Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has given us plenty of cool surprises when it comes to DLC characters, but the addition of Banjo and Kazooie has been perhaps the most noteworthy. While the dynamic animal duo is famous for two critically-acclaimed N64 adventures, when Rare was bought by Microsoft the franchise went over to Xbox, with little apparent chance of it ever gracing a Nintendo console again.
That's what made the arrival of the pair in Smash so amazing; it felt entirely unlikely at one point. In a wonderful interview over at Gamesindustry.biz, Rare studio head Craig Duncan has been speaking about how this remarkable collaboration came to be:
Minecraft had paved the way for that relationship between Nintendo and Microsoft. I met with Nintendo at the E3 before we announced it. And then we connected our teams, because we thought it seemed like a great opportunity.
We had an initial kick off call with Sakurai-san and some of his team. There was myself, Gregg Mayles... who is the father of Banjo, even though he hates it when we call him that. Andrew Wensley, who runs our business team. And a chap called Paul Cunningham, who runs our partnerships. Those people had a conversation, [Nintendo] talked through what their approach would be, and then that process started.
And then a year goes by of sharing animatics and ideas and character concepts. It was a back-and-forth. We ended up with something that was really great. But the execution came from the Smash team.
Microsoft's openness to working with companies like Nintendo certainly gives us hope that other cool collaborations could happen in the future (we'd be happy with Rare Replay on Switch, if we're honest).