Do Bear and Bird Battle Brilliantly?
Welcome back to GoNintendo’s Smash Character review series. in today’s episode we will be jumping all the way up to one of the more recent inclusions to the lineup in honor of their 25th anniversary, Banjo and Kazooie!
To say this bear and bird duo hold a special place in many a Nintendo fan’s heart would be an understatement, as their original outing is still fondly remembered by players to this day, and it was a crucial building block in creating RARE’s undeniable legacy.
It’s been a longtime coming for these icons to throw their proverbial hats into the ring, as many have been asking for the duo’s appearance since the very first installment. That’s not hyperbole; there was actually a poll on the Japanese Smash 64 website that asked players who’d they want to see in a hypothetical Smash Bros. sequel and the pair were the second most requested RARE creation behind the GoldenEye 007 version of James Bond.
In the years following, RARE were seeking to be bought by Nintendo, but the Big N decided not to pursue, leaving Microsoft to snatch them. Since then, many have felt Banjo and Kazooie’s chances for a Smash appearance were impossible even though third party characters were introduced with Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Thankfully, those same fans kept asking for the pair’s appearance, and the stars eventually aligned with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Unlike the past two characters we’ve covered Banjo and Kazooie were made from the ground up for Ultimate. This lets us see how Smash’s character design conventions have both changed and stayed the same. Once again, we recommend you checking out the first installment in our series for a full breakdown on how things work.
The Banjo games are known for the wide array of attacks that both Banjo and Kazooie learn, and these are healthily represented in Banjo’s neutrals.
The aerials are a bit weird, as the only ones with references are the back and down air, but their animations are a bit off. The back air is a backwards version of the rat-a-tat rap; very bizarre considering it would’ve made more sense as a forward aerial. The down air is a slightly modified version of the beak bomb, with Kazooie nose-diving to the ground as opposed to Banjo butt-stomping.
The throws contain no references as far as I can tell, but they still work because they feel like moves that could have existed if the Banjo-Kazooie franchise saw subsequent installments.
One thing that I appreciate about this move set is that every original attack given to Banjo and Kazooie feels just as innovative and charming as if RARE themselves came up with it. Banjo and Kazooie wear they’re cartoonish inspiration on their sleeves and Smash absolutely nails it.
While I have my nitpicks and wish certain moves got acknowledged, I can’t deny that what is here is representative of the duo’s rich past
The duo’s specials are all pretty solid!
First, we have the neutral special that allows Kazooie to shoot eggs out of her mouth, just as she did in the original game. Tooie doesn’t go unreferenced though, as moving while holding B makes Banjo pull Kazooie out of his backpack to use the Breegull Blaster attack introduced in the sequel’s FPS segments.
Another thing returning from Tooie are the grenade eggs used in the Down Special. Kazooie…um… releases a combustible egg from behind that will bounce along the ground until it explodes. This is unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how annoying you find fighting Banjo to be) the only one of Kazooie’s egg ammos from Tooie that made it into Smash.
The Side special, Wonderwing, is one of the most infamous moves. In the original games, this move allowed the duo to temporarily turn themselves invincible for as long as they had enough golden feathers in their pack. Smash alters this by making the move a standard tackle that consumes one of Banjo’s five golden feathers, and the only way to refill them is by losing a stock.
To be honest, I have some mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I’m happy that Banjo-Kazooie’s resource management mechanics were included without being overbearing. On the other hand, I feel like reducing Wonderiwing to a simple charge loses the interesting potential the move could offer in a fighting game.
In its original context, Wonderwing essentially allowed you to turn on invincibility for as long as your gold feather supply held out, and this seems like such an interesting move to adapt for Smash Brothers. While it obviously ran the potential of being broken (heck, some people feel the move is broken in its current state), I think it’d be really interesting as less of an attack and more of a tool that would allow Banjo to reposition himself away from a difficult situation for a limited time.
Lastly is the Up Special, which I also have mixed feelings on. Banjo and Kazooie perform the Shock Spring Jump from their first game, complete with context-sensitive platforms spawning beneath their feet, which can hit opponents when the move is performed above them.
