Do you know what Stop N Swop refers to?
If not, stop reading. This post won't mean a thing.
If you have heard of it, then you, like me, probably played "Banjo Kazooie" on the Nintendo 64 and discovered that the game included locked content that couldn't be accessed until, theoretically, the release of the game's sequel, "Banjo Tooie."
The unlocking would occur through an unusual and seemingly dangerous technique called Stop N Swop.
The feature was supposed to allow players to pull a "BK" cartridge out of their Nintendo 64 -- while keeping the power on -- and then plug a "BT" cartridge in its place. This would unlock content in "Kazooie." I think that's what was supposed to happen. Islands and chambers that had been off-limits in "Kazooie" would suddenly be accessible, maybe? Cool stuff would be found.
But gamers never got the opportunity to Stop or to Swop. Even though programming code for Stop N Swop was included in "Kazooie," the feature was not implemented in the final version of "Tooie." Instead, a poor man's version was delivered as collection quest that had players fetching game cartridges in "Tooie" so that they could make Kazooie the bird turn into a dragon.
That was a disappointment.
For many years no one at the game's development studio, Rare, nor its publisher, Nintendo, would explain why Stop N Swap was removed from the "Banjo" series. But explanations have trickled out, attributing the decision to Nintendo but never, to my knowledge, identifying what the issue was.
But finally, last week, I learned an answer that made sense.
I was talking to Salvatore Fileccia, lead software engineer at Rare, about "Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts," the ambitious upcoming Xbox 360 follow-up to the N64 series. Fileccia told me had programmed the original Stop N Swop functions in "Banjo Tooie" before Nintendo nixed them.
Fileccia told me that the reason Nintendo soured on the idea was because of revisions to the N64 circuitry. Older versions of the system would have given gamers a full 10 seconds to remove the "Kazooie" cartridge and insert the "Tooie" one. Newer iterations of the N64 would have given gamers just one second.
I remember how frustrated I was in 2000 when this content that I had waited two years to unlock was never made accessible other than through some hacks and convoluted cheat codes. I had been fascinated by Stop N Swop. I had held onto my copy of "Kazooie" so I could use that feature. And I couldn't understand why the gaming media couldn't get a straight answer as to what happened.
Eight years later, many years after I had stopped dwelling on it, I remembered to ask. And you know what? Fileccia's response was entirely reasonable.
So, hey, I'm over it now.
But what was with that sly grin when I asked him if Stop N Swap would return in some form in this year's "Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts"?