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Prerelease:Banjo-Kazooie/Banjo Kazoo

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This is a sub-page of Prerelease:Banjo-Kazooie.

This article is a work in progress.
...Well, all the articles here are, in a way. But this one moreso, and the article may contain incomplete information and editor's notes.


Following the demise of Dream, the team had spent the early part of 1997 working on the 2.5D platformer Kazoo. Everything changed about two months in, however, when Nintendo offered them a look at their premier N64 title, Super Mario 64.[1][2][footnote 1] For the team, the footage was a wake-up call:

"It was like, clearly... our technology [...] looked really old in comparison, and literally overnight we just thought 'That's gonna be the future of what 3D games are gonna look like'."

- Gregg Mayles[1]

As that generation of games would prove, he wasn't wrong. And so, Stamper and Mayles decided to shake things up yet again and bring the game into full 3D.[3] Within a week, the team had scrapped everything, overhauled the graphics engine (no more mesh system), and had the game's first "recognizable" level[footnote 2] in a playable state.[1][4] Its name would change again to reflect this-- from Kazoo to Banjo Kazoo.[3]

It is here where the game starts to resemble its final incarnation. Development from this point onward was described as "like pushing [a] boulder down a hill", as everything began to come together.[4]

"We suddenly had impetus, there was direction, everybody was committed..."

- Paul Machacek[1]


Ever since the original Donkey Kong Country, Rare had gained a reputation for employing various tricks to squeeze as much performance as possible out of their platforms, and Banjo was no exception.


  • The game's character models were deliberately kept "clean and simple" with minimal texturing to create a striking contrast against the heavily textured worlds.[5]
  • On that note, making the worlds as detailed as they were was itself a feat. An infamous bottleneck of the N64's hardware was its meager 4KB of texture memory. This meant any individual texture could be no more than 4KB large, which (for the CI4 format that made up most of Banjo's environment textures) was equivalent to a maximum resolution of 64x64 pixels.[5][6] The team got around this by cutting up large textures into 64x64 segments and UV mapping them together, in a similar fashion to the tilesets and tile maps of a typical 2D game.[5]
    • Furthermore, "decal" textures could be overlaid and blended into the background to allow for extra detail.[5]
  • The game's use of frustum culling[footnote 3] led to major memory fragmentation issues, which degraded performance. To avoid this they wrote a custom algorithm to defragment memory on the fly, which freed up space that could then be devoted to pushing polygon counts even further.[5]
Multi-segment textures
Textures In-game
BK prerel TTC tex.png
BK prerel TTC ingame.png

Decal blending
Textures In-game (without vertex shading) In-game (with vertex shading)
BK prerel GL tex.png BK prerel GL ingame noblend.png BK prerel GL ingame.png


The characters were originally intended to be voice acted, but the team decided not to go through with this after realizing how much dialogue they had actually written, the recording of which would have cut extensively into development time.[3] Additionally, there was some fear of botching the effort, as voiceover was still a relatively new concept to video games, and they felt the subpar acting seen in some titles "didn't [...] add to the experience".[5] As a compromise, they settled on short grunts played at various pitches to convey a character's voice and personality without the drawbacks of full voice acting, giving birth to the now-famous "mumble-speak" associated with the series.[5]

Adding onto this, the team "thought it [would be] funny" if the characters sang as well (an idea going back to Blackeye's introduction in Dream). Banjo and co. were initally going to introduce themselves in song during the "hoedown" sequence, but the notion fell by the wayside during development and ended up unused.[7]


To do:
Mumbo, the "Breeee" story, Roysten

"We swapped to a witch because she promised that she had more levels in her lair than the giant had in his castle. She claimed her levels were really good and the players would love them, whereas the giant was little more than a hopeless fool who was still trying to construct level 1."

- Gregg Mayles (probably)[8]

While Banjo, Kazoo, and Piccolo naturally made it across from Kazoo, most of the final game's characters only debuted in this iteration.

  • During the initial stages, a giant was planned as the main villain. He may have originated from Dream, or he could have been a new character. Regardless, he didn't last long before Grunty took his place.[8][9][10]
  • Besides the obvious Wicked Witch of the West/Snow White parallels, Gruntilda was also inspired by the character of Grotbags from the 80s British children's shows Emu's World and The Pink Windmill Show.[5][11][12]

Rare Revealed Build

  • None of Bottles' mole hills can be seen, so it's likely that he wasn't implemented yet.
  • All animated collectibles are static in this build.

Banjo's Jiggy Dance

Early Final
BanjoKazoo JiggyDance.gif BanjoKazooie JiggyDance.gif
  • The dance Banjo does upon collecting a Jiggy is longer and more exaggerated. It also had a longer jingle to go with it:
  • The early dance alters Banjo's position/rotation, so afterwards he has to snap back to face the camera.
  • The Jiggy magically reappears in Banjo's hand after Kazoo swallows it.
Early Final
BKEarly-jiggydance2.png BKFinal-jiggydance2.png
  • The Jiggy icon was originally a pre-rendered sprite with an image on one side of the Jiggy. In the final, it was replaced with a 3D model.

Spiral Mountain

Early Final
BKEarly-spiralmountain1.png BKFinal-spiralmountain1.png
  • The wall platforms go all the way into the water. In the final, they stop before they reach the water.
  • The waterfall isn't present.
Early Final
BKEarly-spiralmountain2.png BKFinal-spiralmountain2.png
  • Conga the gorilla and three bull enemies are present here. These enemies don't appear until Mumbo's Mountain in the final game.
  • An extra tree is present that was removed in the final.
  • The Spiral Mountain is made out of bricks.

