Tag Archives: Banjo Kazooie

I’m sorry, Clanker, but there’s just no saving you

I’m still hiking around in this overpopulated landscape, chipping away at Rare Replay. I got the massive collection of games digitally back in the heyday during E3 for watching some streams via Microsoft’s Mixer app, and it’s been interesting seeing a lot of the games within it because, for the most part, I was never involved in a lot of Rare’s work growing up. This is probably because I never had a Nintendo 64, where the company seemed to shine brightest, and I also never touched a ZX Spectrum, where a lot of the company’s work started, under the divine name of Ultimate Play the Game. So far, I’ve dug deep into Jetpac and Gunfright, noodled around with the ultra difficult Battletoads, and not really touched anything else much other than to pop Achievements for basically opening each game once. Go me.

Look, I’m never not in the mood for a good collectathon, and I’ve always heard good things about the Banjo-Kazooie series. My first and only experience with the franchise was with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts on the Xbox 360 some years back, which, while it certainly had a number of items to collect, focused more on customizing vehicles and winning races and building the strangest contraptions this side of New Jersey. Not my forte; I’m no engineer. On a whim, I decided to see what Banjo-Kazooie is truly all about. Turns out–frustrating camera controls and the worst underwater swimming section I’ve ever dealt with, but more on that in a bit. Plus, Jiggies.

Ultimately, Banjo-Kazooie is a mascot-driven platformer developed by Rare and originally released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. It follows the lighthearted story of a bear named Banjo and a bird called Kazooie as they try to stop the plans of the evil witch Gruntilda, who intends to switch her beauty with Banjo’s sister, Tooty. Yes, those are all their real names. The game features nine nonlinear levels where the player must use Banjo and Kazooie’s wide range of abilities to gather jigsaw pieces, along with other collectibles, to get closer to taking on Gruntilda. Along with the jumping and climbing, there’s challenges like solving puzzles, accessing out-of-reach areas, collecting items, and defeating enemies that wish the duo harm.

I was going to initially say it’s mostly mediocre platforming, but than I hit a wall in the game. In Clanker’s Cavern, you have to free him from his chain that is hooked at the bottom of a low pit. It’s a long swim down there and, logically enough, it’s a long swim back up there. Most gamers would agree that water levels suck. Swimming underwater in these levels sucks even more, with the bonus possibility of running out of oxygen to make things even nastier. Clanker’s Cavern is the second level of Banjo-Kazooie that focuses on water, with Treasure Trove Cove being the first, and it contains its own demon in the water. However, in Treasure Trove Cove, you never have to deal with the fear of running out of air. In Clanker’s Cavern, that’s your biggest fear as you swim down to free stupid ol’ Clanker.

Right. At the bottom of this deep underwater pit is a key hooked beneath Clanker’s chain. To release him, you have to swim through the keyhole three times. Seemingly simple, yes, but that’s where they get you. Like I said… it’s a long swim down and a long swim back up, and if you don’t nail swimming through the keyhole perfectly each time, your chance of seeing blue sky diminishes rather quickly. Now, there is a fish called Gloop in the area spitting out air bubbles to give you a bit of a reprieve, but once again, grabbing them takes precision, and that’s not one of Banjo-Kazooie‘s bright spots. The swimming is slow and somewhat floaty, if that makes any sense, and I refuse to try and save Clanker anymore.

Perhaps I’ll just move on to Banjo-Tooie and pray that nothing similar to this level exists in that game; still, I’m sure I’ll find something just as annoying to battle with, but until then, may Clanker continue to be chained up against his will.

I’m floating in a most peculiar way in Jetpac’s space

Y’all should know by now that I’d  do nearly anything for a free game. Some things I won’t do include swimming with sharks, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, or going on one of those roller-coasters where you are dangling in the air from shoulder straps, your feet inches away from smacking into something solid and breaking into a thousand pieces. Otherwise, so long as I don’t end up in a lot of physical pain, I’m game.

