Letter from Danielle - Issue 001 Highlight

Issue 001 Highlight
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It has become a tradition with my best friends Ben and Amanda that every time I visit them, we must play something on Ben’s Xbox One. One time when I visited we played a game called Limbo, a minimalistic puzzle solving platformer, passing the controller back and forth when we got stuck or wanted to give someone else a chance to play. Outside the sky was a pale gray and snow fell heavily to the ground while we sipped wine, ate winter treats, and laughed together. I have come to look forward to our time playing video games.

One visit I introduced them to one of my childhood favorite games, Banjo-Kazooie. I booted up the game and skipped through the opening cut scene and the tutorial, and promised that I could complete 100% of the first world (Mumbo’s Mountain) in less than fifteen minutes. I am no speedrunner but I know the level well enough that the challenges are second nature. Completing the level indeed felt rewarding and I welcomed the praise from my friends because I was indeed proud of this small feat. It was later in the evening, after we’d gone to bed and I lay restless, that I realized I had not completed the level 100%, forgetting to grab an empty honeycomb piece hidden in a crevice on the mountain. Oops.

Banjo-Kazooie is a game that I practically know by heart. I grew up playing it over and over again, though never actually beating it until my early twenties. I have several fond memories of playing the game in our family room on our pink carpet. I became an expert at climbing behind the TV to plug in the RCA cords (you know, the red, white, and yellow cords). Our patio was attached to the family room and so sunlight would flood the room while I played. Sometimes when the weather was nice we would open the door and let the fresh air blow in, the smell of the neighbors onion grass filling the space. When I booted up the game and entered the loading screen, I would often hope to see the animation of Banjo flying off of the bed as was sometimes known to happen. It was a very rare occurrence but one that always made me laugh.

Then I would explore every nook and cranny I could of this game, discovering many secrets and testing my skills as an average gamer. Sometimes I would visit Mumbo in one of the worlds, transform, and then leave the world in hopes I could explore as termite-Banjo or alligator-Banjo. My hopes were always crushed when Mumbo’s text bubble popped up, forcing me to change back into the bear and bird. Every time I dove into the water at Treasure Trove Cove, my heart would always speed up in fear that Snacker the Shark would catch me. Nine times out of ten, I escaped his sharp teeth! To say I merely enjoyed this game would be an understatement. I loved every moment of Banjo-Kazooie.

The Mad Monster Mansion level always scared me which is why I never beat the game until I was much older. But being someone who loved telling stories, I would often explore and then re-explore and re-explore some more, and create my own narrative for Banjo’s adventures. I was content creating new save files and replaying levels like a pro. The Nintendo 64 was one of the first systems I ever had the privilege to own. Given to me as a birthday present from my parents, they gave me two games to play. One was Banjo, and the other was Diddy Kong Racing. I got really lucky that my parents decided to buy those two incredible games.

A few years ago, I finally sat down and beat Banjo-Kazooie on my original save file. If I remember correctly, I clocked in over 200 hours of gameplay on that save. Yes, I really adored this game…and still adore it to this day. There is something just so whimsical about it that keeps me coming back. The gameplay feels very comfortable (hand me a N64 controller and muscle memory will get me through the game) and the music is so nostalgic. I have since beaten the game a second time on the XBox 360 and plan to play a third time upon completing this issue of the magazine.

Returning to Banjo is like returning to my childhood. I love this game so much…and it may not seem that way once you read my thoughts on the story within this game. This is due to the fact that I simply don’t think the story is all that great. This magazine isn’t about my love of the level designs or the quirky music or the wacky character voice effects. Level Story is about…well, story. But believe me when I say that it is my love of this game that makes me want to talk about it critically and constructively. That being said, you still may be wondering why I am talking about a “not all that great” story in a magazine all about story in video games. In truth, I did feel like I was a bit crazy for choosing this game of all titles to feature in the first issue of Level Story. But taking a closer look, I soon realized that there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the story in this game. I am very excited to share my thoughts with all of you. Before I go I want to send a huge thank you to all of the artists who allowed me to use their work in this issue! You are all fantastic and super talented. I highly recommend everyone check out their work. And of course, thank you the reader for reading Level Story Magazine. Enjoy the first issue.

Kind Regards,

Danielle