BanjoX : The Lost Sequel to Banjo-Tooie

Prototype Banjo Kazooie Logo


Developer : Rare
Cancelled : September 2004 (Unconfirmed, last known date)


For many people, the Banjo-Kazooie series is towards the top of the list for “Series that deserve a (good) sequel.” Banjo Nuts & Bolts did nothing for many of these fans, despite some fans like myself enjoying it quite a bit. Rare’s history post-Nintendo has been more miss than hit, with Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Perfect Dark Zero, and, dare I say it, Kinect Sports failing to scratch that itch that many gamers have for a real Rare game.

Let’s take a trip back in time to 2002. Microsoft had bought Rare for a reported $375 million. Star Fox Adventures, formally known as Dinosaur Planet, was finished for the Gamecube, and Donkey Kong Racing was kicked to the curb. Some titles that were in development for the Gamecube, like Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero, transitioned to Microsoft’s Xbox platform. As the platform neared the end of its life in 2005, only two titles, Grabbed by the Ghoulies and Conker : Live and Reloaded, would find their way to the market.

Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero would finally arrive on the Xbox 360 for its launch in November 2005, but this transition left me with a number of questions, namely : What other titles were moved from the Xbox to the Xbox 360? What sort of state were they in at that time?

Throughout the past couple of years, Kameo has surfaced for everyone to play, along with footage of an Xbox build of Perfect Dark Zero. Those titles were talked about on the Xbox platform, though. What about Viva Pinata? Or Banjo?

Unfortunately, no playable builds of either a Pinata game, nor Banjo, have been found thus far on the Xbox. That’s not to say that the search has been fruitless though. Xbox executables for a title called “BanjoX” were found on an abandoned Xbox development kit, and are dated for June 2004. These executables lacked any of the assets that would have been needed to run the game, had it been found, but crafty hackers managed to break them open and find some clues.

Ignoring the leftovers from some other games in development, including strings related to Springy Shoes, Rocket Sneakers, Metal Feathers, Aviator Goggles, Invisibility Chocolates, Big Feathers, Bag of Eggs, and a Diamond Beak, with more strings located in its dedicated section of this page. Another user was able to extract remnants of a 3d model showcasing Mumbo.

So what does the game actually do when trying to launch the game? Not much, unfortunately. Depending on the executable launched, some form of a black screen with white text will pop up, showing files missing or some sort of error. It was expected that the game wouldn’t work due to the missing assets, but the fact that it boots at all shows there is something going on behind the scenes anyway. Another Rare title prototype does the same thing, despite there being assets, so it leaves me to wonder why this is happening.

Notice the Ghoulies Text

Unfortunately, I’m not really a hacker. If I had to make an educated guess, there could be some sort of protection behind the scenes. The Rare prototypes for the n64 that were found (and subsequently got this very website into a bit of trouble) were originally protected and had to be decrypted with a dongle to function. Such a thing isn’t unheard of going into the PS2-Xbox era, especially with the PS2. I would like to think that someone wouldn’t go through all the trouble of building a game and including 900mb of assets, in the case of the other Rare game, just for some test executables that load some text. But who knows, those folks over at Rare were quite strange at times!

So where does this information leave us? Well, we know for sure that some sort of tests were done with Banjo on the original Xbox. Tests that included enough information in the Xbox executables that we could say that it was actually worked on a bit and that the executables weren’t simply renamed versions of another project.

I know that some people from Microsoft and Rare swing by here occasionally. I’m fairly easy to find, so if you have any information that can lead to the preservation of more titles, anonymous or not, it would be greatly appreciated if you contact me! Somewhere out there, I am confident that there is some sort of tech demo or prototype just waiting to be found.