And so, during this past week of E3 2017 shenanigans, there was a chance to earn Rare Replay, No Time to Explain, The Final Station, and a bunch of other digital rewards for zero dollars by simply watching Microsoft’s press conference live through Mixer, its streaming service formally known as Beam. Alas, I was too late to catch the conference, but there were other chances to participate throughout the week.

Of all those goodies, Rare Replay is the “game” I was most excited to receive; it’s a big collection of Rare’s history, a company that, after reviewing its portfolio, I have actually had little contact with, but appreciate their humor and love of colorful graphics from afar. I think I have only ever played one Rare game found in the collection, and that was Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Outside the collection, I’ve enjoyed Marble Madness, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (sorry, not you, Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!), and that opening level repeatedly on an emulated copy of GoldenEye 007 (please don’t arrest me). So there’s a lot to try out for the first time in this collection, and I have no intentions of playing through it in chronological order, but I did start it all off with Rare’s first game Jetpac, back when the company was called Ultimate Play the Game.

Jetman’s plight in Jetpac is one that pre-dates Groundhog Day, the film, by about ten years, but surely was an inspiration to anyone thinking about what it meant to be stuck in a time loop, repeating the same day and tasks again and again. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in installments scattered around the map) and fill it with a select amount of fuel before taking off to the next planet. This procedure is then repeated, over and over, with no end seemingly in sight. In addition to this, Jetman has to defend himself from the planet’s native aliens, which a varied and have different attack patterns. Some move diagonally, and others lock on to the tiny astronaut and follow him around the screen. He’s got a ray gun that shoots horizontal lasers for defense, and things like gems can be collected for bonus points.

By and far, my favorite thing about Jetpac is its wraparound world. You go to one edge of the screen, cross over, and appear on the other side. This is extremely handy when trying to avoid a group of enemies or make a shortcut to the rocketship. I’m sure this wasn’t the first game to do this, but I’m too tired to look up when Mario Bros. came out versus this game. Regardless, it works, and I have to say that, some 34 years later, the game plays pretty great. Jetman is pretty quick to move around, and the only problem I had was with collision on the platforms, which made him bounce back, often right into an alien enemy I was trying to avoid. The repetitious gameplay gets old, but one has to remember that this came from an era of high scores and bragging.

Thankfully, Rare Replay throws in some additional things to do, both in their milestone quests and snapshot features. Milestones are things like “kill X number of aliens” or “fill your rocketship up with fuel X times” while snapshots make things a little more tricky. One took away Jetman’s laser gun, forcing you to maneuver on your own quick wits, and another tasked him with completing five wraparounds in a row without dying. I happily completed all of these and popped every Achievement related to the title.

There are other games in the Jetpac series left to try out in Rare Replay, but I don’t know what I will tackle next. I suspect I’ll save some of the collectathons for later in life, when I have the time and am in a find shiny things kind of mood. Either way, I highly recommend you check out Jetpac and to not be put off by its age or graphics, of which I think the latter is pretty cool. The sound effects department is lacking, but I absolutely love the bright, crisp colors–the blurry screenshot above doesn’t do it justice, I know–and there’s a surprising amount of strategy and skill involved in bringing canisters of fuel to and fro. Certainly more than I expected when first launching it, and it’s always great to see where a company started. Here’s hoping Sea of Thieves incorporates some elements from Jetpac, like bringing bits of grog back to your ship one glass at a time until there’s enough to get the entire crew wasted and off to some other island.

Five more games I almost beat, but then walked away from

Rocket-Slime-1

Over at SlickGaming, every Sunday or so, Jason Jasicki lists the games he acquired across the week, whether they were provided to him for review purposes or he hit up a yard sale or–and more power to him–he ventured into GameStop during a “buy-2-get-1-free” promotional event and dropped some loose change on the counter. I’m not as deep into collecting as he is–though I still want to have every Suikoden title out there, even if I can’t play them–but it’s interesting to see what he picks up, for how much, and whether or not he’s actually interested in playing these games.

