It’s surreal to think about, but it has been fifteen years since Banjo-Kazooie was first released to the world in 1998 for the Nintendo 64. It was Rare’s first venture into the 3D platforming genre and has been hailed by many as the greatest 3D platformer to-date. It’s witty humor, charming characters, unforgettable soundtrack and astounding gameplay created a bond between the players and the game that was inseparable as much as the bear and bird were at the time. It became a critically acclaimed success that fans of platformers and Rare in general would never forget.
Banjo-Kazooie was the tale of a bear and a bird who set out on adventure to rescue Banjo’s young sister Tooty. In a sinister plot to steal Tooty’s beauty, the evil witch Gruntilda bearnapped the young cub to set her devious plans into motion. Spanning nine worlds, Banjo and Kazooie would have to traverse them to collect Jiggies and Magical Notes to unlock the secrets held within Gruntilda’s Lair and gradually ascend to the top for an epic final showdown. Along the way they met many charming characters and ruthless enemies, a shaman who could transform them into different creatures, a mole who taught them numerous new abilities and Jinjos who had lost their way. All of those elements and the gameplay aesthetics that went them formulated an experience that would be remembered for years to come
Now just like any successful franchise, Banjo-Kazooie isn’t the only game to be released in the series. It was followed by a much bigger and more ambitious sequel in 2000 named Banjo-Tooie. Then there was the Game Boy Advance interquel Grunty’s Revenge that took place in between Kazooie and Tooie and Banjo Pilot, a racing game that brought Banjo back to the racetrack (his original debut was in Diddy Kong Racing). In 2008, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts introduced the bear and bird to the HD generation of Xbox 360 in a bold and risky move that saw the duo ditch their traditional platforming roots for vehicular gameplay. While an excellent game at its core, it received harsh criticism from fans and was a financial failure. 2008 and 2009 also brought HD re-releases of Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie to the Xbox LIVE Arcade via Rare and 4JStudios.
With the unfortunate failure of Nuts & Bolts, there is uncertainty toward the future of the franchise. But considering this is the 15th anniversary of the series, I certainly hope that we will see a new title soon in celebration of the milestone–a new game that returns the duo back to their platforming ways and charms the world once again as they did fifteen years ago. The world needs a new Banjo platformer and with series lead Gregg Mayles still at Rare, I’ve no doubt the studio could deliver. Make it happen, Rare!