Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse [GBC – Cancelled]

Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse is the cancelled Game Boy Color version of the Rare Ltd. project that would later become Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge, released on GBA in 2003 by publisher, THQ. Initially established midway through 1999, Grunty’s Curse represents the original vision for the title with an alternate storyline, and levels that never saw the light of day.


The Story

Unlike the game released, Grunty’s Revenge, the GBC game does not take place mere months after the events of the first Banjo. Instead, it begins “a few years” after it, according to design documents recovered by a former Rare employee. Whereas Revenge features a tale about time travel, in which the newly resurrected Mecha-Grunty escapes to the past in order to stop the titular duo from ever meeting, the plot of Curse tried another approach.

The title would have opened with Mecha-Grunty confronting Banjo and his friends, placing curses on each of them (with the convenient exception of Banjo himself), as her reign of terror resumes. She starts by morphing Kazooie into a “monster” version of herself; a larger blue bird with allegiances to Grunty. Then, she transforms Bottles into a “funny creature”, as the documents describe it, before manipulating Mumbo‘s mind into making him attack Banjo. While the two fight, she takes off with Kazooie in tow.

Page 31 - Story Treatment

The hero, however, is soon able to out-duel Mumbo, releasing him from the spell. A determined Mumbo then chases after the villainous witch, but to no avail. In a planned comedy set piece, the character inexplicably falls victim to all manner of bad luck: a black cat pounces on him, he runs under a ladder, before a mirror falls and smashes over his head. When Banjo catches up to him, he finds that Mumbo has been stricken with amnesia as a result of his injuries. His memory fails him, but he is able to recall that Banjo must collect several magical ingredients in order to relieve Bottles of his condition.

Banjo, however, comes to the realisation that he has forgotten his moves in the time since his last adventure. With Bottles incapacitated, he will need to seek out a new mentor to provide tutorials. Thus, he chases down Grampa Mole, the elderly father of Bottles. As development progressed, Grampa Mole would evolve into Bozzeye, the NPC that teaches Banjo in Grunty’s Revenge during his visit to the past.

Cut Levels

Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Curse featured two worlds that were ultimately dropped from the slate as time went on. These were dubbed ‘MohendraBanjo’, and ‘Fiery Furnace’ respectively.

MohendraBanjo was a stage set in and around the ruins of a jungle temple in the far East:

Fiery Furnace, on the other hand, is described as a ‘dark industrial’ themed level filled with machinery and fire hazards:

While MohendraBanjo appears to have been scrapped fairly early on in the project’s life span, Fiery Furnace would make it considerably further. It even appeared in a leaked early prototype build for the GBA game, albeit in a largely unfinished state. Due to time and storage limitations, the team reduced Fiery Furnace in size and adapted it into a small part of the Freezing Furnace level.

Fiery Furnace protoype video:

Lost Enemies

We have been able to ascertain that a plethora of enemies were explored during Grunty’s Curse, before being abandoned. In MohendraBanjo world, for example, the developers imagined enemies based around cobras and scorpions, in line with its far Eastern theme. You can see some illustrations of these lost baddies here:

 Deleted Transformations

According to the design plans from October 1999, Rare had originally intended to include the ‘Bee Banjo‘ transformation that first appeared in Banjo Kazooie. This would have allowed players to fire stingers in a straight line to attack foes, as well as the ability of flight for an unlimited period to traverse larger platforming gaps.

Early in development, the team was exploring the possibility of ‘useless transformations‘ too. These were power-ups that served no other purpose than comedic effect; a hidden extra in the game to amuse players. Only one of them was slated to be added due to storage restrictions, but a number of them were being looked into:

Unused Transformation Functions

There were considerations for a handful of secondary functions for transformations that were left on the cutting room floor:

  • Tank Banjo originally was going to allow players to directly control the crosshair for greater precision. Players would tap the ‘B’ button to switch from directional movement to manipulating the aim of the cannon. In the final game, tapping the ‘B’ button does nothing. In addition, the tank originally fired eggs. The Grunty’s Revenge tank, however, fires missiles.
  • Octopus Banjo originally was set to be able to swim faster by double tapping the D-pad in any direction.
  • Mouse Banjo was intended to have a ‘shrinking’ function mapped to the ‘B’ button. This would enable Banjo to manually reduce his size for a limited period to fit through smaller gaps in his environment.

Alternative Level Titles

The documents provided also reveal numerous stage names that were eventually changed over the course of development. Among these are ‘Cottage Farm’, which became ‘Cliff Farm’, ‘Soggy Bog Swamp’ was revised to ‘Bad Magic Bayou’, ‘Freezing Furnace’ was originally ‘Freezing Fjord.

