The Mystery of Stop ‘N’ Swop

Not many scrapped features can claim to have a cult following!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/15/2013 12:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

Banjo-Kazooie Screen

One of the secrets of Banjo-Kazooie that players discovered early on was that the letters lining the floor of Treasure Trove Cove’s enormous sandcastle could be used to input a variety of passwords. “NOTE DOOR THREE GET IN FOR FREE,” “THERE’S NOWHERE DANKER THAN IN WITH CLANKER,” and a host of other, similarly rhyming phrases bestowed early access to new levels, unlimited eggs, and much more. While certainly useful, there wasn’t anything about the sandcastle floor to suggest something even more mysterious could be found with its numerous tiles. It took a while, but eventually players caught wind of another, more secret batch of passwords that granted access to something only hinted at during the game’s secret ending.

Players who completed Banjo-Kazooie after collecting every Jiggy and music note were treated to an enigmatic collection of photos by Mumbo Jumbo. The pictures revealed things the player had supposedly missed during gameplay that they would have to try and get hold of in the game’s sequel. Two large, colorful eggs and an ice key were the objects in question, but no matter how hard fans tried to reach these items, there seemed to be no way of actually retrieving them. Of the three, only the ice key was ever actually visible during gameplay, sealed by a thick wall of ice in Freezeezy Peak, while the eggs weren’t even remotely apparent. Fans assumed that Mumbo’s taunts were nothing more than hype-building for the next game and left it at that.

Then, things started getting weird. A couple of fans had hacked the code of Banjo-Kazooie only to discover that not only were all three items obtainable in the game, but that there were four other eggs, as well. The sandcastle floor in Treasure Trove Cove was the key, as players had to enter seven passwords into it in order to unlock all of the content. These passwords were disseminated through a number of outlets, including Nintendo Power, and once used, revealed something yet more interesting; all seven items were prominently displayed on a new pause menu page titled Stop ‘N’ Swop. Fans’ interests were piqued, and everyone wanted to know what this hidden feature was supposed to do.

Many expected that all would be revealed in due time, but Rare was surprisingly mum on the subject. Frequent questions yielded no answers, and development continued on Banjo-Kazooie‘s sequel with no clear understanding of how the two games were going to interlink. People had theories, nothing more. Eventually, Banjo-Tooie came out but did nothing to quell the rumors. In fact, Banjo-Tooie arguably made things worse, as it used the three eggs and ice key shown in Mumbo’s pictures, but never referenced Stop ‘N’ Swop! Nintendo itself acknowledged the existence of the feature as something that was ultimately scrapped and unusable, but gave no further details. The truth was out there, though, and one source in particularly was very ambitious about uncovering it.

Stop ‘N’ Swop had become such a powerful conspiracy theory that an entire website had been devoted to it called The Rare Witch Project. The site became famous for its continued efforts to look into what the eggs and key were going to be used for. The site’s and others’ digging revealed a patent by Rare related to Stop ‘N’ Swop that provided insight into how the feature would be activated. Players were originally intended to turn off Banjo-Kazooie, remove the cartridge, and swap in Banjo-Tooie to do some kind of data exchange. This exchange would have been facilitated by N64’s small amount of internal memory, which would briefly retain information from whatever game was last in the system (estimates suggested the player would have had between eight and ten seconds to make the switch). The reason this feature was abandoned was due to hardware revisions to N64; later units only retained the stored information for a couple of seconds, which wouldn’t have been long enough for players to swap cartridges.

While that answered how Stop ‘N’ Swop would work, it didn’t explain what the eggs and keys were originally intended to do. In Banjo-Tooie, the three items from the pictures made a return, with the eggs unlocking a special move, homing eggs, and a Jinjo character for multiplayer, while the ice key led to Kazooie being transformed into a green dragon-like creature. While usefully incorporated into Tooie, their presence did nothing to resolve the lingering questions about Stop ‘N’ Swop. Rare’s continued silence fueled rampant speculation that the original uses of the items (including the conspicuously absent other four eggs) were still unknown, and must have been hidden somewhere in Banjo-Kazooie‘s coding. The Rare Witch Project continued investigating, and while they were trying to discover what the eggs and key were originally going to do, they did find out something else.

