Veteran former Rare composer Kirkhope has created a brand new music track for Smash Bros. Ultimate, with Nintendo’s composers handling further Banjo remixes.
He is now one of the first Western composers to create music for Smash Bros, as well as Super Mario with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
Kirkhope revealed that Mario Rabbids creative director Davide Soliani actually played a part in securing his role in the Banjo-Kazooie DLC.
“In about January this year I received a message from Davide Soliani, the creative director on Mario Rabbids, who said Nintendo were asking for my contact information,” Kirkhope explained. “He said, ‘can I pass it on to them?’ and I was like, ‘too f***ing right!’
“I think it was Nintendo’s idea that they wanted the original composer,” he added. “This had been going on long before they talked to me and they must have been talking to Rare at the back end of last year.
“A couple of days went by and I eventually got an email from Nintendo saying that they had a piece of music they’d like my assistance on and that they really loved what I did with the Princess Peach theme in Mario Rabbids. That was it.
“So my brain was going mad trying to work out what it could be. I did quickly wonder if it could be Banjo in Smash Bros., but then I thought it couldn’t be that because they always use their own Japanese composers to remix the tunes for that game. They never get the actual composers: even David Wise didn’t get to do his Donkey Kong stuff for K Rool, which I didn’t understand.
“So I thought it couldn’t be that. I wondered whether it might be Rabbid Peach as a playable character in Smash, or something like that.”
Kirkhope said it took more than a month of waiting before he learned the news that Banjo and Kazooie had been included in Smash Bros., and he set to work on creating a tune for their Nintendo revival.
“I think it was Nintendo’s idea that they wanted the original composer. This had been going on long before they talked to me and they must have been talking to Rare at the back end of last year.”
“I started thinking what the most recognisable Banjo-Kazooie tune would be,” he said. “I went through a few different ideas like Mad Monster Mansion, Freezeezy Peak or Treasure Trove Cove, but eventually settled on Spiral Mountain. I thought that would be the most recognisable of all of them.
“I didn’t actually know the Banjo stage in the game was Spiral Mountain, so it was pretty handy when I found out I’d accidentally matched the tune with the stage. Maybe they should’ve told me at the start!”
In all, it took a good 12 iterations to get to the final Banjo-Kazooie Smash Bros. music, which Kirkhope said is unusual for him.
“When I have to redo any of my own stuff, like in Yooka-Laylee which was very much Banjo style, I don’t want to do it almost. I’m not great at going back to old stuff – I usually end up making it worse! But once I started it, it was great fun. But I had to get it right for the fans.
“Nintendo Japan also asked me to weave in some references to other Banjo levels, so I put in bits of melody from other tunes. It’s up to the fans to spot them!”
‘Back where they belong’
Steve Mayles, the character designer responsible for Banjo and Kazooie, told VGC Tuesday that he was pleased for the fans who’ve waited many years for a new Banjo-Kazooie appearance.
Chris Sutherland, who was lead programmer on the Banjo-Kazooie games, shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s wonderful to see Banjo and Kazooie return after 11 years in gaming wilderness, and back to their spiritual home on a Nintendo console no less,” said Mayles.
“I’m really pleased for all the passionate Banjo fans who never lost faith that their heroes would one day come back! The duo are a great fit for Smash Ultimate – I can’t wait to make them Rat-a-tat-Rap Sonic in the face. Take that hedgehog boy!”
Mayles joked that now he has two characters in Smash Bros. Ultimate – he also created Donkey Kong’s K Rool – “Dixe Kong is next!”
Sutherland added: “It was a surprise to me, but I know many people have been asking for this – it is great to see the bear and bird back in action! Guhuh!”
But despite the positive reaction to Banjo and Kazooie’s inclusion in Smash, many fans will be disappointed to go another year without a full game reveal at E3.
Kirkhope told VGC that he didn’t think a new Banjo-Kazooie game would happen anytime soon.
“I don’t think Rare has the appetite for it,” he said. “I don’t think they believe it would sell, and even in my mind I’m not sure. It’s easy to get wrapped up in my Twitter feed, but that’s just a tiny audience in comparison.
“If they did want to make a new one they’d never get the original team back together so it’d all depend on who they asked to do it. They’d have to find the right people to do it. Ubisoft Milan were perfect for Mario, for example, and the Killer Instinct guys did a good job.”
Regardless of any plans Microsoft might have for Banjo, the composer said he feels the pair are at home with Nintendo.
“I think it is significant that Banjo is back on a Nintendo system. They were born on Nintendo consoles. I feel that their home is with Nintendo, but that’s just my personal opinion and I think the fans definitely agree.”