The Nintendo 64 was the first console I ever owned all to myself. It provided countless hours of entertainment. From Ocarina of Time to Mario 64 to Pokemon Snap, the console was the gift that kept on giving. And I didn't even enjoy everything it had to offer.
As some of you already know, Donkey Kong 64 is one of my most beloved treasures. At the time, I had no idea that there were other games just like it. About a week ago, I played through Banjo-Kazooie for the first time. And I loved it. Everything about DK64 that I remember so fondly is intact in Rare's 1998 title. Goofy characters, vibrant colors, a strong soundtrack, wacky level design. How did I miss out on this game the first time around?
Without spoiling anything for others like myself, I'll just say that the story is simple. Banjo's sister Tooty has been kidnapped by a repulsive witch named Gruntilda, and the ultimate goal is to save Tooty and stop Grunty's menacing poetry once and for all. Along the way, you meet a cast of cooky animal characters, and the voodoo witch-doctor Mumbo Jumbo even lets you play as different animals, yourself. As a baby alligator, a walrus, or even a pumpkin, you can hop around to your heart's content in the lively worlds found throughout Gruntilda's lair. If you'd ever told me that I would have flushed my petite round pumpkin body down a ghost toilet to obtain a golden jigsaw piece, I would probably have asked you what the hell you'd been smoking, and "Where can I get some?"
That's the kind of thing that happens in Banjo-Kazooie. Completely off-the-wall, crazy stuff. Yet it all somehow makes sense, and the challenge of solving the next puzzle is so compelling that I kept saying "One more, then bed." Thirty minutes later I was bargaining for more time, as the game just never ceases to deliver. The only times that I got truly stumped were related to using Kazooie's eggs for... err.. unorthodox means. Honestly, who thinks to plant an egg in the ground to sprout a giant flower? That's not the way biology works! But I digress.
Despite it's charming nature, the game is actually rather difficult at times. During my time with it, I learned to be more careful with my jumps and more conservative with my choices. It can be quite punishing if you screw up. And you know what? That's okay. It was refreshing to play a game that could kick my ass every once in a while. To the point where, I will admit, I did use my emulator's save state feature to get through some of the tougher portions. Don't judge me. I'm an old man now. I don't have hours upon hours to spend on this stuff like I used to.
You'd think that Yooka-Laylee would have sparked my interest to play this game, but it was Donkey Kong 64, which I also replayed through recently on the Wii U Virtual Console. Regardless of reason, though, I'm so glad I did. This is one of the best games I've played in years.
Now excuse me, I'm on to play some Banjo-Tooie.