Tears of the Kingdom Is Giving Me Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts Energy

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts was pretty damn cool. It wasn’t the sequel any of us wanted nor expected when the platforming mascot first appeared on Xbox 360, but it’s what we got and I appreciate how it wasn’t afraid to push the cobbled-together boat out. Gone was a focus on picking up all the shiny objects in sight to achieve 100 percent completion, replaced by makeshift cars, trucks, and other vehicles used to traverse the world and embark on missions. The lovable bear and his platonic life partner bird now had a sick assortment of rides to choose from.

Its polarising reception was understandable, but all these years later I can’t help but feel that we just weren’t ready for everything it tried to do. Even today, mascot platformers tend to occupy very specific genre conventions they rarely leave behind. Nuts and Bolts had the bravery – or foolishness depending on how you remember things – to make on-foot traversal slovenly as a new focus was placed on embracing your creativity through its robust vehicle system.

Many took it at face value and walked away, mortified that Microsoft had taken one of Rare’s finest properties and butchered it on the first try. Aside from an appearance in Super Smash Bros Ultimate and an assortment of ports, we haven’t seen the duo since, so perhaps it was enough for Xbox to leave them behind for good. A shame, since Nuts and Bolts did so many cool things other games can learn from. In fact, one of the first thoughts that popped into my head when watching the new Tears of the Kingdom trailer was how similar some of its ideas feel compared to Rare’s forgotten gem. It’s all about clumsily piecing together contraptions and trying your best not to send them hurtling off a cliff. Which I definitely will come release.

The upcoming sequel sees Link adopting a number of new powers, which include an ancient gauntlet bound to his hand that allows him to take control of forgotten technology and morph through environments at will. All of these objects appear to give off a fluorescent green hue, springing to life as Link comes in contact with them. I thought this would be limited to simple puzzles and story sequences, but Nintendo has taken it so much further than I expected. A few scenes have Link clumsily controlling a handful of land and air vehicles, seemingly made up of random different pieces that provide a homemade feel that is possibly deliberate.

Breath of the Wild laid the groundwork for these experimental mechanics too, with players still discovering new ways to solve puzzles and best enemies almost six years on. A simple selection of elemental powers could be combined in countless ways, while taking advantage of a world that operated on the whims of changing weather and physics Link and all objects were susceptible to. You could already make vehicles of sorts with the use of wood, rocks, and a few balloons – with DLC even adding a motorcycle to be banished from canon as the sequel rolls around.

Nintendo needs to build on this philosophy, albeit with more complicated physics boiled down to the simplest terms, so dumb asses like me can have fun without the risk of becoming overwhelmed. I can see its execution being graceful in its intention, acting as a cool optional mode of traversal as opposed to a key part of Link’s repertoire. I viewed horse-riding and a handful of Sheikah Slate powers in the same way, only ever using them for certain puzzles or when I felt particularly lazy. Storing my rides in the stable was way too much effort.

This is a game where a puzzle requiring the linking of two electrical currents can be done by dropping every single piece of metal in your inventory and ensuring they are all touching and covering enough distance to reach the desired switch. Breath of the Wild is only as smart as the person playing it, and a system of constructing vehicles and similar contraptions would thrive on such a mentality. How it reminds me of Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts could be a fun coincidence, but if Nintendo is pulling inspiration from a forgotten classic I’ll be delighted.

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