Specials that see the character pull something out from their games (Sonic’s spring, Wario’s Bike etc.) is a bit hit-and-miss for me. I’m generally fine with it if there was nothing better that could be used, but Banjo and Kazooie have so many ways to get airborne that this instance feels like a missed opportunity.
This leads into one of my larger complaints with Banjo and Kazooie’s moveset in general; they can’t fly. To get into why this is a big deal for me, I’ll have to go on a bit of a tangent.
Growing up I didn’t own the Banjo games, but when I discovered them online, one of the first things that intrigued me about them were the flying mechanics. I remember amongst my group of friends that any game that let you fly was seen as one of the coolest things a game could do (Tails in Sonic Adventure, Red Star in Mario Galaxy). This is why after learning of them, I always wanted to get my hands on Banjo to try things out.
When I finally played the games as an adult, I assumed the magic wouldn’t hit like it would have as a kid, but I was pleasantly surprised. The flying felt so freeing, and even though it’s not the most integral part of the game, it’s something that stuck out in my mind. This was especially true when compared to things like the Wing Cap in Mario 64, which left me feeling quite disappointed.
While I understand that having unlimited flight would’ve been too much for Smash, I feel like the duo should at least be able to glide. While I originally made peace with the dev team’s decision, when Steve from Minecraft was added to the game, he came with gliding mechanics used for his Up Special. From the moment I saw this, I was even more annoyed that a similar mechanic was skipped over for Banjo.
I also understand that gliding was a controversial mechanic in Brawl (particularly because of Meta Knight), but I feel like they really threw the baby out with the bathwater by dumping the mechanic entirely. I’m hopeful that the idea being reintroduced with Steve means that a future Smash game might bring the mechanic back not just for Banjo, but other characters as well (I’m looking at you, Ridley!).
To close out on a high note though, let’s talk about B and K’s Final Smash. The duo summon the mighty Jinjonator, and any foe caught is tossed into a souped-up recreation of the final blow done to Gruntilda in the Banjo-Kazooie.
There really wasn’t a better Final Smash option out there, and while some might argue for one of Mumbo Jumbo’s transformations, this was the only choice in my opinion.
All in all, Banjo and Kazooie’s Specials highlight what makes the character’s great even if they don’t go all the way.
Banjo and Kazooie are honestly not all that unique in terms of Smash characters as a whole, but I still feel they have a special something. When the characters finally arrived in Ultimate, I heard many saying they felt like lost characters from Smash Bros. Melee that were finally realized.
Some used this comparison disparagingly, talking about how Banjo and Kazooie were lame or less interesting compared to the other new fighters we were getting. Others (like myself) felt this was what made the bear and bird stand out amongst Smash Ultimate’s DLC releases.
Since Smash Ultimate’s DLC characters were developed independently from the main game, this allowed the dev team to go crazy with mechanics and ideas that probably wouldn’t fit in a base-game fighter. This ultimately led to a lot of characters in the DLC feeling very complex, or as others might say, gimmicky.
From Hero’s reliance on RNG, Terry and Kazuya’s command inputs, and pretty much the entirety of Steve’s move set, it felt like each new fighter was trying to outdo the previous with the crazy stuff they could pull off. This is why I feel Banjo was unique, not to Smash as a whole, but to Ultimate’s DLC roster specifically.
True to their game of origin, Banjo and Kazooie are easy to pick up and play in Smash. The only complex mechanic you have to learn is the Wonderwing, but that’s much easier to understand compared to something like Min-Min’s arm mechanics. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the reasons Sakurai chose Banjo and Kazooie for DLC is because they would be a simpler option overall for a wide range of players.
While the Bear and Bird aren’t lighting the tier lists on fire, I don’t think they really need to. A character is more than their competitive viability and I think there should be room for the simple characters alongside the complex.
…All that said, I still would have preferred if the devs reintroduced gliding with B and K rather than with Steve, as it just makes too much sense.
Not to spoil anything, but Banjo and Kazooie’s aesthetics are going to be the first 10/10 I give in this whole series.
Moving on to the general animations, the pair is a delight to watch. It’s not every day that Smash adds a truly cartoony character to its roster, and it’s a delight to see the animation team go hog wild.
