Another landmark score from Rare, another passable CD from Nintendo.
Reader review by Jon Turner
Banjo-Kazooie boasts another landmark score from Rare. The company just keeps on producing great games with ground-breaking soundtracks. There are a number of themes throughout this whimsically entertaining score. To give just some examples, "Spiral Mountain" is Rare's own version of Disney's Country Bear Jamboree, but it's not a ripoff of that song. The "Main Title" is actually two character motifs in one theme; Banjo, plucking on the banjo, strums a four-note tune in different keys with variations while Kazooie, playing on the kazoo, squawks something that sounds like "Nah, Nah, Nah-nah, Nah", over and over again before Banjo plays his solo again. This cycle continues throughout the entire piece, even when Tooty joins in on her piccolo and Mumbo Jumbo drops in to do his own impromptu performance on various instruments (such as a xylophone, a saxophone, and a fiddle).
But the best of these themes is the one for Gruntilda, which, like her, is deliciously wicked - in a playfully whimsical sort of way. As a matter of fact, it sounds like a melancholy "Teddy Bear's Picnic", except it's not about picnicking; it also has hints of "Night On Bald Mountain", too, only in a pizzicato style. It's used more than once in the game, in different renditions. "Witch's Lair", for example, just plays the theme in its full form, via a synthesized concert suite. The "Final Battle" is much faster and more furious, and totally awesome.
What's really cool in the game is that in the stages, such as "Mumbo's Mountain", "Bubble Gloop Swamp", and "Mad Monster Mansion", when you travel to a different area in the game, the instruments change. In other words, the stage still plays the theme you're listening to, but with different instruments. Within the game itself, this score comes close to, if not rivals, that of Super Mario 64, the only other 3-D adventure platformer for the N64 with a great soundtrack.
As for the CD release itself, the good news is that Nintendo has learned a lesson or two from its last two disappointing, oddly-shaped efforts, Yoshi's Story and Diddy Kong Racing. For starters, Banjo-Kazooie has a lengthy running time of 69 minutes, whereas those two CDs that I mentioned above ran for about a half-hour. Also, it has two bonus tracks at the end; the first is the music to the opening demo (the scene where Gruntilda sacks Tooty), and the second is the theme to Nabnut the squirrel (which, by the way, sounds a bit like Vivaldi... I wonder if Rare was thinking of The Seasons...).
The bad news is the typical Nintendo domestic CD drawbacks. First, the packaging only lists the track titles, not information on who composed the music, recorded the album, mastered it, produced, etc. If you would want to know who did what, you're out of luck. Secondly, I mentioned earlier that within the game the music's instruments change whenever you go to a new area, but this CD simply doesn't capture the same feeling. It just has the basic themes for the game's stages, with the exception of "Click Clock Wood". There are five different renditions of this song in the game. The first is the bass version for when you first come in, the second is an upbeat, bouncy frolic which is heard in the springtime, the third a waltz with bees singing in the background (ack!) suitable for summertime, the fourth a snappy, jazzy dance for autumn, and finally, a wintry holiday theme. Out of all these renditions, only one of them is on the album, and that is the "Spring" theme.
Another criticism is on the "Credits" track. I remember that there was an extra bridge in the game, but that bridge isn't even included on the album! That bridge was the best part of the whole song, pretty and hair-tingling, so who's idea was it to hack it out of the album?! Finally and most disappointing of all, there isn't enough music on here. There are a total of seventeen tracks on this album, but there is *more* music in the game than what we hear on here. In fact, there is *so* much music, that I almost feel that there should be a two-disc set of the music from the game! On the other hand, the game is going to be released in Japan, and who knows if there will be a Japanese soundtrack as well...
Personally, I would wait for the Japanese CD of this soundtrack to come out. This one *is* better than the domestic releases of Yoshi's Story and Diddy Kong Racing, but I would consider it just a starter for those who want a Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack.