8 Rareware cameos and references you might have missed
2nd September 2021
We've all become extremely familiar with the concept of creative works sharing the same universes in recent times. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the Star Wars Universe and more, it seems that pop culture audiences (or at least pop culture studio heads) are dead keen on the idea.
However, Rare have been putting little shared universe in-jokes, references and easter eggs in all of their games for a long time. Does this mean there is such a thing as the "Rareware Universe"? (The fan community DKVine, of course, have been working on their own concept of the 'Donkey Kong Universe' for some time...)
Well, I have no idea. Either way, I thought it might be fun to round up a quick list of some of those little in-game references, crossovers and cameos - and point out one or two you might have missed...
1. Donkey Kong Land sound effects in Banjo-Kazooie
As any B-K player knows, the game's file select screen features three different scenes of the titular bear and bird hanging out at home (in which they can be seen sleeping in bed, preparing food on a stovetop, and playing with an old-school Game Boy).
The latter of these - the Game Boy - transforms the menu music into a beepy boopy 8-bit jingle when highlighted, and as Banjo enjoys his game, some familiar sound effects from Rare's Game Boy game, Donkey Kong Land, can be heard.
At one point in the game's development, this scene may have been more of an overt reference to the tie-wearing ape - as the Bottles portrait over the fireplace was once a painting of Kong himself in a beta build.
2. DK Mode in Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark
The Kong references don't end there!
Players of Rare's 1997 spy-'em-up, Goldeneye 007, could unlock several cheat codes by beating the game's levels within certain target times - and completing the Runway level on Agent difficulty (a.k.a easy mode) within five minutes would unlock a now-famous cheat known only as "DK Mode".
What did it do? Turn everybody into Donkey Kong, of course (sort of). That is, it would deform every human character in the game to have gorilla-style proportions, with an oversized head and long, beefy arms.
This silly cheat proved to be popular with gamers, so Rare brought it back for their 2000 follow-up, Perfect Dark. However, when PD eventually made it to Microsoft's XBox 360 in 2010 thanks to a well-made port by 4J Studios, the reference to the Nintendo-owned ape was stripped out in favour of the more generic name "Monkey Mode."
3. Killer Instinct music in Conker's Bad Fur Day
Of the many, many thoughtful little details in Conker's Bad Fur Day, the eponymous squirrel's wide variety of idle animations whenever the player steps away from the controller are among the most charming.
These include playing with a yo-yo, drinking a milkshake, struggling to tell the time, sitting down and whistling along to the level music, leering at a lads' magazine, and many more (with Conker eventually becoming exasperated and berating the player for forgetting about him).
Another of the very long list of behaviours Conker can exhibit when left to his own devices is to, well, turn to his own device. That is, he produces a Game Boy from a pocket and proceeds to kill a few minutes with a spot of gaming - at which point the theme tune from Rare's acclaimed fighting game, Killer Instinct, can be heard.
4. Banjo-Tooie packaging in Grabbed By The Ghoulies
To be honest, Rare's 2003 spook-tacular was so absolutely loaded with Banjo and other Rareware references that I could basically fill the rest of the article by listing them. So, I'm just going to pick one that you might have missed.
It only appears on screen for a few seconds, but if you let the title screen run and run, you can at one point catch a glimpse of a Banjo-Tooie box buried in a drawer in the background.
Elsewhere in the game, you can find everything from Banjo promotional renders, to posters for Jetpac and other classic Rare / Ultimate ZX Spectrum games, and even Mr. Pants. Oh, and speaking of ol' Pantsy...
5. Mr. Pants in Banjo-Tooie
Did you know that Rare's hunky underwear model actually makes two appearances in Banjo-Tooie?
The first of these can be spotted in Witchyworld's Dodgem Dome lobby via peering out of the window, whereupon you can catch a glimpse of a distinctly pants-themed constellation visible in the stars outside.
The second can be found in Boggy the polar bear's igloo on the Icy Side of Hailfire Peaks, on whose television can be clearly seen a frolicking Mr. Pants, resplendent in all his pants-tastic glory.
6. Berri in Banjo-Kazooie
Hidden in one of the crew's bunk rooms in Rusty Bucket Bay (accessible by smashing open a porthole), you can find a picture of Berri, Conker's girlfriend (albeit in her Twelve Tails incarnation).
For those who don't know, Conker's game was originally going to be another 'cutesy animal platformer' in the Banjo vein before it underwent a major facelift and emerged as the irreverent adult shock-humour game we know today as Conker's Bad Fur Day.
And while we're on the subject of Banjo and Conker crossovers, here's one going in the other direction...
7. Conker's Bad Fur Day music in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
The plot of Banjo's Xbox 360 outing, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, begins with a scene of a now-overweight bear and bird idly stuffing themselves with takeaway pizza and listening to the radio.
Keen-eared gamers will no doubt notice that the music playing on the radio is none other than the classic 'Windy' theme from Conker's Bad Fur Day - although it is only heard for a few seconds before incidental cutscene music takes over.
It's a nice touch (unlike the decision to use bloody Comic Sans in all of the game's dialogue boxes, but I digress).
8. Banjo instruments in Donkey Kong 64
Which is to say, not actual banjos - but musical instruments that were previously featured in the iconic introductory cutscene to Banjo-Kazooie.
When visiting Candy Kong's hut in DK64, you can from certain camera angles see a couple of familiar-looking instruments in the background - most notably Mumbo Jumbo's 'Nintendo' branded marimba. And is that Kazooie's kazoo laying on the ground in front of it?
Rare's games are absolutely stuffed with so many more references than the ones we've covered today, and I could probably fill another three or four articles with them. (Maybe one day I will, mwahahaha!)
If you think you've spotted a lesser-known Rare easter egg in a game, be sure to let me know!