I used to have a Nintendo 64 as a child, and one of the games I had owned for it was this one - Banjo-Kazooie. Even to this day, nothing has topped this game for me. Oh, some games have come incredibly close, but this game, for me, is one of the best 3D platformers I've ever played.
A first glance at the storyline may make people believe it seems like a Super Mario 64 rip-off. Well, if it is, then it does not matter one little bit because it's still amazing. In fact, I'd go as far as to say this is BETTER than Super Mario 64. The whole formula of rescuing a damsel-in-distress is still there, but it's been perfected. The bottom line is, Banjo's younger sister Tooty has been kidnapped by the evil witch Gruntilda, who wants to steal Tooty's youth, so there's a little bit of Snow White-esque stuff there, with Gruntilda wanting to be the fairest of them all. Of course, it's up to Banjo and his grumpy bird friend Kazooie to rescue Tooty and save the day.
Once you are thrown into the game, you can choose to learn the basic moves in tutorials or not, so new gamers can learn the control scheme and people who have played it before do not need to be put through a tutorial for things they're already aware of. This I felt was a good thing to add. The game does not truly begin it's epicness however until you reach Gruntilda's lair.
For it's time, the lair, which acts as an overworld, is pretty huge, with a total of nine levels in which you have to search for notes and 'jiggys'. Jiggys are used to open up new levels, and there are ten found in each level. Notes are used to proceed throughout the overworld to get to the other levels. There are various doors found throughout Gruntilda's lair, each with a number on it which is the amount of notes you need to open the door. In each level, there are 100 notes. As well as each level consisting of 100 notes and 10 jiggys, there are also five birds known as Jinjos and collecting all five in a level enables you to earn a Jiggy. There are also Mumbo tokens in every level and even in the overworld, and collecting the specified amount enables you to take them to Mumbo, so he can use his magic and transform you into another animal.
The gameplay in Banjo-Kazooie follows Mario's 3D adventure in a lot of ways, but it's vastly improved in many ways. For one, Banjo and Kazooie can use a lot more moves than Mario ever could in his first 3D outing, ranging from firing eggs at enemies out of Kazooie's mouth, springing (using spring boards of course), flying, stomping, as well as the standard stuff such as punching and swimming.
Another massive improvement over Mario 64 is the overall size of the game. Banjo-Kazooie is massive. Much like Mario could explore Peach's castle and several worlds inside, Banjo and Kazooie explore Gruntilda's lair and nine fascinating, memorable and well-designed levels. The graphics also look amazing, using a lot more detail than what was found in Mario 64.
The music is also mostly light, and really fits the levels well. It's incredibly memorable as well. The sound effects really fit too, and sound good. The character's do not speak, but the noises they make to signify they're talking when text comes up with their faces next to them? Hilarious.
There are only two gripes I had with Banjo-Kazooie; first one being it's camera, but to be brutally honest, I found myself in control of the camera a lot of the time, so most issues were easily remedied. The only other issue would be dying and having to recollect 100 notes again, instead of saving what you've gathered so far. I've only had issue with this on later levels, however, and the Xbox 360 port/remake of the game fixes this issue entirely, as well as improving on draw distance and graphics.
Overall, Banjo-Kazooie is still a classic, still one of my top favourite games ever, and I recommend it to anybody, especially if you're a lover of the platforming genre and especially if you've played and loved Super Mario 64. In my opinion, no Nintendo 64 collection is complete without this game. If that's not an option for you though, the Xbox 360 port is just as good, if not better.