Banjo-Kazooie is revered by many as one of the best games to ever grace the N64. The platformer, which starred a docile bear and a wise-cracking bird, could have ended up being something completely different as it was originally set to be a highly ambitious venture known as Project Dream.
Speaking as a special guest on the Game Grumps web series, former Rare composer Grant Kirkhope revealed the team behind Banjo-Kazooie actually took the majority of its platforming ideas from another game that the developer had in the works, Twelve Tales: Conker 64.
As Kirkhope explains:
We were doing Dream and we had this really elaborate floor system where you could stretch the polygons on the floor to any shape, like a really elaborate landscape, but the N64 couldn’t run it - it wasn’t powerful enough.
We were continuing with the game but it wasn’t going very well. Conker was going at the same time and had this really fantastic early demo that they did which was very like a Banjo platformer.
After seeing what Twelve Tales: Conker 64 was starting to look like, the head of Dream's development team said Banjo needed to become "more like Conker" because of its friendly platforming aspects.
So we changed all our mechanics to be like Conker and got Banjo going. Then when that happened Conker fell behind cause they started experimenting with other stuff.
Twelve Tales: Conker 64 changed into Conker's Bad Fur Day because Chris Seavor was brought in to design it instead and started to make massive changes.
Banjo-Kazooie has a sequel in the form of Banjo-Tooie and a third game in the series was also released on the Xbox 360 called Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts, which was not very well received at all because of the developer's decision to move away from the platforming genre. The game instead featured vehicles that you would create yourself and then have Banjo and Kazooie ride around in them.
Kirkhope spoke about why Rare decided to make the changes saying he wasn't fully behind the ideas that were brought up:
I didn't like it really. I didn't think it’s what we should've done. Tim Stamper’s idea was to remake the original game as a co-op and to remodel it all.
A lot of senior guys on the team, me included, thought that was a bad idea so we sort of moaned about it quite a lot. And it went ahead a little bit and we said in all the time it would take to retexture all these levels and make it look great we might as well just do a newer game.
The higher-ups at Rare then went and thought about it for a little while before creating a new idea, as Kirkhope explains:
Rare had just bought that Havok physics engine, Rare used to do all their own stuff, but they bought Havok for a change to use it for the physics stuff and because it was all really fantastic and the geometry worked great, the car idea came out of that.
I really said we should make Banjo Threeie, that’s what people want to see, but at the time it looked like platform games weren’t… it was the year when platformers weren’t as popular people wanted shooters and all that kind of stuff and so we all thought it wouldn’t sell and people wouldn’t want to play a game like that.
Kirkhope appeared to be despondent about not being able to make the game he, and everyone else, wanted and says he still holds out some hope he can bring it to a Nintendo console in the future.
I keep wishing that all the ex-Rare staff, there’s lots of them about now, would just get together and form a company, and go to Nintendo and say “give us the money. We’ll make you Banjo 3 for the Wii U or whatever”.
Just make Banjo 3 like it should have been made back then and it would be great, and it would be great on the Wii U.
Of course with Rare holding the rights to the Banjo-Kazooie IP this is incredibly unlikely at this stage. It doesn't mean we can't dream though...
The Grant Kirkhope special of Game Grumps is on YouTube now, but be warned it features a lot of bad language throughout.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Did you play Nuts & Bolts? Would you like to see a new Banjo-Kazooie game that goes back to its platforming roots? Let us know in the comments section below.