Judge For Yourself Whether New ‘Banjo-Kazooie’ Has An SDTV Problem

The gaming news that spread across sites and blogs yesterday was that development studio Rare doesn’t plan to address complaints that the text in next week’s Xbox 360 game “Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” is too small to be read comfortably by gamers using standard-definition TVs.

I read this report in many places, but I haven’t seen any examples of the problematic text. So I’ve made some examples, so that you may judge for yourself.

These images are from my review build of the game, running at the highest resolution on my 1080p HD TV, then running on that same TV at 480p and then running on a standard definition set in my office displaying at, at best, 480p. Looking at the shots, I have mixed feelings.

See these images and others, much bigger, below.

First, let’s look at the game’s menu screen in HD. Note that none of the pictures I took were direct-feed captures. I snapped them all with a digital camera and then down-sized the pictures for this post. That means there will be some visual denigration. All pictures were taken from a few feet in front of the TV. Displaying at top resolution, the text looks fine.

You may have wondered how in the world a game development studio could somehow miss that their game’s text would look bad enough on SD TV’s that gamers who sampled the title via an Xbox 360 demo would complain. But the shot below is of the game running at 480p on my big TV. Sure, there’s blurriness (again, allow for some of that to be a factor of me using a camera rather than capturing a direct screenshot), but my 40-inch TV makes the text quite readable.

Look what happens, though, when we see the same graphics rendered on a smaller TV. Below, you’re seeing how the game looks on a 16-inch Sony standard definition TV at work, made in 1999.


Back to my HDTV. Here’s a shot of the game’s opening cinematic. It’s re-capping an earlier “Banjo-Kazooie” game.

And below you’ll see how a scene from the same movie looks when rendered in 480p on my HDTV. This is standard-definition graphics rendered on a high-definition TV.

And then let’s switch to my SD TV. This is from a bit of dialogue right after that opening movie.

Please note again the variables involved in snapping these images. The camera is denigrating the quality of what’s on screen, of course. But I’m also taking these pictures from a closer distance than gamers will be playing the game.

One personal observation: While I’ve switched to playing games on an HD TV, I sympathize with the frustrations of SD TV owners. It’s not just “Dead Rising” that was programmed in a manner that made it difficult to play on an SD set. The news ticker in “Burnout Paradise” was virtually unreadable on my old SD set. Yes, I’ve seen better displays of text than what’s in “Banjo.” I’ve also seen worse.

So, should Rare make a fix?

Related Posts:
Rare Reveals Two Unique, Scuttled Versions Of ‘Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts’
Banjo Redeemed — Xbox 360 Game Makes Great Second Impression, Features In-Game N64
Fear And Acceptance – I Got My High-Def TV