The Banjo-Kazooie series is currently celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. Not that you’d know it, as there seems to be little recognition coming from developer Rare or parent company Microsoft. Fans hopes for a new title is just wishful thinking right now. However, there’s one often overlooked entry in the series that’s worth revisiting: Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge.

The third Banjo-Kazooie title released, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge debuted 20 year ago today. While the original and it’s sequel are often lavished with praise, and the sole Xbox original – Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts – is occasionally given a cursory ‘not as bad as we thought’ backhanded compliment, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge gets very little attention. In fact, it seems many even forgot it exists.

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge screenshot

Banjo and Kazooie Arrive Late to the Party

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge was originally in development for the Game Boy Color. After a simple prototype had been created, the game was moved to the Game Boy Advance and given new opportunity on a more powerful system. However, soon thereafter, Microsoft purchased Rare, and thus the Banjo-Kazooie IP itself. Nintendo was no longer on the line of publishing duties.

Instead, Rare struck a deal with THQ – after a successful partnership on Conker’s Bad Fur Day – to publish the game for Nintendo’s handheld. A mobile port was also developed as part of the agreement, and subsequently released in 2005. In the intervening years Rare released a solitary GameCube title, StarFox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet, and the only Xbox title to have seen shop-shelves at the time was Grabbed By the Ghoulies. Neither of which set the world on fire.

So in came Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge as somewhat of an oddball. A new game from an old series on a Nintendo handheld. An interesting story for sure. But also, a very interesting game in its own right.

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge screenshot

Banjo-Kazooie’s Pocket Rocket

From the very beginning of Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge, you will find the graphics and the animation quite remarkable. Those who had the pleasure to experience the title’s Nintendo 64 predecessors, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, will feel immediately at home. Rare managed to recreate the feel of the two original 360-degree, complex three-dimensional platformers in a top-down quasi-3D handheld game.

The game’s controls are blissful. The wealth of moves at your disposal mirrors that of it’s bigger brethren, and all the original elements – such as transformations, jiggy collecting, jingo collecting, note collecting etc. – are still there. The depth of the game’s learning curve is a design that many of even the most modern games simply can’t grasp. Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is both a compliment for fans of the series, and welcoming to newcomers.

The level design rarely disappoints. Though somewhat smaller than their Nintendo 64 counterparts, there’s still more than enough variety to get your platforming kicks from, and there are many levels to find. As is customary these days, the game has a hub where some basic gameplay will transpire, and from which you will be able to access the main levels of play. The levels consist of the usual platform antics, as mentioned above, but deliver it all very reliably.

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge screenshot

Bear and Bird Never Looked Better

As stated above, the graphics the title sports are fantastic. Top-tier for the Game Boy Advance and even rivaling some of the best from the Nintendo DS, the animation is fluid, the characters are varied and the world is never less than colourful. The storyline is a bit hit-and-miss, but retains the oh-so-typically-Rare British humour. The sound quality is also of a high quality for the system, with Banjo gulping and grunting and Kazooie squawking with incredible clarity for the Game Boy Advance’s solitary speaker.

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is quite frankly one of the best platform adventures on the Game Boy Advance. Moreover, it’s a better pastiche of the bear-and-bird duo than their Xbox 360 outing. If you want a change of pace from the usual 2D platfom fodder, this could be the eye-opener you need. Fantastic graphics, sound and an amazing longevity. Look for it, play it, enjoy.

Categories: Games