The mid to late 90s was the heyday of 3D platformer games. With the ability to create 3D worlds in the N64 and PS1, developers effectively took common game elements from the recent 2D era and put them in a 3D space. 3D platformers often had numerous short levels with a bounty of collectible items. Looking back, it can be somewhat difficult to differentiate what to take out of that era. Today let me make the argument for one in particular that I always found very enjoyable, Banjo Kazooie.
Banjo Kazooie was released by Rare in June 1998 for the N64. You play as Banjo, a country bear who keeps his bird friend Kazooie in his backpack. Your goal is to free your sister from Gruntilda the witch. To complete this goal, you must jump into levels to find Jiggys, Jinjos, and musical notes, all of which will help you move forward toward Gruntilda’s lair.
I hold that the controls, sound, and over all visual aesthetic make Banjo Kazooie a game worth revisiting 18 years later. Having played a little of Banjo Kazooie recently, I felt very comfortable if not a little slowed down by the game. This is a game I will always love and will recommend to any kid/adult who hasn’t played it.
After the initial release, Rare made a sequel, Banjo Tooie, in 2000. In 2002, Rare was purchased by Microsoft and my hopes for any more Nintendo Banjo Kazooie games went away, except for a GBA game I didn’t know about until I was reading for this post. Rare did make an Xbox 360 BK game, but it’s altered look and focused on vehicles made sure I was not very interested in the title. Currently, BK fans can pick up Rare Replay on the Xbox1 to play both N64 titles.
For those like me who miss the adorable fun of 3D platformers, fret not! There is a spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie on the way. In June of 2015 Playtonic Games, which includes numerous Rare veterans, had a successful Kickstarter campaign for game called Yooka-Laylee. The release is currently slated for October 2016.