Vinyl and Videogames: Banjo-Kazooie

On January 22, 2016

Vinyl and Video Games by Joe Fuller showcases great games across the medium’s entire lifespan, as well as the music that is often tragically overlooked. Expect to see the good and bad of each game, and the vinyl soundtrack that accompanies it. 

If you are as passionate a gamer as I, then you are likely familiar with the glorious nostalgia a single word can evoke. You say “Triforce,” my mind becomes filled with images of A Link to the Past. My crazy brain likes to make less obvious associations as well. Every time I hear “seagull” I think of the depressing beach scene in Final Fantasy VI. Most associations are a silent or semi-silent word-to-image, but there is one Rare occasion where the thoughts always begin as an auditory flashback.

Banjo-Kazooie, my favorite game of the Nintendo-64/Playstation 1 era, is the game that does this to me.

For the uninitiated, Banjo-Kazooie was Rare’s response to Super Mario 64, seeking to dethrone the mustached maestro via a bear and bird partnership. Though the games were very similar in structure, Banjo-Kazooie featured tighter controls, a wider variety of moves, lovable characters, and an outstanding soundtrack the brought life to every area visited. I recently had the opportunity to revisit this classic through Rare Replay on Xbox One, and while the game certainly shows its age (camera controls have come a LONG way since 1998), the score remains as memorable as ever. Earlier this year, iam8bit announced that they were pressing the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack on vinyl. I squealed the exact same prepubescent squeal that my 11-year old self let out after opening the game for Christmas.

Before I get into the music, I want to discuss the packaging. The album is a double LP. The first disc is a dark brown color, with a cappuccino colored label, matching Banjo’s palette well. The second is a bright red vinyl with an even brighter yellow label, to match Kazooie’s trademark colors. The colors are exceptional, and unlike any others in my collection. The artwork that is present is phenomenal. Jacub Gagnon did an excellent job recreating the heroic duo in a semi-realistic portrayal. On the cover, Banjo is seen as a brown bear wearing some sort of tooth necklace. Kazooie is depicted as what I would imagine a real life breegull looks like, if one were to exist.

Now for the part everyone’s been waiting for: the music. Let me begin by saying the music is iconic, no matter what medium it is being presented through. Grant Kirkhope has written a large portion of Rare’s catalog, and this includes all the Banjo-Kazooie games, Perfect Dark, Viva Piñata, and many of the Donkey Kong games. Anyone who has played the game knows the songs well, as they were on repeat as you scoured each level for every collectible. The vinyl version of the soundtrack is arranged in chronological order; matching the order a player experiences the songs in the game. There are 4 tracks on the vinyl release not found in the original soundtrack, and having never listened to the soundtrack on its own, I was surprised by some of the sounds found within the tracks. Bubblegloop Swamp has the frog croaks that can be heard in the background, bugs and birds are buzzing and chirping on Click Clock Wood, and wind can be heard on both Freezeezy Peak and Gobi’s Valley.

I found this release is best suited to be a collector’s item for diehard fans of the game. The music is truly wonderful, and I feel it should be experienced by all. But it should be done in the way it was intended, by grabbing a controller and immersing yourself in the beautiful world Rare has created.

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