Stephen Totilo: Yeah, it wasn’t as fun to control as Mario 64. Which is like saying your current favorite NBA player isn’t as good as Michael Jordan. Nothing in gaming will likely ever feel as good to input as Mario’s triple-jump in that game. But BK had that sense of humor. Mario was confident and sweet. Banjo was confident and goofy. You knew that from the start when its all-time-great soundtrack started playing. High-energy, silly music. (And adaptive music, too, right? The instrumentation of the music in the hub area changed depending on where you were, if I recall correctly).


What worlds stand out for you?

Patrick Klepek: Going by pure memory, there were two that stood out, and I make no guarantees one of these happens to be in the sequel.


One, the stage with the huge submarine. Stages like that underscored what was so incredible about Banjo-Kazooie, at least at the time. The camera would swoop through these just…enormous areas. It was hard to take in, and that’s what made it so exciting. What’s up there? What’s up there?! In the case of the submarine world, it wasn’t just what was UP there, but what was beneath the surface, too. It was just such a big game, and that was both novel and exciting at the time. Games were opening up!

Two, I recall an Egyptian-themed stage that involved lots and lots of careful floating from platform to platform. That was the other thing I loved about Banjo-Kazooie: you had a freedom of movement, an ability to cross vast distances, that wasn’t possible in other games, thanks to the limited abilities of your bird friend. In that stage, if you used him correctly, you could make it to places that seemed unfathomable when you first entered.


You? I know you mentioned four-seasons, which I don’t remember very well.

Stephen Totilo: Patrick, Patrick, Patrick. Huge submarine?

Patrick Klepek: Uh oh.

Stephen Totilo: Or do you mean, Huge Submarine Shaped Like a Giant Shark?

Patrick Klepek: Holy shit, yes. It’s even better than I remembered!

Stephen Totilo: Mario had the sub, and I think some of the Banjo worlds where basically Mario 64 levels but funnier.


So instead of a sub, we had Clanky or whatever he was called. Clanker, maybe? And he was held by a chain that you had to loosen while also exploring inside him, I think.

Patrick Klepek: Yes, yes, yes.

Stephen Totilo: And, yeah, Kazooie gave you the flutter jump. Basically, if all Mario 64 was going to do with Yoshi was stick him on the roof for a useless cameo, Banjo-Kazooie was going to put Yoshi/Kazooie in play to give you a proper flutter jump. It was very helpful.


I liked those levels, but the level with the seasons. The big tree level... Click Clock Wood, was it called? That level is one of the most smartly-designed levels I’ve seen in a video game.

Patrick Klepek: Man, I gotta play this game again.

Stephen Totilo: Do you remember what season you started in? I’m thinking it might be spring.


Patrick Klepek: That sounds right.

Stephen Totilo: I didn’t get the concept at first. You couldn’t. Because it seemed like, okay, the final level of this game is based on climbing a big tree and dealing with some chipmunk-looking enemies who patrolled around and on it.


Then you figure out that you can leave and re-enter and have it change seasons. All four seasons.

In the spring, the branches have leaves you can stand on. In the fall, the leaves have fallen into mounds you can climb up. In the winter, the water at the bottom of the tree is frozen, so you can walk over it.


But the best was those little enemy guys. In the summer, they wore no shirts!

Patrick Klepek: Rare was really funny before they were forced to make Kinect games.


I’m sure it had a great soundtrack, too, though none of the tunes immediately come to mind. The Donkey Kong Country soundtrack was one of the first gaming soundtracks I listened to completely outside the game.

Stephen Totilo: Yeah, that level’s music changed with the seasons, I think. I was so charmed by it in part, because Mario had laid so much of the template for platforming worlds. So many games had had snow worlds and fire worlds and desert worlds. A world based on a cycle of seasons was a nice fresh final world, and a reminder that they weren’t just re-jiggering Mario ideas but pushing platforming ahead.


I think that’s why people liked the game so much. It didn’t just feel like a me-too, even though it seemed to emerge as a project designed to ape Mario 64. It wound up exuding so much personality of its own.

Patrick Klepek: Re-jiggy-ing.

Stephen Totilo: Yes! Do you know why I remember so much of the game?

Patrick Klepek: Were you one of the people obsessed with Nuts & Bolts?

Stephen Totilo: Well, yes. But that’s not it! Do you remember the game show at the end?


Patrick Klepek: Vaguely, as has been the case with most of this chat.

Stephen Totilo: I think only one of us wasn’t doing drugs when this game came out, Patrick. I won’t judge.


Patrick Klepek: 13-year-old Patrick really wanted to live it up.

Stephen Totilo: Ha ha. Ok, so to remind you of what your teenage self probably loved...


The supposed finale of the game (before all the other stuff I described above) involves the main bad guy, Gruntilda, putting you in a game show.

It’s a quiz show, and she’s asking you questions... about the game you just spent many, many hours playing. Here’s a sound effect. Which character made it? Here’s a zoomed-in bit of graphics. What level is it from? I loved this, because it’s a very special, smart example—and a rare example, no pun intended—of a game incorporating into its design the idea that, when we play a game for dozens of hours, we absorb a lot of its sights and sounds into our brain. Subconsciously. A lot of it sticks with us (well, some it sticks more with SOME of us, clearly). And as the game show happens, the designers at Rare are essentially letting you wind the game down with a fun nostalgia trip. Remember this? Remember that? It rewards an awareness that players who enjoy a game have.


And what we’re seeing now on a meta-level in 2015 is that Stephen Totilo, who had no other systems to play games on, must have played Banjo-Kazooie through many more times than Patrick Klepek who had other systems. I had but this game to stare at. I had no PSX to distract me. Just my N64 and playing Banjo-Kazooie one summer again and again. Oh, the sad sad memories (it was great!).

Patrick Klepek: Not a bad game to play over and over, though. And who knows, maybe you’d be the one to solve the Stop ’n Swop!


Stephen Totilo: It brings us back to that, huh? And maybe that at some level is part of the reason there’s all this love for the Kickstarter. Because think about the narrative for Banjo post-BK. The sequel, Tooie wasn’t as good, but what I remember more frustratedly is how Stop n Swop wasn’t in it. A poor version of it was inserted instead, to appease people.

Patrick Klepek: The ending of Banjo-Tooie promised Banjo-Threeie, but it never happened.


Stephen Totilo: Ha, and that. You could sense that a company had pushed back on these designers. The rumors online were that Nintendo didn’t want to support the original SnS idea because it might break the N64 (it involved removing one cartridge and inserting another without powering the system down). And if you think Nintendo derailed Banjo greatness, look what Microsoft got blamed for!

So now these guys are free to FINALLY make Banjo without a corporation limiting them.


Patrick Klepek: And if the not-really-convincing-but-who-knows rumors about a new Banjo from Rare pan out, we’ll be swimming in Banjo games soon enough.

Stephen Totilo: Yeah, could be! I wouldn’t mind that. And to be clear, I don’t quite buy the idea that companies held the Banjo team back. But seeing them have a chance to do their thing again—and seeing them have the chance to make a kick-ass 3D platformer at a time when even Nintendo seems hesitant to fully commit to that genre, well, I get why people are psyched.


I am going to play some Banjo this weekend. I hope it’s as good as I remembered it!

Patrick Klepek: Let’s ruin our memories of a great game together.


To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @stephentotilo.

All assets in this post captured by Kotaku from the Xbox 360 re-release of the Banjo-Kazooie, with the exception of the YouTube videos for Click Clock Wood and Grunty’s game show, which we found from Let’s Play folks on YouTube.