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.

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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.


Banjo-Karting [Xbox 360 – Prototype]

Banjo-Karting (also known as The Fast and The Furriest, as it was called in RareReplay’s unlockable video, even if it was the name of an older Rare prototype) was a game prototype for Xbox 360, started by Rare Ltd. just before Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts was finished in late 2008. The prototype took advantage of classic Banjo-Kazooie characters and built upon the racing parts of Nuts and Bolts. With Rare’s shift to Kinect projects only, this prototype was cancelled.

One of the cars created specifically for this prototype later made it into the Xbox 360 version of Sonic & Sega Allstar Racing.




Banjo-Kazoomie [Xbox – Cancelled]

Banjo-Kazoomie was a prototype for the original Xbox which was started at Rare Ltd. in 2004. Players were able to construct their karts out of different parts, therefore after it was cancelled the concept may have evolved into Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which was released on Xbox 360 four years later.

Brendan Gunn about this project:

“I’ve always wanted to do a racing game. I got to spend two weeks working on a prototype racing game for the Xbox. It was codenamed ‘Banjo-Kazoomie’, and it was a kind of kart racer, but you constructed the karts out of different parts, so I guess it was kind of a precursor to ‘Nuts & Bolts’. But for those two weeks I was doing the driving mechanics for it”

Special thanks to DKVine and!



Banjo Tooie [N64 – Beta / Unused Stuff]

Banjo-Tooie, for Nintendo 64, is a game that really needs no introduction. The sequel to the landmark platformer Banjo-Kazooie, Tooie achieved huge popularity in its own right for its immersive gameplay, huge worlds and charming characters. The game, set two years after the events of Banjo-Kazooie, didn’t receive the same amount of media interest as its predecessor because, as a sequel, it was not seen as being as revolutionary or new as Kazooie. From what we can tell (from the limited screenshots made available), a few cosmetic changes were present in the game before publication:

1) the warp pads, instead of spirals, were adorned with large “B-T” logos

2) Humba Wumba used Mumbo tokens instead of Glowbos

3) her talking head sprite wore a mask of some kind under her eyes

4) she wore a red dress

5) the large bottle of “Jolly’s Juice” was once titled “Dud Beer”

As far as the press is concerned, these are the only BETA clues available.

However, Banjo-Tooie also contains perhaps the most infamous hidden development content of any video game: Bottles’ Revenge. This was planned to be a multiplayer component of the game, in which the second player used “Devil Bottles” to take control of enemies and attempt to hurt and/or kill player one (who controlled Banjo and Kazooie as usual).

However, Rare states that it ran out of time to debug the mode, and it now remains accessible only by using a cheating device such as a GameShark. Although Devil Bottles was originally planned to be capable of possessing bosses, Rare has said that only Old King Coal was programmed for this when Bottles’ Revenge was dropped, and Old King Coal is not controllable in the version that is present in the retail game.

Further delving into the game’s code has discovered a few other sections of the game that were abandoned, but remain in the cartridge and accessible, again, through the use of a cheating device. The first of these is a large ceiling object, and the second consists of three doorways which, based on their position in Banjo-Kazooie’s memory, were probably intended to form part of Witchy World. There is one other unused area, but it is very small and contains no visible object. The first two rooms are viewable in the video below (from Runehero124’s YT Channel):

There is more information on the unused rooms at Rare Witch Project Forum

Banjo Pilot [GBA – Beta]

Banjo-Pilot is a handheld racer developed by Rare Ltd. and published by THQ in 2005. Originally, Nintendo announced it as Diddy Kong Pilot in 2001. When they sold their share of Rare Ltd. to Microsoft (2002), they opted out of their publishing contract. As the Donkey Kong IP is a property of Nintendo, they could no longer release the game in this state.

In late 2003, THQ decided to publish the four Rare GBA titles, including Diddy Kong Pilot – now reskinned with Banjo characters. By this time, most members of the original team had either left the company or been moved onto Xbox titles. Reskinning Diddy Kong Pilot was now the task for the remaining members of the handheld team who thought it would be easier to make a game from scratch. A voxel based racing title was  developed, which can be seen in our gallery. After five months (mid 2004), however, the team was asked to stop working on this version. Instead, they were meant to revive and finish the previous team’s Mode 7 game for Q3 2004, but without the tilt sensor which was announced for Diddy Kong Plot. In 2005, Banjo-Pilot finally saw a release.

Special thanks for the information and videos to transparentjinjo!




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