Mark Mazzei

wakalaka
  • System: Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Microsoft
  • Genre: Platformer
  • [extra data]

Had things been as planned by Rare, last year would've held both the Wii and the 360 having a port and an update of GoldenEye 007 for the game's tenth anniversary, respectively. As reported by this very site, the chronicle of Goldeneye 007 XBLA will forever be remembered as an opportunity to make money that was never met.

However, as you're all aware of, Banjo-Kazooie on Xbox Live did not meet the same fate in the year of its tenth anniversary. Announced at E3 2008, BK XBLA was a curveball to the Rare fanbase, as one of Rare's most popular titles was said to be available near the same timeframe as Nuts & Bolts' release in November. The developer of the port was unknown for a limited time, but just as soon as the game was announced, 4J Studios was revealed to be the company responsible for bringing a game beloved by many to the 360 console.

Graphically, the game appears so much sharper than the N64 version from which it originated. The resolution has been greatly improved, as well as the draw distance. One can see so much farther into a world compared to the original version. Yet it's just as well; the higher graphical resolution made a visually great game for its time even greater, as it's still a sight to behold.

A Fairy Tale with British Humour

GruntyA game of this caliber can't be remembered without its starring characters. Banjo Bear is definitely the dullest sack of dirt in Spiral Mountain, yet his good heart and intentions always prove him to be in favor with the good characters of the Banjo universe. On the other side of the spectrum, you have Kazooie the Red-Crested Breegull. Smart and sassy, she doesn't take crap from anyone, and lets them know through scathing insults and sarcastic remarks out the wazoo (or kazoo, if one is so inclined), most of which are not taken in good stride. Finally, you have Gruntilda, who at first sounds like your run-of-the-mill witch, except for the fact that she's a poet at heart, choosing to have everything she says in rhyme.

These three characters are brought together by Gruntilda's malevolent ambitions in this game. Taking a page right out of Cinderella, Gruntilda asks her animate cauldron who the fairest of all of Spiral Mountain is. Turns out that instead of the rhyming witch, Banjo's sister, Tooty is the fairest one of Spiral Mountain. In a fit of jealous rage, Grunty kidnaps Tooty to steal her beauty for herself via machine. Banjo and Kazooie obviously can't let that happen, and thus their adventure begins.

The game mechanics of each world are simple. Throughout each world lies jiggies, notes, and Jinjos. Jiggies are the equivalent to Super Mario 64's stars; without them, you couldn't finish the many puzzles in Gruntilda's Lair. Notes are the currency of Spiral Mountain, used to have doors open to access further parts in Grunty's Lair. Jinjos are immovable characters frozen by Grunty; when you collect all five of them, you earn a Jiggy for your time. Mumbo Jumbo, your friendly neighborhood shaman, is able to transform your character in certain worlds if you have the Mumbo Tokens necessary, which is great for the sake of Jiggy completion.

Banjo with the secret Ice Key and Pink EggAll of this happened in very entertaining worlds: Treasure Trove Cove's on a scenic beach, Mad Monster Mansion's a predecessor to Rare's Grabbed by the Ghoulies, and Freezezy Peak, while being the obligatory snow level for platformers, has both a Christmas tree and a snowman right in the middle of the level. Each world has its own surprises and witty characters just waiting to be found and met, respectively.

A classic game in all its merits also has one of the biggest gaming mysteries of all time. Of course, I'm referring to Stop 'n' Swop. At the end of Banjo-Kazooie, Mumbo Jumbo showed three pictures of seemingly inaccessible areas in the game fully opened and able to get the three covetous items within: an Ice Key, a dark Blue Egg, and a Pink Egg. After teasing fans ten years ago, Mumbo left us with the message that these would be available in Banjo's sequel, Banjo-Tooie. Further hacking, made by the guys from The Rare Witch Project, showed that there were more than just those eggs and key; three more eggs were revealed, along with a menu all its own in the game, titled Stop 'n' Swop. The intent was that there would be certain events in Tooie that would allow you to stop the game and take Tooie out and place Kazooie in the N64 cartridge slot thanks to Rambus technology.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. Revisions of the N64 circuitry were made between Kazooie and Tooie's respective 1998 and 2000 dates that killed the feature before it even began. Before the revision, it would've taken ten seconds to swap cartridges with the memory intact. After the revision, it would've taken only one second.

However, all hope was not lost. Ten years after the fact, it was announced that in place of Banjo-Tooie, Nuts & Bolts would connect with Banjo-Kazooie XBLA to do a new iteration of what Stop 'n' Swop was originally intended to be. Both games will recognize the other via saves, and will unlock new stuff in Nuts & Bolts.

The Changes of it All

Green JinjoBK XBLA comes with very minor differences to the original N64 version besides the aspects mentioned earlier. The most important difference being the loss of Nintendo logos and replacement of Microsoft logos; the beginning of the game has the Rare logo circa 2003, with Mumbo's xylophone in the opening video having Microsoft Game Studios instead of Nintendo's original logo. The Game Boy from the third file is still intact. The icons of various characters look to be changed, as well as the font and Banjo and Kazooie's own life meter; they look stretched in comparison to the originals.

Nuts & Bolts came with a great pre-order incentive: if you pre-order the game, you can get BK XBLA on the same day that Nuts & Bolts is released at retail. Depending on retailer, you get a code that allows you to redeem the game over Xbox Live for download. Should you not take this route, the game will instead be available two weeks after Nuts & Bolts' release on Xbox Live for a price of 1,200 Microsoft Points.

So what's next after BK XBLA? MundoRare was the first to tell you of Tooie's inevitable release on Xbox Live Arcade, and while there are still no concrete details to share, it'll be available next year. Whether or not Stop 'n' Swop as intended will be in Kazooie and Tooie is yet to be discovered, but rest assured, MundoRare will be there as the latest news happens. Until then, BK XBLA is either available on your 360 right now due to reserving it, or will be on it very soon. The wait to relive masochism in Rusty Bucket Bay again is close at hand.

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