Project Dream’s Evolution into Banjo-Kazooie

For years, the mysteries surrounding Banjo-Kazooie have fascinated me.  One of these mysteries was, of course, the infamous Stop ‘n’ Swop, an unused feature in the game that, while never implemented (not until the XBox Live Arcade anyway) in the Nintendo 64 era as intended, was still outright talked about by the characters as if it was indeed still a real thing, causing much confusion to players who went on to seek out something that didn’t actually exist.  These Stop ‘n’ Swop items can even be seen in pictures hanging on the walls in Jolly’s tavern in Banjo-Tooie, in the same room where you find the seasick pirate Captain Blackeye, who claims he had a dream once and that a bear stole his glory.  (Captain Blackeye’s first appearance, however, was in various portraits in Banjo-Kazooie’s Mad Monster Mansion.)

Who was Captain Blackeye?  And how did a bear steal his glory?  (Though, technically, a witch stole his glory, but we’ll get to that.)  Well, I’m sure there are plenty of Banjo-Kazooie fans out there who are at least a little familiar with Project Dream, the game in which our seasick captain was originally going to appear.  But whether or not Dream is already familiar to you, hopefully you’ll find some new info in this here recounting of the game that later went on to become the beloved Banjo-Kazooie.

Put simply, Project Dream was originally going to star a boy named Edison as the protagonist, along with his dog Dinger, with the villain being Captain Blackeye and his pirate crew.  At first, the game was going to be on the Super Nintendo, and early footage shows that it looked quite similar in appearance to Rare’s Donkey Kong Country before it was later developed for the Nintendo 64 as a 3D role-playing game.  But the changes didn’t end at just a switch in consoles.  Dream originally had a fantasy theme and the title of Dream: Land of Giants before becoming more pirate-themed as time went by.  Even back then, however, well-known characters we have grown to love were indeed present.  Secondary characters included Banjo the bear and Tiptup the turtle.  Gruntilda was originally a giant from the Land of Giants idea.  And Kazooie was a baby bird who was found by Edison’s younger sister, Ella.

Eventually, Dream changed so much that it started to look more and more like the Banjo-Kazooie with which we are familiar.  Banjo became the main character, with Kazooie appearing in his backpack, though early footage shows Banjo running and jumping his way through very narrow, linear locations that would branch out from time to time.  (Apparently the enemy Bigbutt the bull was already present at this time.)  It was not until Rareware saw the large and open worlds of Super Mario 64 that they realized that video games on this (at the time) new hardware could be so much more.  From there, the game became a lot more open and started to include locations and characters that look strikingly similar to those Banjo-Kazooie fans will recognize, with early versions of Spiral Mountain, Mumbo’s Mountain, and even Clanker, who appears as a large shark attached to a chain in a lake rather than an underground cavern.  And from there, one of the most beloved platformers was born, and boy, was it a crazy and winding path that led there.

Sometimes the history behind a game can be just as interesting as the game itself.  Maybe it is due to the great changes the game went through before it was ever distinguishable as the Banjo-Kazooie we know and love today that makes this game’s past so fascinating.  Maybe it’s simply my great love for our bear and bird duo that I love learning about them.  Or perhaps it’s just Rareware’s fondness for including references to the past within their games that simply makes me more aware of the history behind them.  Whatever the case, Project Dream is one piece of gaming history that has interested me for years, and it was thanks to Rare Replay that we got this wonderful video not only showcasing old footage of Project Dream’s eventual transformation into Banjo-Kazooie, but we get to hear the history behind these games from the very people at Rareware responsible for bringing Banjo-Kazooie into existence.  This video can be found below and is a must-see if you’re a fan of these N64 classics.  (Additional info was found on Project Dream’s Wikipedia page.)

Video from Youtube User: Rare Ltd

So, what are your thoughts?  What about Project Dream’s eventual transformation into Banjo-Kazooie do you find the most interesting?  And if Dream had ever been released, do you think it looks like something you would have wanted to play?  Please let me know in the comments!

Screenshot by Flickr User: Justin Taylor