In my never-ending crusade to take out a large backlog of video games, I recently moved on to the Nintendo 64, a system that admittedly didn’t age too well, but then again still was pretty playable. I splurged $20 on a used controller because all of mine evidently grew legs and wandered away. I only have a small number of 64 games that I wish to go back and beat, most of them 3D platformers.
It was then that I made a terrible life decision to 100% Banjo-Tooie. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, “Banjo-Tooie” is the name of the game, and to “100%” a game is to get every single item and collectible in the game. Depending on the game, this can be a tremendous burden in your life if you don’t know the complexity of it well enough. I did not realize how complex Banjo-Tooie was, and so I was unbeknownst signing up for 20+ hours of mental agony.
As a huge fan of the original Banjo-Kazooie game, I figured I would be treated to more of the same awesome 3D platforming trend that the Nintendo 64 totally rocked at. I’ll admit that Jak & Daxter as well as Ratchet & Clank were two terrific character duos on the Playstation 2 that I never really gave enough time. I think around that time was my Great Console Exodus and I stopped playing consoles altogether. But to me, coming from a Nintendo household, it was all about the 64 3D platformers. I think we all owe a moment of silence followed by a moment of applause to Rareware, the amazing now-Microsoft-owned company who practically delivered these games under our trees every Christmas.
It had been a while since I fired up the ol’ N64, and while it didn’t age terribly, the first most obvious trait is the horrendous framerate. Admittedly, this was not an issue on most games put out on the N64, but if there was one game that suffered the worst, it had to be Banjo-Tooie.
If you’ve never played it before, let me just say that there are probably photographs out there with better frame rates than this game. And of course, the framerate likes to drop at the most inopportune times, like jumping up spinning platforms. Combined with the unavoidable fallout of increased input lag, and the amount of frustration lingering in the air after an hourlong play session could be extracted and mixed in a blender with a cup of ice and rocks into a Cocktail of Hate.
It started off promising though. I enjoyed the first three levels, and, lag aside, it was actually pretty enjoyable. I thought it was neat that you had to learn new moves in certain levels, and there was much joy to be had when you realized where you could go back and use a new move you just learned. This glee was extremely short lived (I’d put it around Jolly Roger’s Lagoon,) when I realized that I would spend most of my time wandering around in a new level, desperately trying to find things to do. Witchy World was another good example of this. Tons of things to do later!
Let’s talk about the quests. Go to Youtube and watch a speedrun of Banjo-Kazooie right now. Do it. Here, I’ll make it easy (if there’s no link here, it’s because I forgot to add it). You were rewarded with Jiggies constantly. Banjo-Tooie, it can take you 40 minutes to get a single one. It used to feel awesome getting a Jiggy, BT it gave you 5 seconds to breathe a sigh of relief and mutter ‘finally’ under your breath.
One of the main differences between BK and BT is that in BK, each level was it’s own cut-off world, where you learned all the necessary moves for that level, as well as the future levels. With BT, there was so much backtracking you felt like you were in a Metroid game. But seriously, who the hell could remember backtracking 3 levels and re-navigating the maze of levels to get a single Jiggy?
One thing that Banjo-Tooie has in it which I think is awesome is a totals counter for each level (seriously, why do more platformers not have something like this?) The best part was that it had a timer for each level, so you can see exactly how much of your life has been dedicated to a level. With each passing level, I was spending more and more time wandering around. The 100%’d the first level in an hour and 20 minutes. Then an hour and a half. Then two full hours. Eventually I was missing 1-2 Jiggies per level and had spent over 3 hours in each.
Around the 3 hour mark in Terradactyland, I decided I had “had enough of this bullshit” and resorted to hitting Youtube and watching a 100% walkthrough video. I put it on my laptop next to my TV and ran through Grunty Industries in an hour and half. It was absolutely miserable and I realized I was having absolutely no fun at all, but once you sink that kind of time into something, you can’t not finish it, right?
I made it through Grunty’s bullshit factory, and the next level in about an hour and 45 minutes each. The best part was that I learned I only needed 70 Jiggies to beat the game. Rejoice! I opened up Grunty’s castle and, after 14 failed attempts totaling almost 2 hours, finally downed the beast. I finally beat Banjo-Tooie. And I will never play it again.
It was a damn shame that it had to go down this way, the well was kind of poisoned for me and I have since put off playing Banjo-Kazooie again. Sometimes, fond memories are best kept in the past. A lesson that only cost me 20 hours of my life. If you take away anything from this rambling, it’s that before you bust out that old game again, watch a speedrun or something of it on Youtube and really consider whether it’s worth the time investment.