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Bob Muir avatar 4:01 PM on 01.27.2009  (server time)
Banjo-Tooie headed to XBLA in April, with Stop 'n' Swop reimagined

We knew it was inevitable, especially since a pre-UGO-infested 1UP confirmed it back in July. Still, for such happy news, I will happily climb the highest mountain to proclaim to the world that Banjo-Tooie is headed to XBLA in April. While Banjo-Kazooie still holds a special place in my heart, Banjo-Tooie was always my favorite of the two original games, due to its polished worlds and more varied gameplay. Kotaku reports (in a typo-ridden post) that Banjo-Tooie will be ported by 4J Studios, the same developer responsible for the earlier XBLA port of Banjo-Kazooie. The main differences, besides HD visuals that remove the notorious N64 blur and achievements, will be the full implementation of the mysterious Stop 'n' Swop feature removed before release. For those not familiar, the original plan was for the gamer to acquire an ice key and six eggs in Banjo-Kazooie, then swap the game cart out for Banjo-Tooie to transfer them over via the N64's memory, which held data for about 10 seconds. This was scrapped due to differing N64 models and the fact that such an idea was extremely dangerous if you performed it wrong, possibly corrupting your N64 and its games. However, I'm not sure that this new implementation of Stop 'n' Swop will be all it's cracked up to be.

Without anyone ever knowing the true facts on the situation, Stop 'n' Swop was definitely scrapped before Banjo-Kazooie was released. From looking at investigations from The Rare Witch Project, it seems that at one point BK was meant to link up with Donkey Kong 64, a link that is still being explored on the DK64 side. When that was discarded, they obviously planned to shift development over to Banjo-Tooie, hence the secret video at the end of BK if you got all 100 jiggies and beat Gruntilda. Their mistake was allowing this video to still reference the ice key and 6 eggs after Stop 'n' Swop had been scrapped, instead of just promising a sequel. The ice key in BT, along with three of the ? eggs (two hidden in Spiral Mountain, one smaller and in plain view in the egg-hatching chicken's house), must have no relation from a coding perspective to the original ice key and eggs.

Long story short: any "restored" implementation of Stop 'n' Swop present in the XBLA ports of BK and BT will be markedly different from whatever the unknown original intention was. It was just one idea that was eventually changed, just as Banjo-Kazooie originally had an overworld of the "Giant's Lair" (changed to Grunty's Lair), a level called "Fungus Forest" (moved to DK64 as Fungi Forest), a level called "Mt. Fire Eyes" (reimagined as the fire side of Hellfire Peaks in BT and replaced with Mad Monster Mansion), and a level called "Hammerhead Beach" (simply renamed Treasure Trove Cove). That, and the fact that it was originally about a boy, with Banjo being one of many sidekicks, who opposed pirates led by Captain Blackbeard (seen in BT), back when it was announced as Project Dream for SNES/N64.

So what could Stop 'n' Swop reveal? Unless they want to just add in some random extras that won't live up to the name, I would bet that 4J Studios will simply implement the near-finished Bottle's Revenge "co-op" mode that was found in BT via ROM-hacking. Regardless of whether or not Stop 'n' Swop ends up being awesome, I'm still very excited to see Banjo's second adventure get the non-blurry release that it deserves. Out of the many early 3D graphics that aged very poorly, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie has graphics that still hold up very well in my eyes. That, and it had a soundtrack that sounds just too good for the MIDI it was working with. Ah, nostalgia is a wonderful thing.

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