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Interviews

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Interview: The home straight in sight...

Banjo-Kazooie has come a long way since its treasured days as part of the Nintendo 64 line-up.

Not only is Banjo now found kicking back on the Xbox 360 these days, but he's even ditched his traditional platforming shoes for a new mechanical DIY flavour, where he crafts bizarre and weird vehicles to help him reach the places that used to demand a double-jump.

Did Rare expect the initial negativity from Banjo fans? Lead artist Neill Harrison and senior animator Elissa Miller sat down for a chat...

We're assuming you're pretty close to being gold and out the door now. How does that feel?

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NH: Pretty close, yeah. It's just good to get the franchise back and hopefully people are quite excited about it. We've quite a good buzz around from the old fans and new fans who are quite happy to see Banjo back. So that's really cool.

Do you think you've fulfilled your original vision for the game?

NH: Yeah, I think we've fulfilled what we wanted to do. What we didn't want to do was to just do another Banjo Kazooie which was exactly the same and that's actually we started doing at the beginning.

We thought well, we'll just do another platform game as Banjo Kazooie. We did that for a bit and as gamers and as developers, it just felt a little bit stale. It felt like it didn't fit in today's market. With the 360, there's just so much more we can do, we thought we'd try something different.

Were you worried about the reaction from Banjo fans?

EM: There are always concerns. We wanted to make a game that was innovative, basically. We just thought with the old games, platforming had hit its peak. If we had rehashed and done another platformer, people would have moaned at us for doing that. So we thought we'd do something innovative and something pushing gaming. We're hoping old Banjo fans will really enjoy it and we think they will.

NH: I'm pretty confident they will when they play it. They just have to give it a chance.

EM: People are always resistant to change. I think like Neill says, once you pick it up and have a play around with it, you'll realise why we made those changes and we actually needed to make the changes to the Banjo franchise.

You say that it felt stale doing another Banjo platformer. Is that a feeling within Rare or the games market as a whole?

NH: Both. As developers, we didn't just want to do the same game for three years. I'd rather do something different. But also in today's market, I think if we'd have done Banjo Kazooie with high-def visuals, it maybe would have felt just a bit dated really. And it's like, why not try something different? As an industry, I think it's important that people try new things. Obviously it's a big financial risk for everyone involved but if we don't do that as an industry, we'll become stale.

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EM: Rare are always wanting to try new things as well. We're quite lucky to be in that position where we can and so for us, it was really important to try something new and not get caught up in the rehashing of franchises one after the other.

NH: It is important that we still see it very much as a Banjo game. Initially some people thought it was a Banjo game with racing tacked on, which it absolutely isn't. It is at its heart still a Banjo game. The way we think of it is it's still a platformer, essentially. It's just that instead of us telling you how you're going to do a level - jump here, swim there - it's now up to you to choose how to do it.

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