Not only were Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie intended to be linked, but so too was Donkey Kong 64! Probing Donkey Kong 64‘s coding had revealed references to the ice key, including actual fanfare music from Banjo-Kazooie. Early screenshots of Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 had shown nods to each series in the other’s game, but no one knew that it meant Rare was intending to create a gameplay connection. Unfortunately, though this link was uncovered, there was still no clear indication of what would be unlocked or altered in any of the games using Stop ‘N’ Swop. Other sites, like The Cutting Room Floor, have conducted their own investigations into information hidden in the three games’ codes, but no one found anything definitive.

Ironically, it was in the years after Rare was sold to Microsoft that the company finally began really acknowledging Stop “N’ Swop. Except, Rare wasn’t offering full disclosure, but coy hints, like in the title Grabbed By The Ghoulies, where a chalkboard showed a drawing with four eggs and a key equalling a question mark. A particularly vicious reference came in Banjo Pilot, where the player could spend 999 Cheato pages to buy a Stop ‘n’ Swap option. Once bought, which required more than a bit of effort to do, the character Cheato chides the player by saying that they should “stop annoying [him] and swap [the] game for a nice book.” It might have seemed like Rare held some kind of grudge about the whole affair, but for the Xbox Live HD re-releases of both Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, a version of Stop ‘N’ Swop was finally incorporated, not that anyone considered it to be a true representation of the original vision. Sometimes, reality can’t measure up to the myth, and Stop ‘N’ Swop will always be something more in the minds of its fans.

Whatever Rare’s reasons were for being evasive, Stop ‘N’ Swop developed a life of its own that the company certainly never could have anticipated. The unused feature spawned a website that remains active to this day as a news resource for Rare fans, numerous conspiracy theories, and even prompted Rare to lampoon itself in several titles. It speaks to Rare’s influence at the time that even the things the company didn’t do could garner so much attention. Stop ‘N’ Swop is yet another quirky, wonderful piece of Rare’s legacy. Before we leave you, here is the full list of passwords to unlock all seven eggs and the ice key!

Before entering any of the passwords, input the word CHEAT, followed by one of the following:

1) NOW YOU CAN SEE A NICE ICE KEY YOU CAN HAVE FOR FREE

2) OUT OF THE SEA IT RISES TO REVEAL MORE SECRET PRIZES

3) A DESERT DOOR OPENS WIDE ANCIENT SECRETS WAIT INSIDE

4) DONT YOU GO AND TELL HER ABOUT THE SECRET IN HER CELLAR

5) AMIDST THE HAUNTED GLOOM A SECRET IN THE BATHROOM

6) THIS SECRET YOULL BE GRABBIN IN THE CAPTAINS CABIN

7) NOW BANJO WILL BE ABLE TO SEE IT ON NABNUTS TABLE

Had you ever heard of Stop ‘N’ Swop before you read this? Did you ever try to figure out Stop ‘N’ Swop’s secrets yourself? Any lingering theories of your own you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

2 Responses to “The Mystery of Stop ‘N’ Swop”

  • 180 points
    Anthony Vigna says...

    A friend of mine is going through Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie with me on XBLA. We found that they taunt players even further, as the breakable cartridges in Banjo-Tooie reveal…wait for it…Stop ‘N’ Swop II items! They then have text pop on the screen reading, “Oh no, not again…”

    Haha the inclusion of Stop ‘N’ Swop II just goes to show that the mystery itself was probably more interesting than what their original intention was to begin with.

    Thumb up 0
    • 1249 points
      Robert Marrujo says...

      When I was researching this, I had read about the Stop ‘N’ Swop II thing; freaking hilarious. I agree, there was now way that Rare could ever live up to what Stop ‘N’ Swop became in everyone’s minds. Seriously, it spawned a website-crazy!

      Thumb up 0

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