When Banjo-Tooie hit the Nintendo 64 nine years ago, it left behind mysteries left unexplained (or modified) to this day and the hint of more Banjo games to come. Most importantly, it left most players with the impression that it could've been a bit better when compared to Banjo-Kazooie. With the amount of time that has passed, has Banjo-Tooie improved since then? Overall, the short answer is no. Unlike Banjo-Kazooie XBLA, Tooie XBLA, while a decent game, doesn't age as gracefully as its predecessor.
A summary of what was done in the original goes like this: with the moves the duo learned in Banjo-Kazooie intact, the new overworld entitled the Isle o' Hags became the new destination to collect Jiggies, Notes, and new moves taught by Jamjars, Bottles' sergeant brother. With Mumbo Jumbo a playable character used to activate certain spells around the new worlds, Humba Wumba took his role of transforming the bear and bird and did so with gusto, seeing how every transformation could actually defend itself. The humor in the game also changed; it was more self-referential than its predecessor, and contained innuendo that is still surprising to this day to see in an E-rated game. It still stands to this day, and if you're someone who played the game when it released, you'll probably get more enjoyment of the jokes now than you did when you were younger.
With Tooie XBLA, quite a bit has changed. Legalities and such with the Nintendo logos and properties means that the spinning N64 logo in the intro has disappeared, only to have it replaced with the current Rare logo. Instead of the Banjo-Tooie box in the main menu, you now see a Nuts & Bolts game case stacked on top of an unknown game case (probably Killer Instinct 3, if I had to take a guess). The cartridge that hosts the multiplayer games has changed to reflect the boxart that Tooie XBLA has now. The controls that BK XBLA had with the second control stick replacing the C-buttons still stand in Tooie's case. Other visual differences include the Donkey Kong doll one of Bottles' kids is holding; instead of it being the real deal, there's no DK logo to be found; it looks like Bottles is pretty cheap when it comes to buying his kids toys. The Jet Force Gemini posters have been changed, and the DK64 magnet from Grunty Industries is gone. Nearly everything else has stayed the same.
The original Banjo-Tooie fixed one of my biggest problems in Kazooie, which was the constant note-resetting if you died; it made the later levels a bit intolerable when it came to getting all of the notes for your total score. Unfortunately, with Kazooie XBLA fixing that problem, one of Tooie XBLA's advantages back in the N64 era has effectively become null and void.
BK XBLA's Achievements were, with the possible exception of the Jigsaw Maker Achievement, pretty easy to get. Tooie's, however, are definitely the easiest set of Achievements to collect. Given the fact that all of them can be done by simply going through the game, players should have no problem when it comes to getting them all.
Before getting to the good that this game offers, I want to get the bad out of the way first. The controls, much like the originals and BK XBLA, still have minor issues; there are still times when a desire to change the camera will result in you doing the Wonderwing instead.
4J Studios have made it clear to us that they wanted BT XBLA to, overall, be a faithful port, Stop 'n' Swop notwithstanding. The problem with this is that, unlike the original, which had very few problems to begin with, BT could've used additions and improvements to make it a better experience.
The first improvement is the draw distance. While I do see improvements overall, there are times when the game takes a while to show what exactly is in front of me. To name one example, one should be able to see the collectable Doubloons in Jolly Roger's Lagoon when you get to them. The problem is, they don't show up until you get pretty close to them. Considering the advancement in technology, one would expect there to be a total improvement.
The second improvement that comes to mind is the second Canary Mary race in Cloud Cuckooland. You know which one I'm talking about. Rare has admitted on a few occasions (one that comes to mind is their February 9th, 2006 edition of Scribes) that the Canary Mary race was never fixed as properly as they would've liked due to her rubberband AI and her unholy tendency to cheat when you get ahead of her. Changing what's sacred in ports and remakes can go either way in terms of reception, but in my opinion, I honestly wouldn't complain if 4J Studios actually managed to fix the second race to make it a bit fairer.
Last but not least in terms of improvements is the Boss replay option. One of my biggest gripes with said option is that, no matter how many honeycombs you earn, you always have 5 honeycombs of life for every boss. Why not reward players for their exploration by having the amount of health reflect the number of honeycombs collected in the main game for use against replaying the bosses?
