Dark Aspects of Nintendo #12 – Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie is beloved today, having just recently celebrated its 20th anniversary It’s a “mostly” family-friendly adventure featuring a bird and bear duo as they conquer the tower of the wicked witch Gruntilda

With goal of rescuing Banjo’s sister stolen away simply because of her beauty, today I’ll be discussing how these misleading cartoony visuals can hide some genuinely scary secrets But first, let’s see just how fearless British developers Rare can be, in sneaking their “adult” brand of humor in this E-rated game very frequently “Writing dialogue for the characters- that was always good fun Just seeing how many innuendos you can slip in and, you know- hope they wouldn’t get cut afterwards” As the thumbnail may have already suggested, while Banjo-Kazooie is quite tame in sexual themes, there’s certainly vibes here and there that this was certainly the team that went on to make the mature parody of this animal-mascot genre Conker’s Bad Fur Day

And I’m not talking about the Conker cameo displayed in the ship mate's quarters here, no, I mean the innuendo so cleverly included The first instance is when learning one of the three starting moves in Mumbo’s Mountain: Egg Firing Kazooie, the red backpacked bird is taught how to shoot eggs from her mouth, and- the other end Her reaction to the news is priceless, and a “classy” sound effect is given each time the maneuver is executed The file names in the game’s code for these egg firing animations are even named “egg head” and “egg ass”

That’s something only the developers would see at the time, but it’s still hilarious they’re buried away in a family game Another moment from the foul-mouthed bird comes from her mocking a thirsty palm tree -Trunker- and his shriveling nuts Brentilda, a fairy-godmother type character appears throughout the evil witch's lair to give life-saving gossip about her sister, Gruntilda Among these are some uh, unforgettable quips, such as Grunty’s favorite party trick being either a “scary strip-tease” or ability to blow balloons up with her butt Both of these are pretty shocking- especially the direct mention of a strip tease, which is hard to imagine an old hag pulling off

Most obvious visually though is seen right before and after the end credits- a human woman in a skimpy bikini carries a tray with two ripe watermelons and bananas between them You don’t even have to use your imagination there, Rare effectively uhm spells it out for us Apparently the original plan was to just have her with giant breasts, but Nintendo didn’t take too kindly to the idea If all 100 Jiggies aren’t collected and this screen is reached, Mumbo-Jumbo will even claim to have a hot date with this mystery girl If you do manage to gather them all, you’ll be treated instead to photographic hints containing additional game secrets

One object shown is a giant key- to which Kazooie expresses knowledge of a place Banjo can “shove it” To which Banjo acts surprised at and scolds Kazooie- very clearly a derogatory insult Going back to Mumbo’s womanizing, he’ll even turn traitor during the alternate ending game-over sequence where Gruntilda successfully steals away Tootie’s looks From decrepit to desirable, he’ll offer a flower and request that the beautified witch “come back to his hut” That moaning, too as her voice… The last things I want to mention aren’t anything you’d really realize in-universe, but come from juicy behind-the-scene details revealed by music composer Grant Kirkhope

He provided many voices for varying characters in the game, including Mr Mumbo himself The spell chanted for all of Banjo’s transformations is “Oomenacka”, which sounds like gibberish but is actually a phrase the man uttered during a groin examination of all things “Oomenacka, well actually- in the UK, “knackers” is well, a uh is a slang for balls For testicles

” “You guys got alotta slang for balls!” “Yeah, you got genits and all that shit” “But the thing is, my balls hurt So I said wouldn’t it be funny -Oomenacka, is like oh it hurts my knackers- like “ooh, my knackers!” “Ooh me knackers? Really! Really that’s why he says that?” “That’s why he says “Oomenacka” A name for Grunty’s dog is also the blunt “Bigknaka”- as revealed again by her sister Grant’s verbal shenanigans didn’t end there, as he also voices the Flower Urns in Mad Monster Mansion

Upon planting Kazooie’s eggs in each, they’ll thank you, by well, saying “thank you” in a spooky tone This, however, sounds like “bleep you”- something Grant was frustrated with and just simply couldn’t get down right upon Nintendo’s request for a re-reading A final instance of a hidden “adult” joke that was probably intentional, considering Rare’s track record is the giant turtle in Bubblegoop Swamp being named “Tanktup” “Tanked up” is a term referring to getting wasted This may be a stretch, but by extension since all the turtles have similar naming schemes, the smaller Tiptup could be a parallel to getting tipsy

