Mark Mazzei

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

With Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts headed to the Xbox 360 last year, 4J Studios, Microsoft, and Rare secretly teamed up to bring the rest of Banjo’s console adventures on the Xbox Live Arcade starting with Banjo-Kazooie XBLA and its sequel.

Announced in early 2009 (with MundoRare bringing you the exclusive as early as Summer 2008), Banjo-Tooie not only finishes the console saga of the bear and bird, but puts Stop ‘n’ Swop to its original use after not being able to do so years ago.

Promising a much better framerate compared to the N64 version, improved draw distance as seen in BK XBLA, and Leaderboards, the game aims to be a prettier and more competitive masterpiece than what the N64 could handle.

The Bony Witch Strikes Back

GruntyAt the end of the original game, the dim-witted Banjo and the smartarse Kazooie defeated the rhyming Gruntilda at the very top of her lair, only to have her fall down to Spiral Mountain minutes later. It certainly didn’t help that she was stuck under a rock that not even Klungo could remove. And stuck she was for two years (less if you remember her spiritual escape in Grunty’s Revenge).

The game starts pretty normal for a Rare title: Mumbo, Bottles, Banjo and Kazooie are all sitting around, playing cards with a side of gambling. However, it was that particular night that Gruntilda’s sisters, the grotesquely huge Blobbelda and the sickeningly thin (with quite the innuendo for a name) Mingella, arrived to Grunty’s rocky grave. Using their witch powers, they removed the rock and freed Gruntilda, only to find out that time continued not to be kind to her looks. Reduced to mere bones, Grunty only had one thing on her mind, and that was to get back at the bear and bird duo. Mumbo, spying on the newly reunited sisters, warned the bear, bird, and mole of what happened as they ran out of Banjo’s house to avoid the upcoming attack. Only Bottles didn’t listen, and he paid for it with his life. The adventure then begins, although as Banjo said, he had a feeling it wasn’t going to be easy like BK was.

While the game mostly plays like the original did (collecting notes, Jinjos, and Jiggies), the sequel certainly brings new elements to the table. Notes were no longer singular in nature; not only that, but much like BK XBLA, once you collect a bundle of Notes, they were there to stay. Mumbo Jumbo, the transforming shaman from the first game, instead opts to be a playable character this time around. Humba Wumba appears as the game’s substitute, often outdoing Mumbo’s transformations on the sole fact that all of Humba’s new transformations can actually attack baddies this time around. Most importantly, Banjo and Kazooie can split up in this adventure; not only can they learn new moves on their own, but they can solve puzzles using what they learned to get more items along the way.

All our main heroes!With the sequel came a change in scenery; while BK had worlds of a scenic nature, BT’s worlds felt more dark and industrialized. Whether it’s the ancient Terrydactyland or the amazingly complex Grunty Industries, the overworld of the Isle of Hags lacks that fairy-tale feeling that the original had, and the music certainly reflects that.

Of course, the one overlying question on everyone’s mind back in 2000 (2001 for Europeans) was Stop ‘n’ Swop. How would Rare handle it, even when we’ve heard nothing about the feature? As players of that time remember, Stop ‘n’ Swop was barely Stop ‘n’ Swop at all; players found randomly placed BK cartridges come to life and broke them to reveal the new items as they fell on the floor, completely devoid of the magic that we saw in Mumbo’s pictures. Admittedly, it was very disappointing, but Rare and 4J Studios weren’t looking to make that same mistake twice with this port. Although SNS was originally supposed to only connect between BK and Nuts & Bolts, 4J Studios realized that it was possible to have Kazooie and Tooie connect like the “original plan” said it would. To avoid spoilers, it does exactly what was originally intended to do had the N64 circuitry not changed: it simply allows you to transfer the eggs and Key to Tooie for miscellaneous rewards.

The Small Changes

Sadly, not everything is rife of improvement. Bottles’ Revenge and online multiplayer, two modes that were really hoped for, won’t be making it in the port. With both of them going outside the realm of a “faithful port” that 4J Studios was commissioned to do, they never stood a chance. A tragedy, considering the amount of replay value those two modes could’ve presented.

Now available at 1200 MS Points, BT will be sure to provide a better experience now that nearly everything from the original has improved in every way. Stay tuned to MundoRare as we present a review of the game in the upcoming weeks and how it holds up almost nine years after the fact.

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