Thursday, January 27, 2011

RE: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (360)

For those of you who have never seen this feature before, RE: is a second opportunity to take another look at a game that was reviewed on SPC and reexamine it after the hype has settled down. These are not revisionist reviews. No score will be given to these reexaminations. In a nutshell, that's what RE: is all about. Today's subject is the overlooked Xbox 360 sales disaster in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. All screenshots in this article were created by myself using the in-game photo tool. Let's get to it and do it!

History lesson time. Way back when in the early 2000s, Microsoft purchased Rare after Nintendo willingly sold all of their shares. Since then, Rare has struggled to find an identity among the shooter-loving populace of the Xbox brand. Sure, they've seen million sellers in Perfect Dark Zero, their own attempt at a shooter, and also in Viva Pinata, but only after the title went down to twenty dollars. Anyway, my point is that through all the Perfect Dark Zeroes and Viva Pinatas (and now Kinect Sports), there was a financial failure in Kameo: Elements of Power, Conker: Live and Reloaded, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, and yes, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts for the 360.

When Microsoft took full control over Rare, gamers everywhere were dreaming of a Banjo-Threeie as not-so-subtly hinted by the previous sequel. What would it look like in glorious HD? What trials would be presented to collect those precious Jiggies? What worlds would Banjo and Kazooie explore? Would Mumbo-Jumbo be a playable character once again? Would there be multiplayer of some sort? Those kinds of questions were asked. When a teaser trailer showed a new Banjo model, things started getting dicey. Fans cried, "What did they do to Banjo?" Eventually the new art style grew on gamers, thankfully. The teaser trailer showed a colorful world, Spiral Mountain, in fabulous HD. There were musical notes, Jiggies, and other collectables in plain view. It seemed like this would be a return to form.

Then one E3 came by (or was it an Xbox-exclusive event?), and suddenly, worlds were shattered, crashing to the ground in solemn distress. The game featured vehicles: planes, cars, and hovercrafts! No longer were Banjo and Kazooie traversing the game worlds on foot anymore. Instead, they rode these vehicles, smashed through a Mario-like statue, and showed off the vehicles in a cool trailer. However, this was confusing to Banjo fans such as myself. What was this? What did they do to Banjo?

When more news was gathered, it turned out Banjo and Kazooie, along with their arch-nemesis, Gruntilda, were transported to Showdown Town by the Lord of Games, or L.O.G. L.O.G. was sick of the bickering between the trio of cute and cuddly characters and wanted them to face off once and for all. By acquiring and collecting Jiggies, Banjo and Kazooie could face off against Gruntilda in unique battle and mini-game scenarios. It also turned out that Showdown Town was essentially the platforming hub of the game. Sure, Banjo could hop out of a vehicle at any time in the five or six game worlds, but Showdown Town was where this was actually necessary to collect musical notes, the currency of the game, and find new passageways and worlds.

But how would Jiggies be collected in this game? Would they be sitting there-- waiting for Banjo and Kazooie to collect them like in previous games? Not at all. In Nuts and Bolts, side-characters waited in the many acts and worlds of the game, assigning timed tasks to both Banjo and Kazooie. The goal was to finish the task in the set time limit to acquire a Jiggy. But that wasn't enough. Banjo would then have to drive the Jiggy to Showdown Town's center plaza for the Jiggy to count towards his collection. These aforementioned goals included boarding a plane or battle helicopter (something with firepower) and shooting the patches off of Mr. Patch from Banjo-Tooie's Witchyworld. Another was a race around Nutty Acres against Mr. Fit or a soccer match between idle goaltenders.

There was a certain amount of strategy in choosing a vehicle. You could be boring and select a pre-made vehicle, or you could be creative and construct one yourself. Of course, build a lopsided car, and you won't go far. I wasn't being cute and intentionally rhyming like Gruntilda there, either. Anyway, you needed to be smart about car, copter, or craft construction. You received construction kits and blueprint designs from Mumbo's Garage. You made new vehicles from said parts. Should you add more ammo to a copter, and risk having it be too heavy to move? Perhaps add less ammo to your copter, so it is light, fast, and aerodynamic?

Going back to the soccer scenario, you could work on your vehicle, mid-mini-game. The main goal of this mini-game to earn a Jiggy was to somehow push seven or so soccer balls through the net before time ran out. I tried a combination of vehicles here. First I used a battering ram to blast the balls toward the net. This lacked the precision I needed, so I built a pusher vehicle with a wide claw to hold one or two soccer balls. I then drove carefully through the goaltenders to reach the net. This method lacked efficiency. There was no way I could do this task in the time allotted. Then, your good buddy SuperPhillip got smart. Why not build a vehicle with a large basket on top? I could use Kazooie's wand to lift the balls into the basket, holding six or seven at once, drive the cart of soccer balls through the goal, and win the game easily? That's exactly what I did, and I handily beat the challenge, earned my Jiggy, and went back home to Showdown Town.

That's just one example of the flexibility of Nuts and Bolts. It's truly up to your imagination in how you want to tackle a given challenge. Sacrifice speed for strength? Strength for speed? It's all up to you.

As you unlocked more Jiggies, new acts of the various worlds would open. Acts featured the same level but with new challenges to take on. There were usually up to six acts per level. Each level featured a new theme from the farm-like, volcano-like expansive world of Nutty Acres to the Roman arena of the Jiggoseum. There was even a world dedicated to Banjo's past exploits in Banjoland with a fitting medley included.

Visually, the new look of Banjo and Kazooie was jarring at first. What was this atrocity? Now, I very much enjoy the bear and bird's new looks. The graphics of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts are simply amazing. In Nutty Acres you can easily see across the entire map. The draw distance is incredible. Neat visual effects like distortion when flying through the steam of a volcano makes for a great experience. All-in-all, Rare, as always, certainly knows how to get the most of a given hardware. Audio-wise, the same grunts for voice work are present in Nuts and Bolts. They're still as charming as ever. Speaking of audio, the music is just perfect. Hearing familiar themes orchestrated or played with real live instruments was a thing of beauty. It's just all-around impressive from top to bottom.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts might not have been the Banjo-Threeie fans may have wanted. Sales certainly suggest that. Perhaps using new characters instead of shoehorning Banjo and Kazooie into the game would have been a better idea. However, it is a great game deserving of your time regardless of that. There's so much creativity oozing from the surface. The worlds may be big and empty, and some of the challenges may be infuriating, but show patience and you will be rewarded. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts gets a big, solid recommendation from yours truly.

What games would you like to see given the RE: treatment? Let me know in the SuperPhillip Central comments section.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good story, I agree with you it's a wonderful game and tis a shame it didn't sell more than it's estimated 700k. Saying that, it's one frustrating game, I must of invented new swear words at times but tbh I still live in hope (a fools hope perhaps) for a proper sequel.