Let's Play Banjo! I. Spiral Mountain
I love this game. Ever since I first saw the opening cut scene all those years ago on my N64, I was swept away by its charm and quirky characters. The more I play it, the more I learn and I figure: If there was ever a game I should write a walkthrough for, it’s Banjo.
Without further ado, here is the first installment of that walkthrough.
First, whether you’re playing the original N64 version or the updated XBOX 360 Live version, you have to pick a save file. Be wary of your triggers—Z and Right delete your game! I did this by accident once. It isn’t fun.
It doesn’t matter whether you pick sleeping Banjo, cooking Banjo, or Gameboy Banjo—the only thing it changes is the little “kick Banjo into the game” animation. (Three guesses which file I always pick anyway.)
Next, you’re treated to the opening cinematics. The story is a bit of a spoof on Snow White, except without the dwarves and Tooty isn’t your princess, she’s your sister.
I do wonder what Kazooie thinks about not being “fairest in the land?” Yes, Kazooie is a girl. (It took me a while to realize this as a kid!)
Welcome to Spiral Mountain
Banjo will emerge a freshly minted hero with five honeycombs, ready to do battle! Er…sort of. You don’t get very far from your front step before some mole named Bottles is asking if you want to do the tutorial (he calls it “training”). You might instantly be thinking, “Oh, please, no, I hate tutorials!” and who could blame you? Some of them are downright awful.
Don’t panic. Banjo Kazooie’s tutorial is actually helpful and amusing, and is a great way of keeping track of what you’ve done in the area. If you say yes, keep in mind that you can’t use any of the basic moves until you’ve found the corresponding mole hills. For continuity’s sake, whenever I’m talking about moves, I’ll list the N64 buttons before the XBOX ones.
With that out of the way, let’s bee off. (Sorry.)
Your first molehill is straight ahead, up the path. Press B/X to call him out. You have the basics: move the camera left and right to swivel around Banjo; go into a stationary first person view with upC/ Y to get a bear’s-eye-view of your surroundings; and a centering mechanism to put (or keep) the camera behind you with R/either bumper. DownC/up or down on the Right Joystick will adjust the distance the camera sits from Banjo. There are three options: super close, average distance, and far away. This is kind-of a Goldilocks effect for me—I prefer my camera in the middle so I can see enough around me without losing Banjo completely.
Next, follow the path to the left. It’s one big circle, so if you get lost, we’re going to the molehill next to the giant tree stumps. Here Bottles the mole teaches you three jumps: basic (A),
double (A+A), and the mighty flap flip jump (Z+A / Trigger+A). The basic jump is, well, basic, and the flap flip jump is essentially a high jump—it’s the double jump that I want you to take notice of. The second jump has Kazooie flapping her wings to gain leverage. The longer you hold that second button press, the longer she flaps her wings. That probably sounds really boring, like, “Woohoo, she can do a long jump by flapping when you’re moving forward.”
Not only can she do a long jump, she can also do this as a recovery move. If you’re falling from a decent height and you hold that A button you can drift down to the ground safely. You can’t use this trick if Banjo’s already tumbling head-over-heels through the air, but it is an absolute life saver otherwise.
When in doubt, though, aim for water. A fall won’t hurt you if you land in water.
Extra Honeycomb #1
Before you leave the tree stumps, I’d like to point out the shiny thing spinning on top of one of them. With your fancy flap-flip high jump (Z+A / Trigger+A) you can hop up and grab it. Voila, a health upgrade item! The more honeycombs you have, the longer you can survive. Conveniently, there are six empty honeycombs in the Spiral Mountain area, giving you six total health to walk into Gruntilda’s lair with. Not too shabby, bear.
Still following the path left, this is the molehill near the patch of yellow flowers and the river bank. Diving is simple: hop in the water and hit B/X. Here’s where things get tricky. Once underwater, your joystick inverts: down points Banjo’s nose up, up points it down. Right and left still steer the usual ways. Hold A to kick Banjo’s feet and B/X to use Kazooie’s wings. The Kazooie swimming method uses broad, fast strokes that are good for speed while Banjo’s kicking is great for slow, precision swimming. I highly recommend only using Banjo underwater while you’re learning how to swim. Kazooie’s broad strokes can often cause you to overshoot your target, forcing you to turn around and try again. Sometimes, there is just not enough air for things to go wrong like that.
