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Reviewed by Dave I admit it. Banjo-Kazooie is pretty much a Mario 64 clone. Many people were upset when they heard it would be, but I am happy to say I was not one of them. Let's face it, Mario 64 was one of the games ever made, and I say any game that can come even close in this a video game market where anything can go is fine with me. The basic premise is that an evil witch named Gruntilda is holding Banjo (a "beachcomber" bear) 's little sister Tooty because she is too beautiful. You play Banjo and Kazooie (a smartmouthed bird who lives in Banjo's backpack). Wow. What an original plot, ay kids?

Graphics 9.9 out of 10

When I got the video for this game in the mail, I nearly drowned in my own drool over the perfection I was witnessing. Once I bought the game, I was astonished to discover that it was even better then I had seen. The characters have no breakup, and look incredible even close up. Believe it or not, the graphics spit all over Mario 64 with great textures, huge bosses, and (get this) no pop-in!! Instead, the enemies fade slowly in. I know that it is hard to imagine, but somehow Rare pulled it off! My only very small beef about the Graphics is the touch of slowdown in a few of the open levels. It doesn't affect the game at all, though.

Music and Sound 9 out of 10

The music in Banjo-Kazooie is almost perfection, with a catchy theme (you'll want to watch the intro every time you turn it on) and another very interesting feature that I have never seen in a game before. As you journey from area to area in the huge overworld to the huge levels, the music changes slightly. What I mean by this is that the theme varies from style to style. For example, when you are in a cave, the music is hollow and haunting. As you move to a sandy area, the music slowly fades into a more "Egyptian" mode. When you are underwater, the music is suppressed. The only problem here is that some of the music is a tad cutesy, but fortunately not as much as one would think.

Game Challenge 10 out of 10

This game presents something for all levels of gamer, being not too frustrating for the beginner and not to easy for the expert. There is always more to do and you can always go the extra mile if you want to, as in Mario 64. You don't need to find all the Puzzle pieces (think Stars from Mario 64) or the Musical Notes (you need a certain amount to open some doors in the overworld) but you can, and you will be rewarded.

Game Play-Fun 10 out of 10

Once you put the game in your N64, it won't be coming out for a while. This game has more moves than Mario, and it will take some time to master. The interesting part is that Banjo and Kazooie do not operate in a "tag-team" sort of a way, as seen in Donkey Kong Country, but combine their powers in an amusing way. To execute their moves, you must hold down Z and press a C button. Normally these control the camera (Mario 64 style) but operate differently with Z. For example, holding Z and hitting left C makes Kazooie pop her legs out of the pack and carry Banjo on her back, moving at higher speeds and being able to walk up steep surfaces, as long as you hold Z down. Z plus C up makes Kazooie shoot eggs out her mouth. These seem awkward, but they really aren't. You can't use them until you learn them, but this too works quite well. This game also improves on some of the things in Mario 64, like flying. To fly, you must stand on a special pad and press A, and Kazooie will pop out. Once you are up in the air, you control just like Mario did, with a few exceptions. To fly higher, hit A again and you will use up one Red Feather. You can collect these in levels, and hold 50 at a time. This system works really well if you want to get up to a mountain or a cliff. As you progress, you can also gain more Honeycomb holders. These are like a life meter, and you start out with 5 of them full. Once you gain 6 pieces though, a sixth life unit will be added. You can eventually hold 8, but I haven't done it yet. If you are hit, one becomes empty and you must kill an enemy for another piece.

Rumble Pak 10 out of 10

This game works exceptionally well with the Rumble Pak, with a small rumble for a hit, or a large rumble for a long fall or an explosion. Even Kazooie tapping on your head (if you don't move for a while) can be felt in a very small motion.

Replayability 10 out of 10

There is always more to do and find in this game, and it really never gets boring. The 9 levels are huge beyond belief, and I am amazed that they could pack so much into a 128-meg cart.

Game Value 10 out of 10

At $49.99, this game is a steal. You will not regret buying it for one moment, and actually care about the characters in the game after a while.

Overall 95 out of 100

I love this game. It is one of my top 10 favorites, past Mario 64. In terms of playability and graphics, you will wonder how Rare could pull so much out of the N64. A goldmine waiting to be harvested.

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