If there's one thing we established yesterday on GameZone's 31 Games of Halloween with Bayonetta, it's that Halloween needs a good witch. Well, because I love the awesome October 31 holiday so much, I'm going to give it two witches! This time around, though, things are going to be a little different. Rather than having a sexy witch who destroys creepy monsters, we're going to take a look at a comically ugly witch that wants to cause trouble for a bear and his bird pal.
That's right, our month-long Halloween series on GameZone continues with the beloved Nintendo 64 classic Banjo-Kazooie.
Why it stands out
Most of the platformers we see these days are 2D affairs. Back in the late '90s, however, the 3D platforming craze was running rampant all over the Nintendo 64. Super Mario 64 really helped jump-start what would become a genre phenomenon that included games like Donkey Kong 64 and Conker's Bad Fur Day, both from Rare. Before those games, though, the developer debuted a brand new series that starred a bear-and-bird duo.
Banjo-Kazooie didn't exactly revolutionize the genre, which was still quite fresh at the time. That said, it took things that Mario 64 so brilliantly introduced and cleverly offered its own spin on them. While you could argue all day long about which game is the best between the two, there's no denying that Rare delivered its own brand of platforming entertainment and wacky themes. Amazingly enough, just like Mario's jump to 3D, Banjo-Kazooie remains largely enjoyable and playable today.
Is it scary?
Just like its pleasantly goofy title would suggest, there's nothing scary about Banjo-Kazooie. Still, there's a lot to love about this game. First and foremost, it's pretty funny. The titular Banjo and Kazooie play off of each other in awesome ways, cracking jokes about one another and constantly berating each other for their blunders. The cutscenes in Banjo-Kazooie are somewhat reminiscent of a buddy film, teaming two characters up and then just letting them take jabs at each other.
Aside from taking a comedic approach, the game is also really offbeat. The way characters talk to one another, the levels, and the main antagonist Gruntilda are all ridiculously wacky. Ol' Grunty is especially noteworthy, because despite the fact that she's supposed to be a sinister witch who's after the cute looks of Banjo's little sister Tooty (fart jokes!), she's a surprisingly lovable villain who you can't help but enjoy encountering. It's always great meeting a new character or reaching a different level and then seeing as Grunty's mug pops up at the bottom of the screen immediately after, only for her to ridicule you or complain while speaking in rhymes.
It's worth pointing out that a lot of the environments in the game boast the perfect balance between fun creepiness and cartoony charm. This is especially true of Mad Monster Mansion, which is filled with ghosts, talking urns, and a piano-playing ghost hand. Honestly, Banjo-Kazooie could very well have just been a cartoon movie made specifically for Halloween back in the '90s. The sights, the sounds, and the very essence of the adventure itself all create a wonderful ambiance that's geared toward individuals who want to have a few chuckles while immersed in a whimsical yet spooky land.
Why play it on Halloween?
Like Bayonetta, you should play Banjo-Kazooie primarily due to the fact that one of its main characters is a witch. That said, it almost seems as if this cheery platformer is an even more fitting choice, the reason being that it takes a lighthearted approach to its themes of witches and ghouls. Sure, Bayonetta may have horrific and gruesome imagery, but for a lot of people, Halloween is all about having a cheery good time, and Banjo-Kazooie definitely gives you exactly that.
Here's a fun little fact for ya. I fondly remember being a kid and playing through Banjo-Kazooie one October, only to fittingly beat it for the first time ever on Halloween. Maybe it's because I was a kid, but defeating that evil witch Grunty on that day made it a really special moment for me. I remember that instance with the utmost of nostalgia, and it's still very vivid despite being nearly a decade ago.
So I invite you to play Banjo-Kazooie, which is currently available on Xbox Live Arcade (no need to spend upward of $400 for a Nintendo 64 cartridge) and create your own awesome Halloween memories.
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.