That said, his recent excursions landed him a copy of Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, a game which I got to the very last tank fight, but couldn’t beat–and haven’t gone back to since. Shame on me. That got me thinking about other games I got about 95% through before throwing in the towel. Now, for the die-hard of Grinding Down readers, you’ll most likely remember that I already touched on this topic, focusing on six PS2 titles that never got their respective credits to roll: Dark Cloud 2, Suikoden V, God of War, The Mark of Kri, Ratchet & Clank, and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. I wrote that post two years ago in October 2012, and here’s a surprising update–I’ve still not beaten any of ’em. Though I did make an attempt to get back into DQVIII, but it was short-lived.

Well, let’s see what else I can find in my collection that I nearly played to completion but, for some reason or another, walked away from. Dangerously, I might have to even load up a few of these to refresh my memory. On to the list!

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

All right. Just loaded up this DS cart on my 3DS for the first time in a very long time. Seems like I’ve rescued 90 slimes (out of 100), and my save slot says I’ve played Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime for 12 hours and 57 minutes (also of note: 0 multiplayer wins). I’m definitely at the last level of the game, also known as the Flying Clawtress, but I don’t know if it is actually the last tank battle or not as I previously suspected. I’ve wandered around the town map for a bit to get a feel again for the main slime’s powers and relearn the lay of the land. Maybe later I’ll see just how much more work I need to do to save the rest of the slimes and take down the final tank(s). That jaunty, head-boppin’ Boingburg town music already has a strong hold of my heart again.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Out comes Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, in goes The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. My 3DS is very confused. Looking at my save slot, there’s no logged time, and I truly don’t recall that last time I drew a line across the ocean and had Link sailing to and fro. Here’s what I can tell you: I have 11 hearts, three butterfly thingies (red, blue, and yellow), and three gemstones (red, blue, and green), though it looks like there is room for a fourth. I’m on some island, and I suspect I need to head back to wherever that one main ever-expanding singular dungeon is and see how far down it goes. Brace yourselves: I’m glancing at an online walkthrough. Ahh…yeah. Nothing even looks a sliver familiar, so I really don’t know where I am at this point. Maybe not 95%, more like 75% complete. Heck, I could just forget about the story and focus entirely on getting every single fish in the ocean…

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

According to my Achievements list, I have 31 of 60 unlocked for Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. It’s a bit difficult to tell, but it looks like I maybe only have a handful left related to story stuff, like defeating that mean ol’ witch and collecting a bunch more Jiggies. Jiggles? Er, I don’t remember. I think the problem I ran into was struggling to be creative enough with my vehicle creations and lacking the parts to do anything considerably cool, as well as some of the level design just being frustrating, especially when you are trying to ascend vertically. I know I did complete the game within the game, which was some strange auto-scrolling runner amusingly called Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh World.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner Overclocked

If you’ll recall, I sucked so horribly at this SJRPG that I hit the “Early Bad Ending” and put the blasted thing aside, eventually forgetting about it altogether, especially once Shin Megami Tensei IV entered my collection. Which is a major bummer, because I really enjoyed Devil Summoner Overclocked‘s story and characters, even if every other word out of their mouths is “demons” or “government.” If I’m going to successfully get past this one fight where you need to battle demons and angels and attack the humans to break their COMPs, but then also protect them from the previously mentioned angels and demons, with no civilians dying…I’m going to need help. Mega help. And by that, I might not to watch someone else play it on YouTube and try to mimic their every move. Yeah, I’m not happy with this.

Final Fantasy VIII

Yup, digging deep on this one. Back to the PS1 days and my PSM sticker-covered console that sat proudly on my bedroom’s floor. I have never beaten Final Fantasy VIII, and given that one of the game’s discs is missing from its jewel case, I most likely never will. That’s okay. It definitely is not one of my more favorite Final Fantasy titles, though I did find something strangely interesting with the Junction system. Plus, this is where Triple Triad got its start, but was better refined in Final Fantasy IX. Anyways, I do remember hitting the end-game area, back when I had the disc still, but–and no, I’m not looking this up to confirm–you had to split your group into two teams to progress, and one group of characters was much higher in levels and gear than the other. I was not prepared for such a scenario and walked away from it entirely. Oh well.

