The lights are on
Every game goes through an evolutionary process during development, but Rare's N64 platformer Banjo-Kazooie changed so much during development that it became an entirely different game.
Banjo-Kazooie was one of the N64's premiere platformers, and some people argue that it sits up there with titles like Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64. However, Banjo-Kazooie started life as a SNES game called Project Dream. The title was first announced in 1995 and only a few images of the title were ever released.
Project Dream was about a boy named Edison who used a wooden sword to battle a group of pirates lead by a man named Captain Blackeye. The game was reportedly too large for an SNES cart, so it was transferred over to the N64 where it was envisioned as a massive 3D role-playing game.
As audio designer Grant Kirkhope talked about on his blog, Project Dream had an "elaborate floor system that meant we could stretch the polygons into any shape to create some really great-looking landscapes that really hadn't been tried before, unfortunately the N64 just didn't have the power to run it at a decent frame rate and we were struggling to make it work."
At the same time, Rare was really impressed with the work being done on the game that would eventually become Conker's Bad Fur Day, so the decision was made to turn Project Dream into a more traditional platformer in line with proven hits like Mario 64. Rare co-founder Tim Stamper also decided that the main character should be changed from a boy into an animal. A bear had been one of Project Dream's minor side characters, so Rare took his design and evolved him into Banjo. Rare loved the design of Banjo so much that they included him in Diddy Kong Racing more than six months before the release of his own game.
One of the few references to Project Dream that made it into Banjo-Kazooie was a picture of the old villain Captain Blackeye, who appeared in a picture in the Mad Monster Mansion level of the game. In Banjo-Tooie, Blackeye reappeared in a pub and talked about how a Bear stole his glory -- a clear reference to the series' development.
Sadly, we haven't seen much from Banjo in the last couple years aside from a few HD remakes of his old games. The last title in the series, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, wasn't even a traditional platformer. Recently a few ex-Rare employees tweeted about an upcoming project where they hope to make a spiritual successor to Banjo-Tooie, but hopefully Microsoft decides to resurrect the licence themselves someday soon.
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I wouldn't mind a sequel to Nuts & Bolts, that game was unique.
This seems to be how Valve and Rare like/liked to do their games. I.E. Make several different games in the process. Gotta give them credit for managing to still pull out good games even with so much retouching.
I remember getting this game used for like $10 and thinking it is the single greatest thing to ever happen.
I assumed this was going to be about Stop N Swop. It's always cool to hear about old games and how the came to be.
This was one of my favourite games of all time I still remember when my mum brought it for me, I was so happy it was one of my first ever games I respect her for choosing it :)
i played a lil bit of one of the banjo games on the n64 at one of my friends house a long time ago
It is amazing how Rare titles transform from the original design.
Also, Grant Kirkhope, god.
That's pretty interesting, I never knew Banjo went through such a change like that; I'm glad it became what it is, but I'd be curious to see Rare release what they were originally trying to make as well. Here's to hoping I suppose, thanks for the Game Informin!
Ah good times
Pretty good writeup, Ben. I mean, it's a light read, but there's really not that much to Project Dream, despite how interesting a development history it has. Wish Rare took more videos or saved more files from the time...
But shame on you for not mentioning how THE ENTIRE SOUNDTRACK is on Youtube. Because the composers for Project Dream - who would go on to score tons of Rare's N64 era hits - knocked out music early and often. If you enjoyed Diddy Kong Racings', Banjo's, and Conker's music, you will definitely dig Project Dream's OST.