B-K succeeded was in its quirky, tongue-in-cheek attitude and general oddness. I mean, how can you hate a game where you get to change into a bouncing pumpkin, kill snowmen by Kamikazee-bombing them, and explore the innards of a ginormous robot fish with indigestion? Plus, the game was actually REALLY DAMN HARD in places, so you felt like it was a serious gaming experience. If your guts still twist into a knot when you hear the words “Rusty Bucket Bay,” then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The game’s awesome rule-breaking mentality made up for its flaws (annoying gibberish in place of recorded dialogue, no boss battles, too many unkillable monsters) and rocked the house, all in all.

Then along came the sequel, Banjo-Tooie, which kept a lot of the awesomeness and added some even more awesome stuff (boss battles!), but felt like a step down. They tried for a more epic feel with bigger worlds, more characters, and more shit to do, and the game felt overstuffed. The scavenger hunt format was dumbed down, some challenges were downright impossible, and you learned so many new moves that you were still learning them on the final level. What good’s a new move when you only get to use it twice? I still liked the game a lot, though, largely because Banjo and Kazooie, previously glued together, could now separate and explore on their own. This led to some nifty puzzle-solving elements, including several that involved moving between worlds without returning to the overworld, which was pretty shocking for a platform game at the time. The plot was lame, though: Grunty, now a skeleton, joins forces with her two sisters (who talk like Yoda) and hatches some vague scheme to suck the life out of the world. Sadly, the game yanks Grunty offscreen most of the time (in the first game, she’s a constant, freaky presence lurking on the sidelines), and her impact as a villain suffers greatly. And though the game makes the ballsy move of actually killing characters off, they all come back at the end. Of course. Banjo-Tooie was fun, but lacked the originality of Banjo-Kazooie and was too big for its shoes. Oh, well.

Now comes Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which is coming out on the 360 as Rareware switched alliances. A lot of people have already expressed their dismay with how it looks, but I’m adding my voice. WHAT THE FUCK. Game franchises are allowed to make design changes, but that doesn’t mean you should shit all over the original design! B-K:N&B takes place in a bizarre, vaguely Neo-Cubist world that looks like a cross between Animal Crossing and more fucking Animal Crossing. The characters have been mutated beyond recognition....why the hell is Banjo’s nose cube-shaped?! “Best” of all is the fact that gameplay now revolves around building vehicles. Yeah, building vehicles. Which was all well and good for freakin’ Gizmos and Gadgets, but this is a Banjo-Kazooie game! It is supposed to feature a bear and bird running around, engaging in vaguely inappropriate combat, and doing a silly little dance whenever they find a big golden puzzle piece! It is NOT supposed to involve laying waste to the land with the Bear-Copter, the Bear-ATV, the Bear-Warthog, the Bearplane, the Bear-Dildo-Launcher, and whatever else they’ve come up with. I see what happened here: Microsoft wanted no association with the previous Nintendo games, so they grabbed some designers who were toddlers when the first Banjo-Kazooie games were released, locked them in a room with a single blurry screenshot from the first game, and let them go hog wild. At least, that’s what I’m assuming happened.

If anyone plays Nuts & Bolts and confirms that it’s actually good, great. Maybe it’s an awesome game. But my mind cannot process it as a Banjo-Kazooie game. There were two, they came out years ago, and I loved them as a child. That is all.

EPILOGUE: So much for that trip down memory lane. As we now know, Nuts & Bolts did okay and was generally deemed a decent game, if you pretended it wasn't a threequel. However, actual B-K fans were understandably pissed at the utter mutilation of their childhood memories, not to mention insulted by the game's rather nasty implication that the old Banjo and Kazooie were lame dinosaurs who somehow needed retconning. I've read one or two reviews from dickbags who were actually glad that Nuts & Bolts didn't follow the "inferior" originals. I am glad to report that these cockdribbles, for their crimes, will be going to the seventh circle of Video Game Hell, where the only available console is the Philips CD-i and the dog from Duck Hunt clings to your back, laughing and sticking his dick in your ear.

Sigh. Long live Banjo and Kazooie. The way they were, my friends...the way they were. Never forget.

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