First in-game shots of Banjo-Kazooie 3 (Threeie)

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and BoltsBeing a bit of a Banjo-Kazooie fan, I’ve naturally been keeping my eye on the development of the upcoming trilogy-forming sequel. It certainly sounds like it’s shaping up well, with the majority of the original Banjo-Kazooie team running the show and the humour supposedly stepped up a notch to ensure those who’ve grown up since playing the originals aren’t left out.

And now, a bunch of leaked screenshots have hit the web. I have to admit that many of them leave me a little underwhelmed, lacking the bright, happy feel that the original game had (despite the deeply twisted slant). The environments also seem a bit clean to me, lacking much of the rich texture the previous games had. I do really like the two screenshots I included in this post though, so clearly it’s not a lost cause.

My main concern is that Rare seem to be unsure about what art direction they want to take. One of the best things about Banjo-Kazooie is that it was largely a cartoon-like game, with bright, blue skies and beautifully textured areas. Some of these new screenshots — this one in particular — seem to be an awkward blend of photo-realistic textures and cartoon styling; and the lighting is very cold, painting harsh shadows on everything. It just doesn’t sit right on my eyes.

Still, it’s important to remember that the game is a long way from release, that not all the screenshots look unappealing, and that the original Banjo team — who also developed the eye candy that was Viva Piñata — are at the helm, so things could change a lot visually.

Guess we’ll see! You can check out Shacknews’s image gallery for all 17 shots.

Update: OK, I’m significantly more worried about this game now. Some video footage has been unveiled, along with a stack of new information — including the new title of Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. The game’s Wikipedia article has been appropriately fleshed out, incorporating these new details.

The most startling bits of information are the revelations that only “20% of the game retains traditional platforming elements”, and that all the moves (including those seen in Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie) have been scrapped. Instead the emphasis is now on building vehicles to do stuff, with over 1,600 available parts. So clearly there’s going to be a heavy puzzle/construction element.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and BoltsNow, while it does sound like Rare is trying to do something new here and coming up with inventive gameplay as they did in the N64 days, with Banjo-Kazooie 3 I kind of wanted something more conventional and iterative. If they wanted to produce a game totally detached from the series’ history, they should have produced a new world to go along with it. All this technology and focus on building stuff just doesn’t seem like it fits in with the old Banjo-Kazooie world, which had quite a fantastical, fairy tale tone to it. But then as I mentioned originally, these screenshots don’t really convey that old atmosphere anyway.

So I’ll admit that I’m disappointed, but I do think a good game is still likely to come out of this. The team responsible for it is good, as shown with Viva Piñata. And this isn’t the first time Rare’s mixed up two genres, with the Nintendo 64’s Blast Corps fusing action and puzzles to almost perfection — another game that’s dying for a current-gen sequel.

Perhaps Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts’ mixture of traditional platforming, construction, and puzzles will turn out to be great. However, it’s going to be a far cry from the sequel that many fans of the series were expecting, and I suspect that initial shock will frighten many people away; the very average Kameo and sequel to the legendary Perfect Dark have caused people to have significantly less faith in Rare.

Update #2: The head of design for Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts has been interviewed by Games Radar, and I have to admit that it has made me a little more confident about this game being good. A lot of the changes I was initially surprised by are justified somewhat, so it’s well worth reading if you’re an old Banjo fan like myself.

Update #3: There’s now a mondo-size interview with the Rare chaps about the game available on the Rare Witch Project. It goes further towards pacifying me and making me look forward to the game, for sure.