Just before Tooie's release, 4J Studios told MundoRare the sad fact of Bottles' Revenge not making it this time around due to not being in the plans of the 'faithful port' remit, as well as the lack of an online multiplayer. While the lack of Bottles' Revenge is understandable considering the technical problems as well as the practical problems of getting gameplay right, online multiplayer would've greatly benefited the replay value of the game, in my opinion. While most of Tooie's multiplayer modes are indeed short as well as some meant for single player mode, there are some modes (like the Tower of Tragedy quiz) that could've proven to be great fun against other fans of the game. After all, how many friends and family members in your real life know what color Jinjo isn't present in the game? The possibility for online competition is one that's an unfortunate missed opportunity.
A review of BT XBLA can't be complete without talking about Stop 'n' Swop.
Like Rare said, the original plan for SNS was expected to be in this game. After playing it, it seems Rare meant the original plan in terms of how SNS was probably meant to be executed; you get the items in BK, hot swap it, and then the items would appear in BT. It's clear that the new rewards weren't planned for the N64 version. While we might never know what the rewards that couldn't be implemented years ago were, the new rewards are, quite frankly, not that great. They're better than Nuts & Bolts' vehicle parts, but really, that's not saying much.
Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high, what with Ghoulies hinting at a secret level, the known existence of Bottles' Revenge, or the idea of an erotic Officer Unogopaz touching mini-game coming to mind with writing this review late at night. The rewards do make sense, considering that the 4J Studios interview stated that new areas, gameplay, or content couldn't be added to Tooie. Overall, it really wasn't worth the wait, considering that the rewards earned (Dragon Kazooie, Homing Eggs, Breegull Bash, and use of the Jinjo in multiplayer) years ago are the same rewards earned this time around.
The only bright side is that, while SNS has been "solved", it's not over yet. By getting all of the eggs from BK, you will be told that Stop 'n' Swop II has been activated. Collecting the three new eggs as well as three other requirements gets you Achievement-like messages which, according to the game, will be put to use in a future Rare title. Here's to hoping that Rare doesn't take ten years to implement it as well as making the rewards worth a little more than the few new rewards with the fully completed SNS I. Until then, those that downloaded LOG's Lost Challenges will just have to make do with the seven winning vehicles in the Contraption Competition as a result of completing the SNS journey and playing Nuts & Bolts again.
There are two things that Tooie has going for it in the present day: the frame-rate, and the humor. Thankfully, the frame-rate has improved significantly, allowing the gamer to experience little to no slowdown whatsoever. Personally, Tooie's humor and self-referential style are more appealing to me than Kazooie was, which is why, as mentioned earlier, the humor still stands to this day. It's entertaining to remember the old jokes, as well as realize what we missed due to being younger and (possibly) more innocent.
At the end of the day, Tooie is an above-average game. While it may not match the quality of Kazooie due to the tediousness and large size of the majority of the levels (Grunty Industries comes straight to mind), as well as some of Tooie's original improvements being implemented in BK XBLA, thus decreasing the appreciation value, it's still worth revisiting if you played the original and haven't played Tooie in a long time. If you're new to the series, start with BK XBLA first, because BT XBLA is more of the same on a larger (and some would say more frustrating) scale. Regardless, it's definitely worth the asking price.
Mark Mazzei's final verdict
"Unlike BK XBLA, BT XBLA should've been re-released as more than just a 'faithful port.' As it stands, it's a good game that could've benefited from additions and improvements to meet the quality of its predecessor even with its inherent issues such as some of its larger levels."7 out of 10
Alberto Riol's second opinion
I have to admit that playing the complete Banjo saga in HD ten years later has induced mixed feelings. With their pros and cons, BK and BT are still two of the best examples of the golden years of 3D platforming, and revisiting them again has given many hours of solid gameplay.
Still, nobody can deny that since the very moment that was known that the original Banjo games were going to reappear on Xbox Live Arcade, every single Rare fan begged for the definitive comeback of the legendary connection that the N64 couldn't offer; after all, technology wasn't a handicap this time. And even with Rare themselves promising that we would finally see "the original plan", these remakes soon became a mere pretext for the true Stop 'n' Swop revelation.
But, then, Tooie XBLA came... and unfortunately we realized that the SnS rewards were not only partially the same than in the N64 days, but also some Xbox dashboard elements that obviously weren't originally planned for the Nintendo console. Overall, a farce. And a huge disappointment, in the end, for a missed opportunity that will not be repeated.
At least, Stop 'n' Swop will still remain as one of the big Rare mysteries of all time; and ironically that's probably what I always expected.
8 out of 10