Rating: Average Over a year after it was unveiled at the 1997 E3 show, Rare's Banjo-Kazooie is finally done, and to no one's surprise it's a complete and total rip-off of Super Mario 64. Yes, Rare has ripped off the work of Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto once again, producing a game with the same basic look and feel as Mario 64. Banjo looks better graphically (but not too much better), and as good as Banjo's music is, it won't stick in your head like Mario's. As for the gameplay, Banjo is much more focused on exploration, puzzle-solving, and item-collecting than Mario, with a lot less pure platform action. And unfortunately, the camera in Banjo is just as flawed as it was in Mario, so be prepared to be challenged more by the screwy camera than by the gameplay itself. While copying... uh, I mean "drawing inspiration from" (as Rare would say) Mario 64, Rare also took the chance to rip off Snow White to come up with Gruntilda, the ugly witch who is trying to suck beauty out of others to make herself look more attractive. Banjo-Kazooie spends a lot more time being annoying, tedious, and stress- inducing than it does being fun. Without much actual platforming to speak of, the gameplay is limited to roaming around each level looking for puzzles to solve and items to collect. And God forbid you should die even once or you lose all your music notes (out of 100 in each level) and have to start the tedious task of collecting them all over again. The game was very entertaining for me at first, but this only lasted as long as it took me to realize that all the game isn't much of platform game at all. If you're jumping around with dead-on control and fighting challenging bosses, that's an action/platform game, but this game is something else entirely. And quite frankly, my idea of a good time is not a game whose entire gameplay structure revolves around simply running around solving menial puzzles and collecting insane amounts of goofy items. In 1996, Super Mario 64 was a revolutionary game that introduced video gamers to exciting new 3D worlds and incredible graphics that were unheard of on home consoles. But in 1998, Banjo-Kazooie is just a re-hash of Mario 64 whose only notable difference is that unlike Mario, Banjo doesn't quite know what kind of game it wants to be.
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