At long last, Banjo and Kazooie are in Super Smash Bros. “At long last,” I say, because the bear and Breegull duo have been some of the most requested additions to Nintendo’s mascot-based fighter for years. As players puzzle their way through the fighters’ toolkit, they’ve come across a couple surprises and not as many disappointments as you might expect.
In the original 1998 Nintendo 64 game, players exploited Banjo and Kazooie’s swimming, flying, and jumping to defeat enemies and solve tricky platforming problems. Banjo-Kazooie (which you can play on Xbox One) is a game about puzzles, and after a few hours playing with its protagonists’ Smash Ultimate incarnations, I can say that despite their deceptively simple appearances, they’re a bit of a puzzle, too.
A couple choice moves: Kazooie can pop a grenade out of Banjo’s back. Banjo and Kazooie can perform a hugely powerful side charge. Kazooie can shoot eggs out of its mouth, and if you hold down B, she can do it at a rapid clip. Banjo and Kazooie can also bury opponents with their down throw and toss themselves into their with a spring pad, which goes higher the longer it’s held.
The duo is a little slow, and a lot of their better moves suffer from some lag. Banjo and Kazooie feel balanced—but unless you’re doing some quick thinking, you’re not going to be getting the most out of their toolkit.
At first, it seems like Banjo and Kazooie have some big weaknesses, their vertical recovery being the most apparent. The first time you fall well below the stage, getting back up to safety will seem like a hopeless task. Players have solved this with some resourceful braining. The duo can’t use their recovery twice in a row to traverse more vertical distance; however, they can if they take damage. Players have found a way to shoot themselves into the air, grab Banjo and Kazooie’s grenade instead of popping it out behind them, explode it on themselves, and then use the recovery again. It’s a little hard to pull off.
Another innocuous, yet exploitable thing: Holding B will lock Kazooie into egg-spitting mode, so she can be mobile while performing the low-damage attack. Approaching an opponent like that is a good way to disrupt their gameplan. You can actually egg your opponent into the air from close range by hitting Up at the same time.
On the other hand, some things that stand out at first about Banjo and Kazooie aren’t as powerful as they seem. Their spectacular-looking down throw buries opponents, making for some great opportunities to smash them into space—but it’s also really easy for opponents to wiggle their way out of it unless they’re at a super high damage. Their grenade is excellent, but it’s hard to take advantage of, as it spits out behind the player. Ideally, you’d try to grab it.
Banjo and Kazooie’s best move, their side-B charge, has super armor, does tons of damage, and is a horizontal recovery option. But you can only do it five times per stock, as measured by the yellow feathers above the characters’ heads. Also, their spike is super risky—if you miss, you could find yourself pummeling down into the void.
A lot of mastering this character will be manufacturing situations in which Banjo and Kazooie can use their few super-powerful moves and avoiding situations where they cannot. It’s easy to wish the long-awaited fighters were more plainly good, but fans will know that the better good is their continuation of the puzzle-solving tradition.