It really does sound quite absurd, adventures of a bear and bird... . Fortunately it's still great!
Ten years ago I was a huge fan of Banjo Kazooie, the bear and bird who since have gone on to star in several other titles on a variety of formats. Their first adventure arrived on the N64 to rave reviews and many people hailing it as one of the greatest plat formers ever, and they certainly were not wrong. Now it's 2009 and replaying the title after all these years has been a great nostalgia trip but how does it hold up in terms of quality in the present gaming world?
Platform games these days are rather dead and mediocre with few delivering the quality seen back on the N64 and it's true that even by today's standards as a platform game Banjo Kazooie stands up well. The worlds of the game are now fairly small in comparison to some gaming worlds on offer, but the variety of tasks on offer and the level of exploration required to get 100% of everything in the game still goes beyond what many next-gen titles of ALL genres manage. Every Jigsaw piece you must find to progress through the worlds and defeat Grunthilda before she takes away the beauty of Banjo's little sister is woven into a lovingly crafted piece of exploration or puzzle. Every mini game, quest or plat forming challenge you take up to get the jigsaws is perfectly balanced to be challenging yet entertaining and ultimately very satisfying to complete when you do. So few games in today's world deliver the feeling of achievement and satisfaction a play through of Banjo Kazooie delivers, despite them being technically superior.
Rare's attention to detail is another aspect that lets the game soar above most current gen offerings. The graphics may be a bit clunky and ugly by today's standards of course, but the details in the worlds, the beautiful orchestral music that changes throughout to give the perfect atmosphere, even the silly item sound effects and character noises work so well. The game has clearly had so much effort put into it and bringing it to a wider audience on the 360 is one of the smartest things Rare and Microsoft have done. A few of the games original glitches do remain though, the camera is idiotic at times and doesn't co-operate with you at crucial moments causing some instant deaths and the finale of the title is as punishing difficult as ever. You need luck to get through the final battles, that's for sure.
Most things that can be said about Banjo Kazooie were said about it 10 years ago, but I'll say now that it remains one of the best plat forming adventures ever and a title everyone should play.