Extra Honeycomb #2
Paddle around on the surface of the river circling the mountain until you’re under the wooden bridge. Below it, there is a small cave underwater, in the mountain rock. Dive on in for your honeycomb.
Extra Honeycomb #3
Back at the path near the swimming molehill, you’ll see a branch leading off to a cliff and a waterfall. Use the double jump to hop from one ledge to the next to grab this honeycomb. Don’t worry if you fall—the water doesn’t hurt you, so you can just swim around and try again. Think of it as good jumping practice.
Extra Life Alert!
If you jump from the platform with Extra Honeycomb #3 to the ledge behind the waterfall, you can grab an extra life. Nice.
Extra Life Alert!
While we’re talking lives, there’s also one up on top of the chimney of Banjo’s house. High jumps (Z+A / Trigger+A) will get you up there.
Past the swimming molehill, over the stone bridge and down the path a little is another molehill almost surrounded by yellow flowers. This one teaches you how to climb stuff. Trees, drainpipes, vines, the usual. A + the joystick does the trick.
Extra Honeycomb #4
Back across the bridge, next to the swimming molehill, is a tree. Climb it and jump for your prize.
Beak Barge Molehill
Still spiraling Spiral Mountain, our next molehill sits on a dirt field with some giant rocks. You’ll know the giant rocks when you see them—they have eyeballs. Z+B / Trigger+X charges Kazooie forward using her beak as a battering ram. Slow, but effective.
FUN FACT: The first time you use Beak Barge with the tutorial on, Bottles teases Banjo about Kazooie actually being useful. Kazooie retorts with, “I’m trying this move on you next, Jam Jars!” Jamjars is the name of Bottles’ brother in Banjo Tooie.
Extra Honeycomb #5
Break all the big rocks with eyes using the Beak Barge (Z+B / Trigger+X) The last one you destroy drops the honeycomb.
Battle Moves Molehill
Lastly, at the top of the hill near Banjo’s house, there’s a molehill in a field. Here you can learn the basic attacks. I like saving this molehill for last because after you’ve approached Bottles here and learned what he has to teach you, enemies pop up all over Spiral Mountain (this also happens if you say no to the tutorial). Your basic attacks are…
1) Claw Swipe. Stand still and hit B/X to have Banjo swipe with his claws. This attack is slow and ridiculously underpowered—only use it when you’re desperate. This attack, in fact, is so bad that it was replaced with a Kazooie pecking move in the sequel.
FUN FACT: In the tutorial, Banjo performs this move for the first time and Kazooie complains that she wants to learn a move. She really shouldn’t be complaining—nearly all of the moves in the game have her doing all the work.
2) Forward Roll. While running, press B/X. Relatively useful so long as you don’t roll off any cliffs.
3) Rat-a-Tat-Rap. While standing still or moving, jump and then press B/X. Super handy—I use this one the most. Works on all enemies except the low-lying ones, like crabs.
Extra Honeycomb #6
In the field on top of the hill with the battle moves molehill one of two things happens: 1) If you’re playing the tutorial, the last enemy you defeat drops the honeycomb. 2) If you skipped the tutorial, a lone cauliflower enemy will be floating around the area. Whack him for the honeycomb.
Onward and Upward
Now that you’ve visited all the molehills and boosted your honeycomb count, you’re ready to climb the mountain. Find the wooden bridge spanning the river and head on over and up. (It’s like going to Grandma’s house without the tea and cookies.) At the top, Bottles has fixed the bridge to the witches’ lair (which is broken if, in the tutorial, you try to climb the mountain without visiting all six molehills first). While crossing the bridge, take note of the fancy xylophone music—it’ll become very familiar, very soon.
Now Things Get Serious
Upon entering Gruntilda the witch’s lair, a cut scene plays showing just how much trouble Banjo’s sister is in. Banjo emerges on the other side to Grunty’s taunts and from here on in, a game over means you get to see the sad (and funny) results of your failure. Buckle up Banjo fans, it’s about to get real.
Next on "Let's Play Banjo Kazooie!", we venture into the witch's lair and discover our first world: Mumbo's Mountain. Also, a trick for extra-life farming and a talkative puzzle piece.