Game Assets

Although a playable prototype of the game in its GBC form is not to have ever been made, we have learned that the team of artists assigned to the project at Rare produced a multitude of digital art assets intended for one in 1999. These included sprites of some of the main characters, as well as designs for UI screens, like a pause menu.


Oriental Blue [Nintendo 64DD – Cancelled]

oriental blue nintendo 64dd cancelled

Oriental Blue is a cancelled RPG in the Far East of Eden (Tengai Makyō) series that was in development by Hudson and Red Entertainment for Nintendo 64DD in late ‘90. The Tengai Makyo series was started in 1989 with the help of Oji Hiroi, the same author behind the Sakura Wars series, and even if it was one of the most popular RPG series in Japan in the ’90, only one chapter of Far East of Eden was officially translated in english. Oriental Blue 64DD was announced by Hudson in japanese gaming magazines (?) as one of the few RPGs planned for Nintendo’s ill-fated Disk Drive, but as the add-on was postponed many times and then discontinued soon after its release in Japan, the game was quietly canned and Hudson never shown any official images from the game. A few years later, in an interview published on the japanese Nintendo website, Kaori Shirozu (director and designer at Hudson at the time) explained that the project was resurrected and re-developed as a GBA game and finally released in 2003 as Oriental Blue: Ao no Tengai. The Nintendo 64DD version of Oriental Blue would have probably looked like the GameCube remake of Tengai Makyō II: Manjimaru (also released in 2003), with 3D low-poly environments and sprite based characters.

Oriental Blue: Ao no Tengai on GBA:

oriental blue gba

Tengai Makyo II: Manjimaru on GameCube:

Tengai Makyo 2 Manjimaru GameCube


Knights [GameBoy Color – Cancelled]

Prior to their acquisition by Sony and going on to create the Killzone seriesGuerrilla Games was a small development team based in Amsterdam, then known as Lost Boys Games; a subsidiary of Dutch multimedia conglomerate, Lost Boys. One of Lost Boys Games’ internal teams was dubbed ‘Formula‘. This group was dedicated to handheld games, responsible for producing titles such as Rhino Rumble, and Tiny Toon Adventures: Dizzy’s Candy Quest for GameBoy Color. One of their most interesting GBC projects, in development in around 1999-2000, was called Knights.

Knights was an action brawler with a style of gameplay comparable to a blend of Bomberman and Gauntlet, in which players would have had to fight against 3 other knights in 50 different arenas riddled with traps, enemies, and various NPC’s. This excerpt from an old IGN preview offers us further insight:

Each knight is colored differently, and the great challenge of the game is to strike down the knights in a predetermined order while protecting your own flank. Strike a defender before he becomes an official target, and the imperial judges will punish you with a penalty point.

Knights GameBoy Color Formula Lost Boys Games (1)

It’s interesting to note that Knights GBC was based around the gameplay of another cancelled Knights project that was planned by Digital Infinity for PC and Dreamcast, before they merged with Lost Boys in 1999. Later, the original Knights for PC and Dreamcast was changed from a multiplayer brawler to a single player action platformer and ported to Playstation 2, but that version was also canned. In 2003, Lost Boys Games was sold to Media Republic and renamed to Guerrilla Games. Their Knight projects were thus never finished, as they began to work on the first Killzone for PS2, and Shellshock: Nam ’67 for PS2, Xbox, and PC.

Only a few screenshots remain from Knights for GameBoy Color, as the title was soon cancelled for unknown reasons. We tried to get in contact with former Formula Games / Lost Boys developers, in an attempt to unearth more on  this unreleased game, but unfortunately, they were not available for comment. If you know someone that worked at Formula Games, let us know!


Terranigma [Beta – SNES]

Terranigma, AKA Tenchi Sōzō in Japan, is an action RPG developed by Quintet and published by Enix / Nintendo for the Super Nintendo in 1995 / 1996. Unfortunately, the game was never released in the US, but managed to attain cult status in Japan and Europe, regarded by some RPG fans as one of the best role playing games on the system. Before the game was released, gaming magazines published some beta screenshots, in which we can see some interesting differences:

  • It was possible to climb towers using claws / bare hands, instead than chains (it’s possible to climb some walls with claws in the final game, but only much later in the game)
  • There was some sort of green plant around the HUD
  • Different rooms layouts
  • In the first tower, the second floor looked like the third floor from the final game

A video from the same beta version was also published in “brute press” (?) VHS Vol.24 July 1995 (【非売品】ブルートプレス Vol.24 1995年7月号). If you notice more differences, let us know in the comments below!

Thanks to Youloute, Pantalytron, Crediar and Celine for the contributions!




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