The Bear and Bird Sequel That’s Not Screwy, So Let’s Talk About: The Music of Banjo-Tooie

Gamer Grooves

As always, a friendly reminder that this post may contain spoilers, and no, I’m not apologizing for the rhyme.

That’s right. I talked about it in my Banjo-Kazooie post, and so it appears! Today we’re going to look at Banjo-Tooie, which released in 2000 and was one of the most hotly anticipated sequels of any game. I apologize if I’m retreading old ground, but I figured I would say it again for the record. I played through Banjo-Tooie the whole way this year for the first time (I’ve gotten better at video games since I originally played it in 2000). This sequel did everything that was done in Banjo-Kazooie, only bigger and better. The game added first person shooting, new abilities on top of the ones from BK, and even let Banjo and Kazooie split up to complete different tasks with various new moves. Also, many of the worlds were strung together in that you could visit one and find a secret entrance into another. The game is about twice the size of its predecessor, and the graphics/physics are improved. We see the return of Grunty and her two sisters who have constructed a device to suck the life out of the people of the world (to give Grunty to restore her body, which is just a skeleton). I’m not sure why, but Grunty seems more vicious in this game than in Banjo-Kazooie. After a certain point she stops rhyming, and doesn’t seem to have as much interaction with the protagonists as she did in the previous game (maybe I’m remembering incorrectly). But Banjo and Kazooie get more friends to join their adventure, like Humba Wumba and Jamjars, so everyone gets new characters on their side!

The music is once again piloted by the wonderful Grant Kirkhope. Along with the evolution and scope of Banjo-Tooie’s gameplay, there are more variations on the soundtrack. Though his style of warping the music remains, there are more unique areas that in turn have their own variations than in Banjo Kazooie. Since I played it all the way through while actively listening to the music, I found myself more willing to try and learn the songs and all their little variations. For today’s post, I’m going to concentrate on the central themes, plus the boss battles for each respective area. Oh yeah, didn’t I mention? This game introduced fully fledged boss battles, and there are definitely some variations on the level themes that I love a lot more than others. So let’s get into it…

Songs

Isle o’ Hags

This is the new Grunty’s Lair theme, and by that, I mean it’s the song you’ll hear throughout the overworld and your constant travels back and forth from world to world. The music is in the same vein as Grunty’s Lair, but isn’t really centralized. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while the song from Banjo-Kazooie made you associate the lair with Grunty herself, Isle o’ Hags is more of a blanket theme for the world that Grunty just kind of traveled through to get to her tower. So her influence can be felt, but you begin to associate the song with the Isle itself instead of Grunty. Either way, it’s plenty catchy so that you won’t get upset hearing it a lot.

Mayahem Temple

Instead of the tribal Mumbo’s Mountain, the first level we go to is a clear reference to the Mayan (get it?) civilization. I found myself singing along with the lyrics every time they would start, and thanks to a recent revelation from Grant Kirkhope, (not to me personally, obviously) I could sing at least one verse.

You’ll notice that Mayahem Temple itself has a soccer tournament, so it’s unsurprising to learn that Rareware is based in the UK, which is known for its raucous football crowds. The line that Mumbo says at 0:21 is actually Grant saying “Come and have a go, if you think you’re hard enough.” This is just one of the many chants used by said raucous football crowds in the egging on of the other team’s fans. It definitely adds a lot of comedy to this song, and makes it easier to sing along with.

Glitter Gulch Mine

I initially had problems following along with this song. I mean, I could listen to it and appreciate it, but the song would suddenly veer off in a way I didn’t expect. Singing along with Banjo games is something I really enjoy doing, and Glitter Gulch Mine made it really difficult. Of course, I wouldn’t have put it on the list if it wasn’t one of my favorites. In fact, I liked it so much that I made it my business to figure out the strange “twisty” party of the song (0:28 to 0:36). Once I had that memorized, the rest came naturally. Yeah, it may seem like a ridiculous amount of effort to go through for a song, but as soon as I fully understood it, I loved it all the more. So now you all have some insight on just how seriously I take the video game music I love.

Witchyworld / Mr. Patch

Remember earlier when I said that Grunty feels more evil than last time? Witchyworld is a good example of that feeling. The twisted version of a classical circus theme makes people think of evil clowns. The fact that it’s called Witchyworld and is run by Grunty herself makes us realize we’re about to see her insane vision of fun. This song also gives me the feeling that Witchyworld is a theme park dedicated to hurting unsuspecting patrons and being generally unsafe.

As I mentioned, the boss battle themes are generally souped up versions of the world theme. So obviously, Mr. Patch uses the music of Witchyworld, but somehow it sounds more insane than the original. I guess it’s a matter of opinion as to whether slower or faster is more frightening, but I enjoy Mr. Patch’s theme because it’s so manic. It’s funny though, the fight itself isn’t that crazy but the music informs the mind and makes the situation far more interesting. I also just think it’s an awesome song, and not as nerve-wracking when I’m not in the actual fight. Of the boss themes, it may be my favorite.

Hailfire Peaks Lava Side/Ice Side

There are two sides to the Hailfire Peaks theme, and each has a catchy tune. In fact, it’s the differences between the main sides that make the song so good. The deep guttural music from the Lava Side depicts the slowly flowing magma and bubbles of gas bursting, giving the impression that the creatures that inhabit this world are quite unfriendly. Not evil, but not happy to see me either.

The Lava Side may be more angry sounding, but there are aspects of the Ice Side that actually make it more dangerous… although by listening to the Ice Side theme, you probably wouldn’t think that at all. To me, Grant Kirkhope is prone to make the snowy levels in Banjo games sound like Christmas. It’s definitely really pleasant to listen to, although traversing the world was such a nightmare. I would find myself cursing the area while loving the music, like Click Clock Wood all over again.

Afterthoughts

There are so many songs that I didn’t choose from Banjo-Tooie, and you may be surprised that I didn’t choose a final boss theme. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t love the other tracks. Grant Kirkhope did it again in a sequel that also did it again. Rareware delivered the awesomeness in Banjo-Tooie, and Grant Kirkhope delivers knockouts every time.

So that’s all for today, and I would urge you to comment below on your favorite songs that I may or may not have mentioned, or just comment on the post in general. Either way, I’ll see you tomorrow!

Banjo Threeie, even though you were just a concept, you will be missed.

Banjo-Tooie cover

Alex McVeigh
About Alex McVeigh 28 Articles
Alex has been a nerd for as long as he can remember. Every normal conversation he has had could be matched 1 for 1 with a conversation about why Scrooge McDuck is obviously richer than Edward Cullens' Dad and here's why. He can talk about and play video games for hours only to conclude with "anyone wanna play some magic?