Mumbo's Mountain

Mumbo's Mountain is more of a jungle-like area in this build.

Early Final
BKEarly-mm1.png BKFinal-mm1.png
  • Most of the textures were changed. instead of a greyish-brown, rock-like texture on most walls and slopes, there is a grey and green texture, which appears to be stone covered in moss. the walls that enclose the level were originally much higher, and sported jagged rocks and mountains at the top.
  • The bridge is made out of logs in this build. In the final, it's made of rope.
  • There are 6 notes on the bridge. The final has 7 notes on it.
Early Final
BKEarly-mm2.png BKFinal-mm2.png
  • Mumbo's skull looks like one of the huts. The final design was changed to resemble his head.
  • The Juju totem pole doesn't rotate.
  • The Mumbo Token under the ramp leading to Mumbo's hut isn't present (though it might have already been collected in this footage).
Early Final
BKEarly-mm3.png BKFinal-mm3.png
  • A closer view of Mumbo's hut.
Early Final
BKEarly-mm5.png BKFinal-mm4.png
  • Conga is wearing a white tanktop. In the final, his tanktop is red.
  • Conga's orange blocks aren't present.
  • The platforms to the left are made of stone and don't extend all the way to the ground.
  • There are 6 blue eggs on the platform behind Chimpy. The final has 10 blue eggs on this platform.

A masked enemy standing in a T-pose which appears to be an early design for the Grublin enemies.

Early Final
BKEarly-mumbo.png BKFinal-mumbo.png
  • Mumbo's eyes were yellow and much smaller in the prototype, with his eyesockets being larger, his nostrils smaller and his mouth/teeth being larger, overall looking more menacing. His eyes have become blue and his face has changed to become more cuddlier and less threatening in the final.

Treasure Trove Cove

Only a few seconds of this level is shown. Unlike the rest of the levels, this one doesn't appear to be too different compared to the final.

Early Final
BKEarly-ttc.png BKFinal-ttc.png
  • Banjo is able to walk up the ropes normally. In the final, he must use the Talon Trot in order to walk up the ropes.
  • There are rails on the crow's nest which were removed in the final.
  • The sides of the platform were extended in the final.
  • There are only 4 red feathers on the crow's nest. The final has 8.
  • The red feathers have a different design.
  • The flight pad has a different design.
  • Bottles' mole hill isn't present.

Clanker's Cavern

This level is the one with the most drastic changes compared to the final. It appears to be in an extremely primitive state, using default assets from Spiral Mountain/Mumbo's Mountain. It was changed into a sewer in the final game. This level was first seen in some very early footage of the game along with its early theme, later used in Donkey Kong 64's Fungi Forest. Clanker himself appears to also be in a critically primitive state; not only is he rendered as an organic shark, but he barely looks textured.

Early Final

Bubblegloop Swamp

The early version of Bubblegloop Swamp looked more mountainous than in the final. It also takes place at dusk rather than at night. This level also appears to be in a fairly primitive state, with many untextured and rough objects.

Early Final
BKEarly-bgs1.png BKFinal-bgs1.png
  • These wooden walkways were replaced with tree branches in the final.
Early Final
BKEarly-bgs2.png BKFinal-bgs2.png
  • An early design for the giant crocodile head. Again, the character is early in design and his eyes aren't textured.

Temple Test Map

An area shown that isn't in the final game. This area was first seen in some early footage/screenshots and was long thought to have been a scrapped area known as "Giant's Lair". In the Rare Revealed video, it was… well, revealed, that this was just a test map. It consists of various stone structures that Banjo can jump on. There appears to be a massive wood fort built around the level to act as the level barriers, and has a large gate situated in front of the main structure. On the top "floor" of the main structure, there is an untextured doorway. No other objects or enemies appear to be in this map.


  1. Mayles has claimed on multiple occasions that the footage in question was of a "really, really early" development build, before the game was even properly known as Super Mario 64, but this conflicts with almost every other piece of date-related information out there. Super Mario 64 launched alongside the N64 on June 23, 1996 in Japan, during which time the team (assuming everything else they've said is accurate) would have still been working on the N64 version of Dream. Backing this up are the dates on the Kazoo documents, which range from January 16 to February 23, 1997-- long after Mario had come out in Japan and North America. The game wouldn't reach Europe (where Rare is based) until March of that year, which makes Mayles' story more believable if he's talking about the final game, or a build close to it. Either Nintendo had shown them very dated footage (for some reason), or Mayles simply mistook a later build for an earlier one. (See also Super Mario 64's Prerelease page for info on that game's development cycle.)

    Muddying the waters further, Kirkhope states that Mario was one of the games that spurred the change from Dream to Kazoo (along with Conker, which—again—he claims was progressing so well because it was aping Mario), which makes more sense time-wise, but doesn't explain why the team would spend months making an "old-fashioned" side-scroller in response to Mario's "revolutionary" (as they themselves saw it) gameplay.

    All in all, it seems any info pertaining to what games inspired which phases of development is unfortunately rather vague and contradictory, and should not be taken as gospel (despite the affirmative wording in these articles).
  2. The video footage implies this to be Spiral Mountain, but it could have also been the temple test level, which showed up in prerelease screenshots after the game was announced.
  3. The practice of loading and unloading geometry as it enters and exits the view of the game's camera.