A great game revived with the wonder that is Xbox Live Arcade
The game revolves around the story of a bear named Banjo and his bird slave, Kazooie who hangs around in the ever so cramped blue backpack that Banjo always seems to be wearing. They live in the same small house with Banjo's young sister Tooty, only a short walk down the road from a rather suspicious looking lair where the evil witch Gruntilda resides. At the very beginning of the game, Gruntilda discovers that Tooty is the most beautiful girl of all after having a short conversation with her cauldron (Yep, Inanimate objects can talk in this game, just don't question it and you'll be ok). Jealous that she isn't the most beautiful, she decides to kidnap Tooty with the intent of swapping her beauty with hers using some weird looking machine. Anyways it is Banjo and Kazooie's job to save Tooty and stop the evil witch.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward. You will first obtain access to Grunty's Lair which is basically a hub level that allows you access into all of the other worlds. In total there are nine worlds to explore, each greatly detailed and containing many different items to collect. The most important of these items are jigsaw pieces and notes, which gains you access to the different sections of Grunty's lair and to new worlds.
One of the cool things about this game is that in every level you can find Bottles the mole, who will teach you various types of new moves that you can perform in the game. Often times learning moves allows you access to new parts of levels or helps you obtain jigsaw pieces. Also in each level you can recruit the help of skull headed shaman who's rather useless transformations can gain you access to areas that Banjo and Kazooie can't get to. Who knew being a pumpkin could be so useful?
I found the dialog and character interactions to be exciting as well. The characters are well developed, with each character having a unique personality and often times you can see them clash in a humorous way. An example of this long going war of insults between Bottles the mole and Kazooie. This along with the occasional horrible pun from Gruntilda help add a comedic feel to all of the annoying talk scenes, which in this game are actually interesting to read. Also worth noting is that some of the information (mainly the things you learn about Gruntilda) is actually creatively used later on.
The only complaints I have about the gameplay is that every time you reenter a level or die, all of the notes in that level respawn. It may not sound like a big deal but there are some difficult levels farther into the game where it can be a pain. It';s very frustrating when you have collected 95 notes in a level (out of 100), only to have to recollect them all again because you fell off a cliff. And what's more is that those notes can take a painfully long time to find. Thankfully, I think this aspect of the game was fixed in the XBLA version of the game. The only other thing to say about the gameplay is that some of the game can be slightly repetitive with the collecting of all the items, but the game doesn't lose its fun factor from this.
Graphically this game isn't going to compare with the new games of today, but for its time this game has amazing graphics. It has a cartoon type feel to it, but the worlds in which you explore are huge and greatly detailed. The worlds themselves are largely themed based (like there is a winter level, a haunted level, ect.), but all have so much color to them it makes them exciting. Rare paid attention to the small stuff and it shows. Banjo Kazooie has nice looking textures and effects, making this game look pretty good for something that was originally for the Nintendo 64. If you're playing this game on the 360 arcade you will also notice the small graphic improvements made by Microsoft and you can also play it in HD. Awesome huh?
Another high point in this game is the music. It may sound like a synthetic version of real instruments but I absolutely love it. The music is captivating and it captures the feel of all of the worlds and situations you encounter. You can also hear slightly different variations of the music in this game by traveling to different sections of a level or while swimming. A nice subtle touch that not all games include these days. This game also has its own official soundtrack that was released soon after the game came out.
Another nice thing about this game that is often overlooked is the fact that controls are very simple in this game. To a casual newcomer, starting off with all the moves could be a confusing task. Fortunately for them this game only starts you off with the most basic and simple moves (and there is a tutorial for all of these moves at the beginning of the game). Whenever Bottles teaches you new moves he will explain in details how to perform them making the controls in this game a breeze.
As for longevity, this isn't the longest game out there but it's certainly not the shortest. If you know the game really well and have played through it you could probably beat the game with 100% completion in 7 hours or so. However for playing through the first time it could easily take you 20 hours to do everything depending on how fast you want to go through the game. It's a very nice length for a platformer.
Unfortunately after playing through the game and learning how to obtain all the puzzle pieces and learning the locations of all the notes, the game loses some of its first play through appeal. So the replay value takes a hit there, but even so this game retains a high replay value. I'm a huge fan of this series and I can honestly tell you I enjoyed playing through again and again. Though you're probably not going to be playing it 10+ times, you will still enjoy playing this a second or third time through.
In conclusion this is an excellent game sometimes missed by some of the more dedicated gamers. But if you give Banjo Kazooie a chance it won't disappoint and it is well worth the money you have to pay on XBLA to get it. So sit down, relax, and get ready for some bear and bird vs ugly witch action.