Remember my complaints on how Mario in Smash doesn’t feel like the Mario in his mainline adventures? Well, none of that applies to Banjo and Kazooie. This is almost a one-to-one representation and things that aren’t pulled from the source material are still very in-character.
Just look at the duo’s taunts and victory screens and you’ll see how Smash can just breathe life into a long dormant character.
Speaking of the taunts, this stretching taunt is notable for being the only clear-cut reference to Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts in the entire package. While people have generally cooled down on the game nowadays (mainly due to Tears of the Kingdom), at the time of development, the ire for Nuts and Bolts being the game that killed the franchise was still strong. Steering clear of too many references to that infamous installment was probably a smart decision!
Also, Nuts and Bolts deliberately removed the duo’s moves for the vehicle building mechanics, so the game really couldn’t have been referenced in the moveset without making a completely different character.
All in all, Banjo and Kazooie really shows that the Smash team can deliver quality animations and charm when given the chance.
As stated earlier, Banjo and Kazooie are an incredibly well-done yet simple character that provided some relief in a sea of complex mechanics.
While there are some things I would have liked to see, they ultimately feel like nitpicks when compared to the absolute love letter we got.
This was an addition that was truly for the fans. While Banjo unfortunately hasn’t been all that relevant since 2008, the excitement around his Smash reveal and release really showed that the pair still has incredible potential.
There are definitely third party characters more important to gaming than Banjo and Kazooie, but I’d argue the bear and bird are some of the most important third party characters in Smash Bros. purely based on their relationship to Nintendo.
In an alternate timeline, these two are probably Nintendo characters and have had a successful career past the N64. Sadly we’re unable to witness that timeline, but this Smash appearance still means so much to fans who have been eagerly waiting to welcome the bear and bird home.
Banjo and Kazooie’s Final Score is 44/50 or 88%
Banjo and Kazooie are now the highest-scoring character in our series thus far, which makes sense when considering the difference in design philosophies from original Smash characters to Ultimate creations. This was actually one of my main hopes when starting this series; to compare how Sakurai and the Smash team go about designing a character and how that’s changed overtime.
Starting simply, I’m a bit surprised that the Pack Whack was nowhere in Banjo’s Neutrals. I know in Tooie it could only be performed while the duo was split up, but honestly, it’s not like Banjo and Kazooie are new to hurting each other!
Speaking of Tooie, while I don’t think the Fire or Ice eggs needed to be in this moveset (Banjo is more than just projectiles), I do feel it was a missed opportunity to not feature the Clockwork eggs. They’d probably work similarly to Bowser Jr.’s Mecha-Koopa; maybe tap Down Special for the Grenade eggs and hold for the Clockwork? It could certainly provide some neat mix-ups.
One idea I’ve heard some people say is that the duo’s grab should have them utilize the Magic Wrench from Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. It admittedly would be pretty funny if the next Smash game had both Link and Banjo rocking similar grabs via the Ultrahand and Magic Wrench respectively.
I personally don’t need this to happen, as I think Banjo’s current grab is fine. That said, I wouldn’t be upset if they did change things up. Speaking of Nuts and Bolts…
One thing I would like to see brought over from that game Is Banjo’s tux, as it would be great for an alternate costume. The team could leave it at the tux though, as they don’t have to include the redesigned character look as well.
The last change I’d like would probably be the most significant one; change the Up Special to add in gliding.
In Banjo-Tooie, Kazooie actually learns how to glide without the need for a Flight Pad. I think the simplest way to include this would be by adding a button command to the Up Special. This is a move that Kazooie needs to be alone to do in Tooie, but as mentioned earlier, Smash has bent the rules in the past.
It wouldn’t be full-on flight, but it’s the closest thing Smash has to that. While it wouldn’t add much to their move set, to be blunt, it would just make me happy!
Happy Birthday Banjo and Kazooie! While another year has gone by with no new game announcement, I’m happy you were able to beat the odds to make your mark on the Smash Bros. series. Hopefully we’ll see the both of you again very soon.
Thank you for reading! Leave your suggestions for who you’d want to see us cover next in the comments below! While I can’t guarantee your suggestion will be the next one, it does help me know where your interests lie.
A recently graduated creative writer hoping to work his way into the greater gaming sphere.