Hello and welcome to what I hope is not just a regular series from myself, but some of you lovely people out there! This is a series I like to call “What I want to see from…”. Basically, the premise here is looking at a series, a studio, a long forgotten game or even a dead series and seeing what you’d want brought to the table! I know we all have those ideas about what Nintendo should do next with Zelda, or even what they should do with the next Call of Duty. Here’s a chance for us to say what we think is good or bad with whatever you choose, and bring forth your ideas on how we move ahead with it.
Today, as the opening game, I want to look at Banjo-Kazooie.
Banjo-Kazooie is a series I adore. The two N64 games are gaming experiences that to this day are still so much fun. There’s something whimsical and magical about it. Following the tales of Banjo (a bear with bright yellow shorts) and Kazooie (a red feathered chatterbox of a bird), the series involves you investigating and exploring worlds full of character and personality collecting jiggies, notes, and a whole bunch of stuff in your goal of defeating the witch Gruntilda. What I really loved about the series was how alive it all felt. Everything, and I mean everything had little googly eyes and could talk, whether it was a camel, trees, and even a bucket. The music performed by Grant Kirkhope (who has worked for a long time with RARE and on games like Goldeneye and Kingdoms of Amalur) was a perfect compliment to anything that happened. Music would slow down, change completely in tone and just to fit an area and it added that sense of life to it. Puzzles were fun and interesting and collecting jiggies in a whole different set of ways was what kept you coming back for more and more. There’s so much to this game that I could write pages upon pages about it. If you haven’t played Banjo-Kazooie or it’s sequel Banjo Tooie, do yourself a favour and grab it, whether it’s on 64 or on the Xbox Live Marketplace!
That’s not why we’re here today. But before I dive into what I’d want to see out of a Banjo Threeie, I think there should be a little bit of background as to why I chose this game.
The company that makes the Banjo games, RARE, were for a long time during my childhood, a Second Party studio for Nintendo. Nintendo, in 1994, bought a 49% stake in the company and went on to create so many beloved and great games. Starting with Donkey Kong Country and their subsequent sequels, RARE moved on and made games like Killer Instinct, the wildly successful Goldeneye 007, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, Conkers Bad Fur Day, Jet Force Gemini and Diddy Kong’s Racing. Every one of these games are adored by gamers and for those years it seemed like RARE could tackle any genre and do no wrong. Even to this day for me, these games hold a special place in my heart.
In 2002 though, Microsoft bought RARE away from Nintendo to make games for the Xbox and eventually the 360. Grabbed by the Ghoulies came first, then a sequel to Perfect Dark, Viva Pinata, Kinect Sports and the game that made me begin this series, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. Without trying to come across as a fanboy, the games that appeared on Microsoft systems don’t seem to have that old RARE charm to them. Whether that be due to Nintendo not being there or Microsoft helping out now, I’m not sure, but I’ve definetly seen their games lose that RARE charm to them, (well except for Viva Pinata, that game was awesome).
So why do I dislike Nuts and Bolts? It’s a new Banjo game for crying out loud! I should love it right? RIGHT?! Well…no…and I have very good reasons as to why. Firstly, when the first trailer for a new Banjo-Kazooie was announced, this is what it looked like.
If you were a huge Banjo fan, that trailer excited you so much. Banjo and Kazooie were back! Back to collect and explore and jump and climb and do everything that was great with the first two games! Now compare it with this.
Bit of a drastic change right? Going from a platformer to a creative vehicle building racing game with some platform elements. I remember playing it for the first time and thinking, where’s the Banjo-Kazooie to it all? I mean this is decent enough but man, I wanna do what made Banjo-Kazooie fun! I’ve talked to people about the game before and they’ve really enjoyed it and I’m glad they did! I’m just upset that this was the follow up to such an amazingly fun series.
So after all that, what would I want to see in the next Banjo game? Well…that’s simple! I’d want it to return back to the platforming that made it so great. And to make it a collectathon like the good ol’ days. Now, I know some people hate that word “collectathon” and what it means in games, but that’s quintessentially Banjo. What was great about those two things, plaforming and collecting was that the way it was designed, it went hand in hand. Exploring the worlds and collecting notes and missing those last few made you jump, climb and swim on everything just to find those last few things. It was rewarding and got you to explore and appreciate the world around you.
I’d love to see all that personality come back into the worlds too. A lot of the levels in Nuts and Bolts seemed built around adding a ton of stuff into it and it just never filled. Worlds felt empty or as if they had been originally made for the old style play of the other Banjo games. And it was a shame too because the game was very pretty and had a great artistic style. They seemed well crafted but just a little empty is all!
Music needs to be done by Grant Kirkhope! No one else can do it! His music was so perfect for each stage and I don’t think anyone else would feel right doing it either. Knowing how well he’s done with the rest of the series this is a given.
I’d like to see the abilities be dialed back a bit, Tooie had a lot of new stuff implemented but not all of it was fantastic, dial it back a bit and I think you’d have a good blend of gameplay opportunities available.
What else though? Not a lot! My main thing is just seeing the game return to its roots, where it belongs. Get out of the car Banjo and Kazooie, you guys belong on the ground, feeling the grass underfoot, not the cold feel of a pedal. You guys are platformers not drivers!
We may not see Banjo-Kazooie return to the old days, but there is hope we may see a game like this! Last year, some of the original members that worked on Banjo-Kazooie, including Kirkhope and artist Steven Hurst, expressed a desire to make a spiritual successor to the Banjo legacy. It excited me to no end and I’d love to see them come through on this and give all those loyal fans a true Banjo experience!
“What I want to see from…” is something I’d love to see all you people contribute to. Whether it’s a sequel, studio, dead series or even a long forgotten genre or franchise, I’d love to know what ideas you have for them! Write and contribute! Who knows, maybe people are watching…