Top 100 N64 Review: #7 – Banjo-Kazooie (1998)

And Reward for Best Sound Effects Goes To…

…the bird in the backpack.

Banjo-Kazooie Title Screen n64LesLites’ Ranking#7/100
My Rating:StarStarStarStar

Actually, it’s not just the bird: every sound in this game is perfect. From Mumbo Jumbo’s tribal speech to Banjo’s rural mumbles, this game offers plenty of value just from one second audio clips.

The rest of the game is pretty good, too. It hits a sweet spot between Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64 in regards of collectibles. Music notes, puzzle pieces, mumbo jumbo tokens, and the weird/useless species called jinjos are just enough to keep up with while not being tedious. I spent most of April putting my financial house in order (thank you Listen Money Matters!), and I juxtaposed in my mind that the increasing music note total was correlated with future returns in my Roth IRA. Time will only tell if this was the right investment strategy or whether Banjo & Kazooie were appropriate hedgefund managers.

Banjo-Kazooie suffers from being too easy then all of sudden too hard. There are a total of 9 worlds to explore with only the last three really being a challenge. You know how Netflix asks you if you are still watching, and all you have to do to get the sweet reward of more content is clicking yes? That’s about as difficult as it gets for most of this game. Until, all of sudden, the game repeatedly suffocates you in oil-slicked water. So much for being rated E.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #76 – Quest 64 (1998)

Still A Disappointment.

At least its consistently bad no matter what decade you play it in.

Quest 64 Title ScreenLesLites’ Ranking#76/100
My Rating: StarStar

Being of elementary school age meant that I wasn’t in control of my discretionary spending. Whatever momma bought was what sonny was going to play. However, I could steer her in the right direction with a few not so subtle hints. Riding the hype from Nintendo Power, I knew I had to have Quest 64.

I was yearning for a new RPG  — I was still replaying FFVI for God’s sake! The previews looked like it was the right game for the first RPG entry into the N64 catalog. The vistas were chocked full of things to explore. The battle system intricate. The stat system innovative.

After playing for a very short time, I became frustrated. The game was a grind. The people and places hallow. The story non-existent. It was a nasty, brutish, and short experience. Soon after, I acquired a ps1 where my RPG gaming life was about to change for the better.

Revisiting this game now only brings up feelings of what could have been. There are plenty of bright spots (the combat system and stat system were intricate and innovative), however, everything else pulls it down. The grind really wears on you, and with no story to buoy your interest, the final stages are a test of perseverance.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #29 – Diddy Kong Racing (1997)

Diddy Kong Racing > Mario Kart.

And my angry thoughts about Bumper the Badger.  

Diddy Kong Racing title Screen n64LesLites’ Ranking#29/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar

Diddy Kong Racing (DKR) is everything you could want from a racing game. While Mario Kart 64 is just a straight up race for first, DKR has multiple-layers where it ratchets up the difficulty a notch at a time. As the game continues to tie your hands behind your back, you have to get more skilled and adept — no star power ups to save you here.

And it has adorable creatures to boot…except that piece of trash badger.

Bumper the Badger

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Top 100 N64 Review: #47 – Duke Nukem: Zero Hour (1999)

Toxic Masculinity Was Never So Much Fun.

You get to play as Johnny Bravo while objectify woman and aliens. 

Duke Nukem Zero Hour Title ScreenLesLites’ Ranking#47/100
My Rating: StarStarStarStar

Duke Nukem is an anachronistic, hyper-masculine protagonist released from the imagination of pre-teen boys. He’s charmingly foul-mouthed, can perform any feat due to machismo, and ladies find him irresistible. Who else could the FBI rely on to travel through time and save Earth from an alien invasion?

The game is a blast since it realizes its front man is ridiculous. Instead of apologizing for Duke, they decide to turn the dial up to 100.  Sexual innuendos are abound and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud quips. The enemies are varied with distinct gun types that lead to a fair amount of strategy. While the shooting is old school, at least the mapping to the N64 controller is serviceable.

Let’s go save some babes, shall we?

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Top 100 N64 Review: # 16 – Donkey Kong 64 (1999)

A Junk Drawer of a Game.

Collecting Bananas, Golden Bananas, Medals, Coins, Boss Keys, Melons, Oranges, Headphones, Crystals, Blueprints, Crowns, Ammo, Barrels…JUST MAKE IT STOP!

Donke Kong N64 Title ScreenLesLites’ Ranking#16/100
My Rating: Star

I have a great memory.

For instance, I remember being at Circuit City (a now defunct electronics store) looking at the cover of Final Fantasy X. I just got a PS2 for Christmas, and with some holiday cash, I was bringing home one of the best RPGs of all time. I remember heading down stairs to the basement, putting the fan on high, and thinking — Final Fantasy isn’t going to be around forever — I need to enjoy tis (heavy thoughts for an 8th grader). I got to Besaid Island and immediately hit pause. I sat there and let that song soak into my bones, a memory I can recall to this day.

I can’t recall ANYTHING about DK64 even though I owned and beat it. I do recall a conversation I had with a cousin. She lamented not having the game and was excited at the proposition that one day she, too, would play DK64. Well let me tell you something cousin: I clearly suffered post-traumatic amnesia due to this game. This game’s awful.

DK64 boasts gigantic worlds but with nothing in them — EXCEPT THINGS TO COLLECT. A dimension of abandoned polygons, items spill out over the landscape like the junk drawer in your kitchen. To make matters worse, items are color-coded to match one of the five kongs you control. Not only do you have bananas, you have red bananas, purple bananas, yellow bananas, blue bananas, and green bananas. Not only do you have coins, you have red coins, purple coins, yellow coins….

This permutation continues, creating a situation where you constantly switch between the Kongs through backtracking barren worlds to collect the appropriately colored item. DK64 is not so much about puzzles but errands. The most important skill to succeed is not your intellect or problem solving but your memory to recall the location of discrete bands of color-coded objects.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #69 – Mission: Impossible (1998)

R-R-R-Ridiculous.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to try and believe it. 
Mission Impossible N64 Title Screen
LesLites’ Ranking#69/100
My Rating: cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

The only thing impossible about this game is trying to understand it. If I had to chose what better represented reality, I would go with Lord of the Rings over Mission: Impossible. This world, filled with hideous polygons and multi-layered distance fog, cannot be of our own. It still has a couple good missions, though.

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Top 100 N64 Review: #42 – Quake (1996)

Things Aren’t Looking Up.

Because the game barely lets you look up. 

Quake Title Screen

LesLites’ Ranking#42/100
My Rating:cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

Quake II was one of the defining moments of my youth. It was a beast to even get on multiplayer, needing to know coding commands, directory pathways, and IP addresses to get started. On my first map, I opened a bay door and saw rail guns firing in every direction as someone was fragged to bits right in front me. This. Was. AWESOME. 

Finding its predecessor on N64 was going to make my youth full circle. I meant to play the original but never did. I was wondering how it would port to the N64 since it was a game meant for the PC. This. Was. UNFORTUNATE. 

This could easily be a four (or maybe even five!) star game if played on a PC. It has the same old problems that every other shooter faced on the N64: without two analog sticks, you were restricted in how freely you could aim. This meant using a clunky collection of C-buttons on a X and Y axis to aim above. You will die several, several times from this alone. I found this limitation too much to overcome even with all the other amazing aspects.

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