Weathering tough times with help from a bear and his bird

Sometimes a game comes along that helps you get through a tough time. Video games can be nice like that.  Sure, they aren’t as soft and snuggly as a puppy, but they’re pretty reliable, always up for a good time, and will happily make you laugh or scream, depending on what you need at the moment. For me, that game was Banjo-Kazooie (1998).

Banjo-Kazooie cover art © Rare, Nintendo

After college, I moved away, far away from my home for a job.  It was a great job, a steady job, a fun job.  But about a year into it, I began to yearn…yes, yearn for something else.  I thought it might be a good idea to go back to school, get some sort of advanced degree to, y’know, help me advance.  So I picked a wonderful big-name school, gathered up everything I needed for the application process, sent it all away, and waited.  In the meantime, I told my boss about my plans, though I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be accepted in to the program.  He understood but had to make plans to fill my position whether or not I was sure I was leaving.  In the meantime, I started looking into another move and all that went along with it. The exact chain of events after that is a little fuzzy, but I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.  Long story short, the school didn’t get back to me in a timely matter, my position at work had been filled, and I didn’t get into the program.  I begged and pleaded spoke with my now-former boss about taking some sort, any sort of job, and I was able to stay on in another capacity.  It was not my original job, but I was still working and getting paid, thankfully.

Externally, life moved on and I moved on with it; internally, I was really upset about not getting into grad school.  I didn’t go into any sort of deep, lethargic depression, but I did develop some bad habits as a result — those that involved not giving a damn about time or money or education or authority.  The least troublesome of those habits was the Nintendo 64, which I played relentlessly.  Super Mario 64, Killer Instinct, Conkers Bad Fur Day, etc, etc. So leave it to a virtual bear and bird  to bring me out on my “self-destructive” funk.

Yep, of all the games that could have probably relieved my stress, I found Banjo-Kazooie to be a most soul soothing, a most positive, a most enjoyable game.  A bear and his bird, an evil witch, jinjos and jiggies…what a fantastic game it was!


From YouTube user N64Guide.

You know this game, right?  I mean, it was an incredibly popular title for the N64, another of Rareware’s gems. It spawned an immediate sequel and then a couple more games. Banjo-Kazooie told the simple story of Banjo, a bear, and his perilous adventures to save his sister from an evil witch.  During his travels, Banjo was accompanied by his friend, a bird named Kazooie.  Together, Banjo and Kazooie made a wonderful team through a host different levels, solving puzzles, collecting items, beating up bad guys, and navigating the terrain.  Being a Rare game, the 3D-ish graphics were bright, colorful, and fairly detailed.  Collecting puzzle pieces (jiggies) opened up new levels.  There were special items to collect (like, um, feathers, maybe?) that did special things; and other characters occasionally appeared to help the duo, like the probably-un-PC-but-still-kinda-cute shaman Mumbo Jumbo.

Mumbo Jumbo nicely and newly rendered in 3D..and still cute and still kinda, sorta, a little bit un-PC. (source)
Mumbo Jumbo nicely and newly rendered in 3D. (source)

What I remember most about this great game was its overall positive vibe.  In a time when I was down, Banjo-Kazooie literally served as a bright spot that knocked out, if only temporarily, my doldrums.  The game was fast-paced and fluid, spirited yet not overly so, and not the most difficult game to beat.  It was just what I needed at the time.  A game I could conquer to raise my spirits; a game to laugh at and with; a game to reasonably liven things up.  I defeated that witch several times, each time better than the last, and was each time lifted just a little more out of ruin.

Some people invest in therapists, and that works for them.  Video games are my investment; they work for me.  And Banjo-Kazooie still works today.  It’s truly loads of fun and is absolutely worth investing in.

How could you say no to these two? Though they do look a tad angry and…suspicious…don’t they? (source)

12 thoughts on “Weathering tough times with help from a bear and his bird”

  1. I love the “Banjo-Kazooie” games! Love them so much! I like “Banjo-Tooie” the most, but they’re both great. They’re both some of my favorite games. I found the games a bit hard to beat, though. Most of it wasn’t too hard, but darn Grunty was tough. Especially in the first game, and you gotta shoot eggs into those Jinjo statues while she’s pelting you with spells. Oh, the absolute horror! (And Rusty Bucket Bay. I kept drowning! It was terrible! And that pit of death that is the engine room or whatever! The nightmares!) I always thought Mumbo was cute. Well, not in the first game. He was a bit scary looking in the first game.

    Have you played the “BK” game on the 360? “Nuts and Bolts”, it’s called. It’s a shame it’s so much different from the original two. I wish Rare would make a good “BK” game again. The first two on the N64 were great.

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    1. I’ve not played any BK games outside of the first two on the N64. Not for lack of want, but I had heard that Nuts and Bolts wasn’t quite as good as the originals. It would be great to see Rare come back with something that resurrects its glory from the days of yore! But I guess having the original games on the virtual console (except for the lucky ones with working N64s) is better than nothing.

      I agree that Banjo-Tooie was as great if not better than the first. I thought about including both games on one post, but each one deserves its own praise. And I will admit that I glossed over the part about how long it took me to first beat BK. I died, a lot, during my very first playthrough.

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  2. This is one of the most cheerful games I have ever played. The music transitions perfectly to fit the mood of the area or situation you are in and I find it impossible not to smile whenever I hear a Banjo-Kazooie tune! I’ve said it before, but this game has so much character and even the “menacing” situations are lighthearted and fun. Great blog, it’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane!

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