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With Banjo and Kazooie in Smash, a reminder that Kazooie does all the work
A couple of weeks ago, as part of a live-streamed press conference video from Nintendo, Classic video game platforming protagonist pair Banjo and Kazooie were added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a fighting game where characters from various fighting games all meet up to beat each other up. It marks the first time the pair of characters have appeared on a Nintendo console in the past decade (the developer now makes games exclusively for Xbox), but it got me thinking about the pair of characters, and how everyone seems to talk about them.
Released for the Nintendo 64 back in 1998, the plot of the original Banjo Kazooie was pretty simple. You play as a bear named Banjo, whose younger sister Tooty has been kidnapped by the evil witch Gruntilda. With the help of your bird friend Kazooie, you explore a bunch of fantasy worlds, fight your way to the witch, and stop her from stealing the physical beauty from Tooty.
Banjo gets most of the credit for being the game's protagonist; he's the one with the kidnapped sister, and when generally walking around he's the character you directly control, but I'm going to argue that he's not the most important or competent part of the duo. Let's give Kazooie her moment in the spotlight, because she's the real hero of the series.
So, without further ado, let's look back at Banjo and Kazooie's combined moveset and break down one by one which things are done by which characters.
OK, so basic walking around and standard jumps are Banjo's domain. No surprise, pretty much anyone can do those. I can walk around a field and jump over small gaps. I'm not particularly physically skillful, but I know I could handle those just as well as Banjo.
Then there are Banjo's two basic attacks, which are clumsily waving his claws at enemies and doing a forward roll at them. If I got some knives out the kitchen cupboard and put them between my fingers like claws, I could match Banjo on the claw swipes, and most toddlers can do a forward roll. They're Banjo skills, but they're not really skills in the traditional sense.
Beyond that, there's the Rat-a-Tat Rap, where Kazooie uses her beak to pierce flying enemies and smash through projectiles. There's also the Feathery Flap, where Kazooie equips her wings to allow the pair a second jump in mid-air, literally defying gravity. The Beak Barge allows Kazooie to bash her beak into objects to crack them completely apart, and when swimming, Kazooie uses her wings to swim far faster than Banjo alone can manage with his slow subpar doggy paddle.
With the Talon Trot, Kazooie carries Banjo on her back and sprints around the map carrying a huge bear. She manages to run around faster than Banjo, climb slopes more effectively, and basically prove that even weighed down with multiple times her body weight she's still more effective than her fuzzy friend.
Kazooie slams her own beak into the floor with the Beak Buster, a move that sounds as painful to use as it is effective. She can fire eggs from both ends of herself as projectiles, make her legs springy to leap huge gaps, literally soar through the air majestically carrying this big heavy bear, and use her wings as an invincible shield to protect the pair from all harm.
Kazooie can lengthen her legs while wearing wellies to wade through swamps, sprint at super speed, and use her own body as a mid-air projectile.
As you can see, pretty much the whole moveset, and all the pair's coolest moves, are assigned to Kazooie, but when we think about the series, it's Banjo who gets discussed. "Bring Banjo to Smash Ultimate!" I heard people chanting before the pair were announced for the fighting game, but without Kazooie along for the ride, your new Smash fighter would basically have just jumped and punched and not much else.
Kazooie, I see all you've been doing for Banjo these past 20 years, and it's not overlooked. I'll make an effort to put you first next time. Kazooie and Banjo just seems like a way more fitting title.