Moving on from this suggestive humor, let’s now discuss the very real scare tactics the company incorporated into this adventure- with four of the game’s nine worlds featuring elements of fear The first two levels of Banjo-Kazooie suggest pure whimsical fun Mumbo’s Mountain and Treasure Trove Cove (with one glaring exception being Snacker the Shark and his theme) are void of anything “scary” and seem to outly the tone for the rest of the game It isn’t until world 3, Clanker’s Cavern, that a real change in atmosphere grins its golden metallic teeth Comparatively, access to this stage requires getting the bear’s hands dirty- quire literally as the entrance is located in the underbelly of the tower

Dingy, dripping pipes and a swim through sewer water foreshadow what’s to come- the world opens on a grimy platform dodging lungfish that pop out of the walls Going further the player must dive into a cesspool with a toxic-waste warning, and through an underwater tunnel where they’ll be greeted with Grunty’s living garbage disposal On first glance, this is a purely robotic beast modeled after a shark, but getting closer to the creature it’s shown the thing’s actually wounded A fleshy scar questions whether it’s alive or was once alive at some point before becoming this cyborg It being used for waste is quite sad to imagine, and the fact that he’s forcibly chained to the scummy depths begging for fresh air makes for an emotional moment when he’s “freed”

Everything about the gameplay in this level is terrifying: there’s deep-diving far away from oxygen accompanied with a scare chord, to actually going inside of the monster in a vein akin to Ocarina of Time’s Jabu-Jabu Pinkish tentacles called “Whiplash” are thriving organs within, and look really gross in an almost claustrophobic space To top it off, mutant crabs wait inside one of the branching tunnels located behind Clanker Whether it be the lurking cretins, the anxiety that comes with underwater levels and holding your breath, or the suffering Clanker himself- this is the most fearful the game ever gets But next up after this gloomy level is the equally dirty Bubblegloop Swamp

There’s nothing considerably scary in this one at all, it’s a fairly generic swamp level, but the fact that it pairs with the underground of Gruntilda’s lair gives the feeling that Banjo’s truly traversing the bottom of the barrel Two more whimsical levels, Christmas and desert types follow suit before going back to the grim- with an actual haunted stage and the revisiting of polluted waters with Rusty Bucket Bay Mad Monster Mansion is definitely a classic horror-homage with tropes galore, but it does make for some genuine fear in theme There’s even a gross-out section seeing the transformed main character being flushed down a sentient toilet into a septic system Gruntilda is surprisingly disgusted by this, what with knowing you trekked through her garbage

While being immature, an incorrect answer for a character name in Grunty’s Furnace Fun Quiz is none other than Browneye the Dirty Pirate Oh my Getting back on track, Rusty Bucket Bay is more of what I already discussed with Clanker’s Cavern, but the effects are not simply a result of being in a dedicated-dumpsite

This is an actual shipyard, with murky, oily water that drains health twice as quickly I don’t know if I’d even call it water anymore, it seems more appropriate to be deemed sludge Nevertheless, animals still live in the muck with Snorkel the Dolphin trapped under the weight of the ship’s anchor The vessel itself seems to be in working condition, but the harbor is closed so everything seems isolated The cold, large ship contrasts nicely to the cartoon world (even though an enemy here is comically just a safety raft with eyeballs) and feels overall dangerous with the player needing careful precision to best the spinning metal obstacles

I’m reminded of that Spongebob episode featuring the hooks- they’re these real objects in a stylized world, and something the characters are told specifically to avoid because they’re hazardous Same feeling here, where one wrong move is a vital mistake The stress is made worse on the N64 version, where collectables like notes aren’t saved and totally reset upon retrying the level The horror! The last “dark” aspect about this game is the final battle with Grunty, testing all of the acquired knowledge throughout the quest After a satisfying tumble, The Mighty Jingonator is revived by Kazooie’s eggs, and repeatedly divebombs the witch until her defenses fall and she plummets straight into the ground below

A large boulder collapses on top of her burial sight, where she remains trapped as a conscious yet slowly deteriorating corpse until Banjo-Tooie Yum Next time I’ll be diving headfirst into the much darker and more daring Banjo-Tooie: featuring even more dirty jokes and surprisingly mature themes See you then!