bought famed Nintendo
in 2002 it was pretty well established that Rare
's original characters would be going with them. Future Nintendo GameCube
projects featuring Joanna Dark
, and Banjo & Kazooie
were all shelved or moved into Microsoft XBox
development and all Rare
projects using Nintendo
characters were either canned or reverted back to Nintendo
itself. One of the games that fell into the ether was the Game Boy Advance
sequel to Banjo-Kazooie
, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge
. With bird and bear gone, Nintendo
fans wept over what could have been and moved on to other games, and that was pretty much the end of that.
In August 2003 game publisher THQ suddenly announced that they'd secured the publishing rights to Rare's first Game Boy Advance title, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge, to be released in September 2003 along with other future Microsoft-owned Game Boy Advance titles. With that one announcement the world learned that not only had the game continued development after its "cancelation", but it was now complete and ready for the world for play on a Nintendo console. Many people wondered why this came to pass, and the popular theory is that since Microsoft currently has no holdings in a portable game system of their own, they won't be shooting themselves in the foot by releasing a game for a market they aren't currently apart of. So while it seems that Rare has a good future on the Game Boy Advance, don't expect them to appear on any home console besides that which is Microsoft.
But enough history and backstory; we've got a game to play! Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge picks up after the first game in the series, Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64, leaves off: the evil witch Gruntilda (aka Grunty) has been smashed under a boulder. While the sequel Banjo-Tooie explored what happened when Grunty's sisters came to rescue her, this game ignores that storyline and instead focuses on Grunty's underling, Klungo, building a robotic body for Grunty's ghost. Now bionic, the evil witch kidnaps Kazooie and takes her back in time to prevent her from meeting Banjo in the first place. She reasons that if bear and bird never team up, then she won't be crushed later on. Mumbo Jumbo, the friendly shaman, learns of this plan and sends Banjo back in time to put a stop to Grunty's evil plans. And yes, Grunty speaks in rhyme in this game.
While past games in the series have been in full 3D, this Game Boy Advance adventure takes place in a ¾th overhead viewpoint, much like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Players control Banjo who, as a result of the time travel, starts the game with no moves or attacks save jumping. Luckily he can call upon Bozzeye the mole (an ancestor of Bottles the mole) to teach him fifteen new (read: old) moves such as the talon trot, egg shoot, and others in exchange for collecting musical notes. The primary goal of the game is to defeat Gruntilda and rescue Kazooie, but to do that Banjo will have to collect jiggies (those little jigsaw puzzle pieces) to unlock new levels. The levels themselves are basically scaled down redressed editions of the wacky worlds from the original Banjo-Kazooie; the hub world of Spiral Mountain provides passages to farmland, beaches, swamps, ports, and icy wastelands. There are a total of sixty jiggies to collect (ten in each world), although only fifty are required to take down Grunty. Like other Rare collect-a-thon games there are many other items to acquire. In addition to the Jingos, mumbo tokens, eggs, and feathers from past games there's also a number of level-specific items to collect that can be exchanged for jiggies. Over the course of the game Banjo will have to search for coins, ice cream, toys, gold pieces, and more.
Banjo and friends make the transition to 2D rather well. The graphics are sharp and familiar and the music & sounds are practically ripped from the Nintendo 64 prequels. I found it quite easy to adapt to the new perspective, although at times it can be difficult to realize exactly how high some of the taller ledges are. The largest drawback to the game is that it's too darn short. Experienced gamers can finish the game in under four hours, although one can go back and replay the game to pick up the jiggies and such that were missed the first time around. Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge is newly released and should be easy to find at your local store or online retailer. If you keep your gaming Nintendo-specific, check this one out as it may be one of the last times we see bear and bird on a non-Microsoft console.