Well, that’s all I got for now. Whew. Between this list and that other one with the six unfinished PS2 games on it, I have plenty in the backlog waiting to be polished off. Waiting and wishing and wanting. That is if I ever make a dang effort to do so. We’ll see. My gaming habits are constantly in flux, and I just end up playing what I want, when I want, and for how long I want. If something goes unfinished or untouched for a good while, perhaps that’s how it was meant to be. Yeah, yeah, I see you, Game of Thrones, eye-balling me from across the room. I see you.

Tell me, dear readers. What games in your collection hover right on the edge of completion? And why did you stop playing?

 

Baby, you can drive my car…in Borderlands (cause I don’t want to)

I’m beginning to wonder what videogames with vehicles would be like without their vehicles. Most likely better, to start.

The Mako in Mass Effect was frustrating to control, and unsatisfying when you finally did get the hang out it because then you’re mostly standing still, bunny-hopping incoming rockets, and firing your own weaponry off into the great distance. Not fun, and it might have just been easier–and more fun–to walk the path from Mako point A to Make point B then drive like a loon. I was extremely glad to hear it got the ax for Mass Effect 2 though they seemed to have added in a flying ship of sorts. Not sure how it controls.

In Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, if a single block was off or the wrong type of fuel was attached, the vehicle would be classified in the local paper as 100% jalopy/clunker/hooptie. This made making your own vehicles un-fun, and using the ones provided by the game until you hit a spot where none of them would work. Wish it was a platformer again instead of a car circus.

And Grand Theft Auto IV‘s vehicles are just hahahahaaa ahaha ahahahahah ha. Ahem.

But I’m not here to harp on Mass Effect‘s shoddy future tank or Banjo Kazooie‘s pickiness. No, no. This blog post is all about the vehicles in Borderlands.

To start: WHAT ON PANDORA IS WRONG WITH THEM?

Actually, nothing. But there is something terribly wrong with the control scheme for them. So, once you’re inside the driver seat after accidentally climbing into the gunner seat a few times, you’re ready to burn some rubber around the wasteland. To do so, on the Xbox 360, you have to press forward on the left analog stick. Okay, weird. Old-school design. So how do you steer then? Oh, you also use the left analog stick. “But,” you ask, dear reader, “how can you effectively hold it forward to drive and tilt left/right to steer the vehicle away from sharp rocks?” You can’t.

I really had a lot of trouble figuring out how to use the vehicle once I got in it. And so far, after trying to use it on two missions to speed up travel time, I’ve found myself stuck on a rock or down a ditch thanks to hard-as-vault controls. It really boggles my mind, and I can’t seem to find a way to change the scheme myself. Why couldn’t you hold A for gas and steer with the analog stick? Makes no sense, I tell you.

Now I’m just waiting to unlock fast travel because driving vehicles, especially in a solo game where no one is watching my back or driving for me, is not a good time. Of all time. NOT A GOOD TIME OF ALL TIME. Shooting bandits is much more desired.

Yet somehow–and I assure you there was no skill involved here thanks to previous mentioned controls–I unlocked the following Achievement:


Get a Little Blood on the Tires (20G): Killed 25 enemies by ramming them with any vehicle

Seriously, at this point, I think the only game with vehicles I’ve ever greatly enjoyed is Super Mario Kart. Those things handled perfectly.

Going for 10,000 Gamerscore tonight

Call me crazy, call me full of OCD, but ever since I saw my Gamerscore hit 9,975 I’ve been wanting nothing more than to hit a straight 10,000 and to do it with my next Achievement. So I quickly perused my list for the first locked 25G Achievement, and there’s two sitting idle in my copy of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts: Speedy of the Colossus and Whoa Nelly! One involves going over a set speed and the other…involves going over a set speed. Hmm. Not sure how that worked that way.

But yeah, that’s my goal for tonight. Got a bunch of other stuff to do though (like watch House, read short stories, clean up some LOST fanart for tomorrow, and pay bills), but I think I can make time to unlock one of them.

Wish me luck!