Hello, readers, and welcome to yet another addition to RareFanDaBase’s Rare Revisits series! For this particular editorial, I would like to discuss what is easily one of the most magical locales that the Twycross-based studio has ever developed: Gruntilda’s Lair.
Among many other innovations, one of the most notable achievements of 1996’s Super Mario 64 was its implementation of Peach’s Castle. It was one of the first 3D platformers to introduce the concept of a hub world — one with its own set of sub-levels, as well as its fair share of hidden areas. Not only did Peach’s Castle serve to create a more compact experience, but it also possessed an intangible quality — a magical quality — that few games have managed to replicate.
Banjo-Kazooie is one of those few games, as the advent of Gruntilda’s Lair greatly expanded upon the template that was set by its portly plumber-based counterpart. Firstly, this hub world provided a much more palpable sense of place. Certainly, the theme of Peach’s Castle remained consistent by placing individual portraits throughout its pristine halls. However, I much prefer the approach that Banjo-Kazooie took by featuring distinctly-themed regions of the lair.
This wasn’t just an aesthetic choice on the developer’s part, though. For instance, having one, instantly-recognizable snow region further emphasized the aforementioned feeling of compactness. Additionally, the player’s actions in each level could influence the hub world by revealing the location of a secret jigsaw puzzle piece. This relatively minor addition went a long way towards making Banjo-Kazooie feel like a much more cohesive gaming experience.
Admittedly, much of this is personal preference. While some may prefer the more refined, slightly more isolated feeling of Peach’s Castle, I have a particularly special place in my heart for the grimy, cobweb-filled aesthetic of Grunty’s home.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe that Gruntilda’s Lair appropriately expanded upon the concept that Super Mario 64’s hub-world introduced? Whatever your thoughts are, feel free to share them in the comments below!