Pipe Dreams – Banjo-Threeie

Previously on Pipe Dreams I made a case that Conker’s Bad Fur Day should get the sequel it richly deserves, and was so close to getting. As well as how utterly terrific Rareware was as a developer. Unfortunately Rareware fell from grace, were purchased by Microsoft, and Conker’s hopes of a sequel were shelved indefinitely. I only wish this were the only case of, what I call, Rareware-despair.

Hence I have concluded this should become a series… a woeful, depressing, disheartening series, on all those Rareware games that deserved so much and were given so little. Let’s talk about Banjo Kazooie, and the sequel we were promised 13 years ago. I want Banjo-Threeie.

19 - Banjo-Threeie Logo

Much like Conker’s Bad Fur Day; Banjo Kazooie was the pinnacle of 3D platforming, and another smash hit Rareware developed almost out of thin air for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. It was a wonderfully colourful platformer, about a bear named Banjo who had a bird in his backpack named Kazooie. The main goal of the game was to collect musical notes, honeycombs, and puzzle pieces to defeat the evil witch antagonist ‘Gruntilda’. To this day I cannot explain any of the logic behind that, but it was all superb fun. This Rareware title was even able to gain a sequel, Banjo-Tooie, released in 2000, which shockingly was as terrific as its predecessor. It wasn’t revolutionary in any particular way, it merely refined and perfected every element from the platformers that came before it.

Still waiting...
Still waiting…

Even better? Right as you complete the game you got to hear Gruntilda shout up at Banjo & Kazooie: “You just wait until Banjo-Threeie…” They were Back to the Future-ing us. A promised sequel to one of the best platform franchises of all time – right as we finish the sequel? That third instalment was already bought in my eyes, and almost every other fan out there.

Then the Earth began to quake, the planet’s crust tore asunder, and Rareware with all its glory were swallowed into a sea of molten-mediocrity, and dragged deep, deep down into the pits of the Microsoft Corporation. Banjo Kazooie would then disappear from existence for nearly 6 years. Any wise fan of the game considered it dead and gone. Enveloped by the Microsoft abyss to never be heard from again. However, something marvellous happened – a trailer was released!

A beautiful, colourful, magical, Xbox 360 3D platform Banjo Kazooie game teaser trailer. Fans were astounded, champagne was popped and glasses raised, it seemed as if we were finally getting the game we had been longing for all those years.

… Of course, that didn’t happen. Things fell silent, yet again, for a further two years. Until 2008 when we all got an unexpected surprise right before Christmas. On the same release day as Call of Duty that year – also known as the day you do not release a non-Call of Duty game under any circumstances – Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts appeared on store shelves.

What is this? And why is it in my Banjo Kazooie game?!
What is this? And why is it in my Banjo Kazooie game?!

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts was a game where the core mechanic was to build your own vehicles out of pieces of debris and drive them around big, open, empty worlds. That’s the direction they went with for the sequel to one of the most anticipated and longest teased platform games of all time. The game, unsurprisingly, failed to meet any sales expectation and thus, again, nothing has been heard of the Banjo Kazooie franchise ever since. Word on the Internet even hints that Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts was originally going to be Banjo-Threeie at some point. Greg Mayles, Creative Director for Rare, was even tipped to have stated as such in an interview. There were also many permutations before Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, with working titles such as BanjoX (the ‘X’ standing for Xbox) and Banjo-Kazoomie (presumably some awful kart racing clone).

Banjo's banjo, and Kazooie's kazoo.
Banjo’s banjo, and Kazooie’s kazoo.

The truly baffling aspect for me is why Microsoft wouldn’t let Rare do what Rareware used to do best – be creative. The PlayStation 4 has Knack front and centre for launch, and Nintendo are far from lacking in the platforming department, so why is Microsoft not letting the platformer champion off the bench? I’m well aware I praise Rare highly for being able to develop in any genre, but you don’t turn Banjo Kazooie into an open world kart racer. It feels as if that should never need to be stated.

The Xbox brand has been lacking in this genre for many years, with Crash Bandicoot now rocking tattoos in low budget titles and Spyro being the unofficial mascot of a range of toys you plug into your Xbox in Skylanders, so I cannot fathom the logic of why Microsoft wouldn’t take the tiniest of risks with Banjo Kazooie. They were confident enough in the brand to release, what I will generously call, a game. Grabbed By the Ghoulies made it onto the original Xbox for Thor’s sake.

Sadly that is, once more, where our tale ends. A sharp, successful rise to glory, a glimmer of hope and joy, followed by a tremendous tumble and death is a fiery explosion consisting of mostly LEGO car parts. Banjo-Threeie has been in development Hell now for as long as Duke Nukem Forever was. There’s no way it could ever live up to the hype, but I remain dreaming of the day it will happen – perhaps naïvely. At least there aren’t any other creations that have had their name tarnished and then be tossed aside to face Rareware-despair. Oh… Oh no.

That’s it for this episode of Pipe Dreams, my name’s Duncan Aird and I approve these dreams.

Do you have a suggestion for future Pipe Dream posts? I want to hear it! I think it would be awesome, and make my job a lot easier, so please do leave it as a comment down below. However, if you would prefer to use that social networking addiction we all constructively have, you can also Tweet your thoughts to @ReadyUp with the hashtag #RUPipeDreams, or just put a post over on our Facebook Page. The options are endless! Except those three are pretty much all of the options… I look forward to each and every one of your opinions! Especially if you think Microsoft purchasing RARE really, really was the worst thing to happen to any developer ever.






5 responses to “Pipe Dreams – Banjo-Threeie”

  1. Mark Paterson avatar

    Nuts & Bolts was fun as fuck though.

    1. Duncan Aird avatar
      Duncan Aird

      Debatable. It’s damn sure not the true Banjo Kazooie experience we hoped for.

      1. Mark Paterson avatar

        That may be, but I’d argue that a lot more people would have enjoyed it had they not decided they wouldn’t like it because of what it isn’t.

        It’d be like if everybody slated that crime thriller JK Rowling did because it wasn’t a new Harry Potter book.

        1. Duncan Aird avatar
          Duncan Aird

          To me, JonTron summarised it perfectly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv9s7swLtUk

          1. Mark Paterson avatar

            Not a fair comparison. Name one game on this generation of consoles (or even the last few) that’s even remotely like Nuts & Bolts – it’s not like, as JonTron seems to think, that they made some po-faced FPS pish that everybody’d played a hundred times before.

            Quite frankly, it feels like the only bad decision Rare made was in bothering to make Nuts & Bolts a Banjo Kazooie game at all. I’m sure none of you would have been so vehemently disappointed with it then.

            God forgive anybody try to make a fun, original game and attribute it to an existing license to try and get people to actually bloody play it.

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