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Banjo-Kazooie Game Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Banjo-Kazooie Game Soundtrack Album Title: Banjo-Kazooie Game Soundtrack
Record Label: Nintendo of America (US); Nintendo of Europe (EU); Pony Canyon (JP)
Catalog No.: Promotional; 94035; PCCG-00486
Release Date: 1998; 1998; February 17, 1999
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Grant Kirkhope came to fame with his particularly expansive score to Rare's Banjo-Kazooie back in 1998. Rather uniquely for its time, the score interactively adapted to the large environments of the game. However, the music was still very melodic and accessible, written in the spirit of Nintendo adventure scores. There were two closely related soundtrack releases for the game. The Banjo-Kazooie Game Soundtrack was an American release available through the Nintendo Power Store and the Banjo-Kazooie's Great Adventure Original Soundtrack was a commercial Japanese release. Both featured fifteen main tracks and two bonus tracks.


The soundtrack opens with the goofy but memorable title theme for the game. It actually effectively depicts two characters in one; it blends hillibilly banjo use to characterise the bear Banjo and muted trumpets to imitate the mocking sounds of the bird Kazooie. It all works fantastically with the visuals and, though the track is intentionally a tad annoying, it's equally endearing too. "Spiral Mountain" sets the jovial tone of the adventure with some easygoing banjo melodies and a few jazz sections. Back in the day, it exposed Kirkhope's characteristic style for the Banjo series. In contrast, "Witch's Lair" sounds like a macabre arrangement of the children's song "Teddy Bears' Picnic". It's quite a quirky way to demonstrate a bear exploring the cackling villain's lair.

Most of the rest of the soundtrack is dedicated to the various worlds of the game. Although they all maintain Kirkhope's light-hearted and lyrical style, there is a pleasant variety of styles nonetheless. Whether a dainty woodwind-based dance for "Mumbo's Mountain", a brilliant orchestration for "Freezezy Peak", or some foghorn punctuations for "Rusty Bucket Bay", they all fit the context and remain easy stand-alone listening. Other stages are portrayed with clichéd use of tropical, Arabian, or pseudo-horror music, but this really fits the childish nature of the game. What's most delightful about the compositions is how each theme develops in such a expansive and multifaceted way. Some pieces such as "Bubblegloop Swamp" feature particularly surprising intricacies, and it all helps to colour the giant worlds.

Each area theme is arranged multiple times in the game to adapt to the changing environments, though the soundtrack appropriately focuses on just the original theme. However, some might be disappointed that just the spring theme for "Click Click Wood" is included when the other three seasons had charming well-developed compositions. Another glaring omission is the bridge during the "Credits" and this leaves just a straightforward triumphant march. Peculiarly featured after the end credits, "Final Battle" is a very enjoyable epic orchestration of the "Witch's Lair" theme that spans over six minutes. There are also two bonus orchestrations on both releases, the cinematic "Banjo Overture" to represent Totty's kidnap and a playful percussive theme for the squirrel Nabnut.


Overall, the Banjo-Kazooie soundtrack is a delightful accompaniment to the game. The music is suitably childish, but has enough melodic charm, developmental intricacies, and stylistic diversity to appeal to many on a stand-alone basis. Although the soundtrack releases are pretty incomplete, they do a good job of compiling the majority of the important tracks from the game into an easy-to-digest one disc release. As the releases are very similar, it's probably best to pick up whichever one goes for the most reasonable price second-hand.

Overall Score: 8/10