The glory days when Rare and Nintendo partnered to make some of the biggest and best Nintendo 64 titles are just a distant memory now. From being bought out by Microsoft to losing their founders to being reduced to only making casual games, Rare is a shadow of its former self. It’s a sad story, but it doesn’t need to end that way.
There’s been an unusually high amount of news in recent months in regards to both current and former Rare employees wishing they could return to that kind of work. Meanwhile, as evidenced by the strong sales of Donkey Kong Country Returns and the fact that Nintendo is porting the game to the 3DS, there’s still a lot of potential for future Donkey Kong games. As one of the highest rated and best-selling games on the N64, Donkey Kong 64 is just begging to have a sequel made, and the old Rare staff is just the team to do it.
Last September we discovered that a number of former Rare employees, including Steven Hurst and composer Grant Kirkhope, were looking into ways to raise money to develop a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie series. More recently, Rare’s current staff revealed via Twitter that Banjo-Kazooie for 3DS is a distant possibility.
Rare is owned entirely by Microsoft now, but due to the fact that Microsoft has no handheld consoles, it’s possible for Rare to develop for the 3DS…if the price is right. Unfortunately, this is only a “possibility” in the loosest sense of the word; the chances of Banjo-Kazooie on the 3DS are slim to none. However, Nintendo has full rights to the Donkey Kong franchise, and Donkey Kong 64 is a very similar game experience to Banjo-Kazooie.
Interestingly enough, there’s some evidence that some of the former Rare employees want to return to Nintendo. After leaving Rare due to complaints that Microsoft “completely ruined” the company and finding himself jobless in the wake of the messy closure of 38 Studios, Grant Kirkhope (responsible for the music in Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye 007, and many other games) applied for a job at Nintnedo-owned Retro Studios. Unfortunately, Kirkhope was turned down due to Retro having a full sound team already.
It wasn’t long after this that he teamed up with Steven Hurst to attempt to raise money for a Banjo-Kazooie successor. It appears this venture was unsuccessful, as Steven Hurst has since joined up with four other former Rare employees to start a mobile game development team called Flippin Pixels. The fact that Hurst went from attempting to create a big, new adventure (which he and Kirkhope believed would cost around $5 million to fund) to creating mobile games suggests to me that these Rare veterans simply lack the budget to make the AAA experiences that once defined them.
With Donkey Kong making a comeback and many former Rare employees looking to get back into the game but lacking the funding to do so, the timing couldn’t be better. To top it off, next year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Donkey Kong Country game on the SNES. What could be a better celebration for Donkey Kong fans than giving us the 3D Donkey Kong sequel we deserve?
We may never see the full, core Rare team that created classics like Donkey Kong 64 united together, but Nintendo would be wise to look into bringing in former (and even current) Rare employees and giving them the funding they need to do what they do best. Rare was easily Nintendo’s greatest third party support in the 90s, and that’s exactly the kind of support Nintendo needs right now.