Fans were initially skeptical when Sony announced Astro’s Playroom would be free and pre-installed on every PlayStation 5 console, but then quickly realized it wasn’t just a tech demo to show off the console’s next-generation tech and gimmicks. Astro’s Playroom is a joyfully fun experience that sucks you in from the moment you boot it up. Although it is a relatively short one compared to most releases nowadays, it still offers several hours of meticulously crafted levels with engaging platforming, fun abilities, and collectibles that you want to go off the beaten path to get. ASOBI Team and Japan Studio managed to craft a fantastic experience that proves there is still competition and demand for the 3D Platformer genre.
With Sony presumably going to continue supporting the critically acclaimed Astro series moving forward, and Nintendo still going strong with their slew of platformers themselves, it now leaves Microsoft out of the conversation despite them owning one of the most beloved and iconic platforming duos of all time, Banjo-Kazooie. The last time fans got anything from the series was thirteen years ago with the vehicle construction game Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which received backlash from the community and many critics due to the dramatic shift in both gameplay and visual style. Since then, Microsoft and Rare have gone quiet on the franchise making fans doubt they’ll be seeing the bear and bird take on a new adventure ever again.
With that being said, Banjo-Kazooie making a gigantic splash with their Super Smash Bros. Ultimate appearance has led to speculation that Microsoft may be looking to engage with the series more. The remaster of the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy got met with huge praise and success from fans and critics alike. It even led to a brand new entry in the Crash Bandicoot series — Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time — seeing its release nearly eleven years after the last original entry. Crash 4 is an excellent example of how you bring back an old franchise with a new spin and also saw positive reception at launch. In addition to that, the original Spyro trilogy also got a full remaster with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy and saw incredible success. Although at this moment, Spyro still has yet to get a new installment, it will likely see one based on fan feedback and overall reception of the remaster. There is also heavy speculation that a new Spyro game will release at some point in 2021, thanks to a leak by Activision insider TheGamingRevolution. However, all leaks should get taken lightly, even if TheGamingRevolution has proved to be accurate in the past.
Aside from the AAA 3D Platformers, many smaller Indie titles also received lots of love and respect from fans of the genre. This resulted from games like Super Lucky’s Tale, Yooka-Laylee, A Hat In Time, and even the 3D Platformer Battle Royale Fall Guys; all incredible experiences in their own right that have earned them a dedicated, passionate fanbase. It’s fantastic to see this genre that many hold near and dear to their hearts make a strong resurgence. Especially when many thought the genre was dead and gone during its lull. The 3D genre has recently started making its comeback as it took the backseat to 2D Platformers for many years. Games such as Rayman Legends, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Meat Boy, and Donkey Kong Tropical Island are phenomenal experiences, so it’s understandable why the 3D Platforming space was left untouched by many AAA developers and publishers for quite some time. Even Nintendo’s 3D Mario title on the Wii U wasn’t the traditional 3D Platforming adventure everyone grew to love and expect, and that’s not to say that Super Mario 3D World is terrible by any means (it certainly isn’t). Still, it was a breath of fresh air when they made the traditional 3D Mario game with Super Mario Odyssey four years later for the Nintendo Switch. This genre reshaped the industry forever and deserves to be iterated on and to live. Whether those iterations come from established developers and IP or a small Indie team with a brand new take on things, the genre is still pushing forward, and it is extraordinary to see and the games that have been repopulating this space have been remarkable thus far. The future for 3D Platformers looks very promising, and I hope more developers/publishers throw their hat in the mix. Especially Microsoft.
There is still demand for 3D Platformers, there is no doubt about it at this point, and Microsoft should take note if they haven’t done so already. Banjo-Kazooie could be an exceptional experience if they went the route of Astro’s Playroom and made it a short, contained demonstration meant to gauge interest and show off new ideas for the series going forward. With Banjo-Kazooie’s current moveset, one can envision a handful of smaller worlds based on old skills while also implementing new abilities and complex systems such as puzzles or Mumbo Jumbo’s transformations. The characters, collectibles, and base combat are already there, and refining them and building off them would add so much depth to it. Even a multiplayer component could go a long way and add post-game replayability.
When it comes down to it, the first Banjo-Kazooie set the foundation for more games in the series to follow, and only getting one sequel in that style is a head-scratcher. Sony proved that they can still be competitors in that space with an all-new IP that originated as a PSVR title and wowed their audience with both installments in the Astro series. I can easily see Microsoft be competitors, and I feel like they should take this opportunity to cash in the Banjo-Kazooie hype before it is far too late.
Ultimately, seeing what Nintendo has done with Super Mario Odyssey and what Sony did with Astro’s Playroom makes the void grow bigger for Banjo-Kazooie fans like myself. The series deserves better, and this franchise deserves another crack at the 3D Platforming space. I don’t think it matters if that experience is a short-lived one like Astro’s Playroom or a more extended 15-20 hour experience. There is more than enough love and demand for the genre and even more so for Banjo-Kazooie in general. Now would be the time to strike. The iron is certainly hot enough. Bring the bird and bear out of retirement – they have Jinjos to save!