On the day when Sonic the Hedgehog was announced for Nintendo GameCube, it seemed the gaming world had been turned upside-down. It's equally mind-blowing to see one of the all-time classic Nintendo franchises, Banjo-Kazooie, coming up for Xbox 360. Arguably, calling it a 'Nintendo' series is a bit of a misnomer, because Rare always owned the rights, but it's still an exciting new step for the bear and bird.
Announced at X06, this new adventure promises to reunite Banjo and Kazooie with their arch-nemesis Gruntilda and a host of other memorable characters. True to Rare's reputation for secrecy, little else is known. "We're keeping tight-lipped so don't bother asking about a title, release date, story details or anything like that. Seriously, don't," says the developer on its website.
The screenshots on this page have been taken from the official trailer, and they do re-affirm some of our predictions about the new game. One is that you might be able to pick up Kazooie and use him as different kinds of weapons or tools. In the movie, Banjo turns his feathered friend into a key and a pneumatic drill, both with hilarious but disastrous results. In the original N64 game you could use Kazooie to run across swampland, to fly, or even to spit eggs like a machine gun. Rare's games have become even more imaginative over the years, so we're expecting even wackier things from the new version.
Another thing that really defines the Banjo series is the excellent music. During our recent trip to Rare's studio in Twycross, we were able to hear first-hand the massive strides forward it has made in this area. Musician Grant Kirkhope revealed that he started out composing music for games like Viva Piņata and Kameo in Twycross, but the actual final recordings were done by the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Kirkhope's original score for these games is undeniably awesome, but their true beauty really reveals itself when you hear the orchestral version. We're predicting a similar approach in the new game, although Kirkhope still has a banjo on standby in the Twycross recording studio.
Xbox 360 still lacks a killer platformer, but based on Banjo- Kazooie's superb record so far, we're expecting this to be the big one. Let's hope Rare's perfectionist habit of taking years to finish their games is a now thing of the past and we can get down to capturing some Jiggies in 2007.
JIGGIE WITH IT
Every Banjo game has a massive amount of collecting to do. You usually have to collect golden jigsaw pieces known as Jiggies to open up new worlds. Collecting enough golden honeycombs earns Banjo and Kazooie an extra chunk of health. There will also be golden notes and possibly even Jinjos to discover. It took us over 60 hours to find everything in the original N64 game. There could be even more to discover this time around. We may have to take a month off just to review it!
BAD FUR DAY
Story-wise, in the original game, Banjo's sister Tooty is kidnapped by Gruntilda. The evil witch hopes to steal Tooty's cuteness to become the most beautiful creature in the land. After rescuing his sister with the help of Kazooie and voodoo priest Mumbo-Jumbo, Banjo traps Grunty under a giant boulder. Unfortunately she escapes with help from her sisters, and Grunty destroys Banjo's house. They set out on another adventure and eventually prove that birds and bears are better than witches.