Review: Banjo-Kazooie XBLA

Ahh…Banjo-Kazooie. My favourite game on the Nintendo 64 and quite possibly of all time. Although I have to admit that I never fully completed it and I don’t think I’ve fully played it through since 1999 (it was my cousin’s game). That said, the entire game was still stuck in my head. after all those years. And if that isn’t the sign of a truly phenomenal game then I don’t know what is.

Now I finally get the chance to play through the game again. The XBLA version may be pricy, but it’s definitely worth the money. The game looks, sounds and plays better than ever before.

Banjo-Kazooie is one big platforming colletathon. Playing through the game will probably take somewhere between 7 and 20 hours, depending on how you play the game (although it can be done much quicker). I don’t really see much point in explaining much as if you’ve never played an N64-era platformer before then you probably won’t apreciate any of them. So if you were too young when this and Super Mario 64 first came out then go away.

The controls are (mostly) wonderfully assigned to the 360 controller. Navigating thin platforms is now much, much easier thanks to the 360’s precise analogue stick and camera control is vastly improved (even though it’s not fully 3D and there are still a few difficult situations when it changes to a fixed camera). The only exception is the Wonderwing move which requires you to press one of the triggers and right on the analogue stick. You’ll sometimes activatie when trying to move the camera while amining eggs. I personally would have had the move as RS (as in clicking the stick).

To be fair, that niggle has only appeared because the rest of the moves have been taken off the camera controls and placed on the 360’s face buttons. Also, either one of the triggers button can be used depending on which you find more comfortable.

As for the game looking/sounding better, it still uses all the same models, textures and sounds as the original (which IMO is the best possible thing – you can’t really improve the models without messing up the platforming and high res textures on low poly models would look stupid) however it’s all crystal-clear due to the enhanced resolution and 5.1 surround sound mix. It also runs impossibly smoothly.

As for changes. In the original the total amount of notes you get in a level would be saved. Unless you collected all the notes, the only way to get more from that level would be to re-collect the amount you previously had and then get more. This was very annoying in Rusty Bucket Bay. In the 360 version each individual note is saved.

Speaking of Rusty Bucket Bay. The inside section is a good reminder of how important checkpoints are. It’s fairly annoying to have to go to the back of the ship and hit a switch each time you die before you head towards the difficult part. Still, this seems to be the only annoying part of the game.

On top of the notes, the game also feels a lot easier. The “navigate this thin platform within the time limit” sections are no longer a problem due to the controller and other things, like aiming eggs, makes some sections eaiser. Still, that’s hardly the game’s fault as it was designed for the N64’s controller (which was briliant back in it’s day).

This version also has leaderboards for each level. Which will probably keep me playing this game for a long time.

Banjo-Kazooie on the XBLA is an improved version of a classic platformer that is definitely worth the 1200 Microsoft Points (and this comes from someone who was supposed to get the game weeks ago for free because I pre-ordered Nuts & Bolts).

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