Just in case you haven’t heard, Smash Ultimate’s got the bear and bird.
There was plenty to enjoy out of Nintendo’s E3 2019 Direct, but the announcement that got me on my feet was Banjo & Kazooie’s return as a Super Smash Bros. fighter. After years of fan clamoring and wishful thinking, Nintendo and Microsoft were able to work out a means where the 3D platforming duo could join the game. Not only that, but they look extremely true to form to their N64 days of Jiggy stashing and witch bashing.
I’ve watched through their debut trailer countless times now, marveling at how their polygonal practices have been translated to Smash. The Talon Trot, where Kazooie pops out and takes care of the legwork, is back as their dash. Attacks like Banjo’s basic claw swipes (with an added uppercut), the Beak Barge, and Rat-a-tat Rap are filling out their normals. Everything’s accompanied by some exaggerated animations, making the pair fairly expressive in all they do and complementing their fantastical world.
This kind of fidelity extends to what appear to be their specials. The always useful Egg Firing is back, though if you want a more mobile take on artillery you can use Tooie’s Breegull Blaster instead. They’re even bringing in other elements from their home games, like Grenade Eggs, Golden Feathers for their Wonderwing technique, and the Shock Jump Spring Pad. We even see Banjo bust out the Breegull Bash for a forward Smash, using poor Kazooie like a cudgel. Let’s call it an expression of their undying trust in each other that she doesn’t seem upset by this attack at all.
It’s a full collect-a-thon of callbacks and even if that’s nothing new for Smash characters there’s an inherent significance to Banjo-Kazooie’s inclusion as a universe. Speaking personally, this was one of my favorite games on the Nintendo 64, and I know that’s an opinion that I share with others. It was also though somewhat impossible for a long time thanks to Microsoft buying Rare and the lack of any real relevance of the bear and bird in the current gaming world. Yet here we are, with the two and all they come — with representing not just their own past, but in their own way, a full genre and system.
As is expected from a character coming via the Fighter Pass, a new stage and music is included with Banjo & Kazooie. Spiral Mountain’s fitting the bill for both, and looks fantastic. You’ll be atop that mountain itself, with sights like Banjo’s house (complete with 1-up statue over the chimney) and the various training grounds visible. Bottles the Mole is here as a cameo, as is the evil witch Gruntilda and her lair. Even Jinjos, those strange little creatures, are appearing as part of B&K’s Final Smash and it’s likely we’ll see even more characters and references via Spirits.
It wouldn’t be Banjo-Kazooie without it’s music though, and none other than the game’s original composer is back. Grant Kirkhope has revisited one of the most recurring tracks in the series in Spiral Mountain, and while the version in the trailer does its job well, it’s the full version that had me grinning. Musical flourishes to other game worlds took me back, and while this one track is incredible, it has me excited for others, both in new arrangements and just as we remember them.
I could go on and on about little touches from the debut trailer (K. Rool ending up under a boulder ala Grunty, a Jiggy being the pair’s logo, Guh-huh) — but suffice to say, I’m beyond excited. Joker represented a character and game I’d come to love in the current day, but a character like Banjo & Kazooie reminds me why I love Smash Bros. It’s the only game that can bring back so much from our collective gaming pasts and breathe new life into the characters we love. This has already lead to plenty of fan art, we have a Banjo & Kazooie amiibo to look forward to; and if Microsoft could allow them to appear here, who’s to say those games might not make their way to Switch in some form?
That might be a little premature, especially with their release as DLC not due ’til Fall 2019. We have the also welcome Hero from Dragon Quest to look forward to more immediately, not to mention the promise of two more characters down the line. There’s no telling what further surprises could come, but for plenty out there this was always the missing piece of the puzzle finally dusted off and placed right where it belongs.
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