Early in September, the Mingy Jongo twitter handle (@MingyJongo) popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. In the description, a message reads: “Let’s make the spiritual successor to Banjo-Tooie! Core members of the original team are ready to go. All we need is your support. So join us today!”
It’s the earliest stage a video game project can be in when you don’t have the team fully formed and you’re really just at the point of seeing if people will be interested, but even the possibility of a successor to the Banjo-Kazooie series already has a good group of gamers excited. The very idea of it has people calling for a Kickstarter without hesitation, and the Mingy Jongo twitter has suggested that as a possible approach, considering all the success so many other video game projects have had with the fund-raising service this year. It really could only be a matter of publicity before the project really starts to develop in that direction.
I like to think this year showed us the potential for good and bad that Kickstarter can offer gaming. Let’s just say, for every Double Fine Adventure I was excited for, there was an Ouya that I didn’t really feel sold on. And for better or worse, projects like those had the presentations that were needed to make those ideas a reality. The Mingy Jongo Project really doesn’t have that just yet, which makes it a bit of a leap of faith to support it. Right now it’s really just a guy on Twitter asking us if we like Banjo and Googly eyes (Of course we do. Come on!).
But while I will be expecting a bit more of a clear vision of what they’re trying to make should any Kickstarter appear, there’s something about this project that has me willing to throw my logic to the side and wanting to support them.
The whole idea of this just seems to send this message from the developer to fans that’s saying, “We know why you guys loved this and we know why you want that feeling again, because we do to.”
When it was just teasers, fans were thinking Rare, after many years of waiting and getting picked up by Microsoft, was finally going to give them the “Banjo-Threeie” that they wanted. What they got instead was a game mostly focused on vehicle building and driving-based missions, much to their confusion. The next Banjo game went through a lot of different ideas before it became Nuts & Bolts, and you may be able to notice that uncertainty in development when you play the game. If you just drive around the levels, you may notice a familiar style to them. The locations were full of different paths, trees, pools of water, and all the other things you would interact with in the N64 games, but with nothing shiny to collect and all the characters clearly labled on a map, these places end up feeling a bit empty and the sense of discovery is lost.
“[...]our aim is to take the 3D platform adventuring game into the next generation and do something more than just adding polygons. Some fans look back fondly and want more of the same, but the Banjo of yesteryear has no real place in tomorrow’s market on the Xbox 360. What we want to do is retain all the elements that made the first two games so loved, but also try things that breathe new life into a genre that has sadly been neglected for many years.” -Gregg Mayles
Some gamers see collectathon platformers as a chore, and I can understand that. As much as I enjoy getting that percentage complete meter to 100% (and beyond in many cases), I know that not everyone is interested in completing a game to that extent. But I feel like people who call games like Banjo-Kazooie a collectathon, as if it’s an insult, don’t get why you were really collecting things in these games. The shiny objects all over the map weren’t there to be a chore. They were there to motivate you to explore everything the levels had to offer. A trail of notes could lead you to another great character or obstacle that could lead you to another jiggy, and collecting enough of them meant you could progress to new locations. As opposed to 2D Collectathons where the collectibles were mostly there for some extra challenge, in these 3D games it was just a different style of motivating the player to continue.
Developers as well seemed to have forgotten that we weren’t playing these sorts of games because we loved to cross items off a checklist or that we now needed guns or cars to really keep our attention. Colorful characters, unique humor, simple but solid gameplay that adapted to a variety of settings, and great level design with a sense of freedom unlike any other type of platformer was what kept us playing those games. More importantly, it’s also what could bring us back.
Perhaps it’s just nostalgia blinding me, but I really do feel as if we’ve lost sight of something special in these sorts of games in the name of progress. Moving genres forward can be a great thing, but we may have failed to bring the spirit of these types of 3D platformers along.
Nothing may come of this Mingy Jongo thing, but I’m willing to give my support for the chance that this specific type of game that I adore gets a shot at a comeback. It’s certainly too early to get too excited but while Mingy Jongo is not able to promise us the bear and the bird, it could be our best bet at getting what made them, and others like them, great.