It was almost Bunny-Kazooie
With the archival nature of Rare Replay — a collection of games on Xbox One that spans the developer’s entire history — it’s natural that the studio would be digging through a lot of old boxes lately. One of those boxes (proverbial or not) yielded a very special find: footage of the evolution of the game that went on to become Banjo-Kazooie.
Through this ten minute video, key staff at Rare describe Dream as it was running on both Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64. Early looks have it using the Donkey Kong Country aesthetic to move through a world from an isometric viewpoint. Later, a canine companion is added in. Just a man with a pirate sword and his dog, off to do some adventuring.
That obviously wouldn’t last. As the game grew, it also got too ambitious. Rare realized it couldn’t pull off this giant pirate-styled role-playing game. The team reverted to a more signature cartooney look and created Banjo (who was originally concepted as a rabbit) to traverse linear 2D-like levels, not unlike, again, Donkey Kong Country.
Seeing Nintendo’s work on Super Mario 64 prompted Rare to once more scrap its work on the game. Itching to make something on par with the iconic N64 title, Rare created a fully 3D test level for what would become Banjo-Kazooie. The rest is history. It was a long process, but few would probably argue that the developer didn’t eventually get it right in the end.