British developer Rare has received its fair share of flak in recent years for making nothing but Kinect Sports games. Still, there’s no denying that their overall catalog of games contains some real gems.
To commemorate the company’s 30th anniversary under the name Rare, we have Rare Replay, which contains a whopping 30 games spanning the majority of the developer’s history. While not every included title will entice modern gamers, there’s a good number of solid entries to be found here, as well as an unlock system with bonuses that longtime fans will enjoy.
In chronological order, said lineup starts with titles from the early 80s when the developer was known as Ultimate, including Jetpac, Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore and Gunfright. After that is a collection of NES games, including Slalom, R.C. Pro-Am, R.C. Pro-Am 2, Cobra Triangle, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, Solar Jetman, Digger T. Rock and Battletoads. The 1994 arcade-only Battletoads sequel is also included for the first time on home consoles.
Going further, several Nintendo 64 games are included, those being Killer Instinct Gold, Blast Corps, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Finally, several of Rare’s more recent games on Xbox consoles are available, including Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero, Viva Pinata and its sequel Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, Jetpac Refuelled, and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
Thankfully, all 30 games are available right from the start, so there’s no need to worry about having to work to unlock your favorite of the bunch. Many of the older games also make their first appearance on an HD console here, meaning better anti-aliasing for the N64 games and sharper pixels for the older titles. However, it’s worth noting that the Xbox 360 games, both of the original Banjo outings, and the original Perfect Dark have to be downloaded separately, as the N64 games are actually the Xbox Live Arcade remasters from several years back, and both they and the 360 games actually run independently from Rare Replay as individual apps. This is actually something of a sneak peek at the backwards compatibility program that Microsoft recently announced, complete with Xbox 360 menus and functions.
Having sunk some time into all 30 titles, I have to admit that, as someone new to Rare’s pre-Battletoads games, I was generally not a fan of their older stuff. They all run fine (with the exception of Knight Lore, which slows to a crawl when there’s too much on the screen), but the dated mechanics and sometimes unwieldy controls didn’t gel with me. The only exception to that rule is Jetpac, which, while still sometimes frustrating, is easy to grasp and play. The same problems ring true for most of the NES games, save maybe Slalom and the R.C. Pro-Am titles. And while Battletoads Arcade is nice enough to provide unlimited continues, it’s still too basic and repetitive a brawler to get much mileage out of.
I went into the compilation excited to discover some of Rare’s early history that I’d only heard of, but like many older games, I ultimately felt that many of them hadn’t aged gracefully, which was disappointing. It’s worth noting that Rare has made some additions to the pre-N64 games to make them a bit easier to get through, including the ability to hold the left trigger and rewind the games by up to 10 seconds at any point, cheats for certain games enabling infinite lives, and the option to create a save state that can be loaded at any point. Said changes make things easier, but don’t necessarily make the games more enjoyable.
The later titles are where Rare Replay really becomes an enticing compilation. Killer Instinct Gold is a generally faithful port of the second arcade game in the series, Blast Corps offers satisfying building-smashing action, both of the original Banjo games are shining examples of 3D platforming, Perfect Dark is made much easier to swallow with modern controls thanks to an assisted aiming feature, and the raunchy Conker’s Bad Fur Day is still one of the most unique and clever games that the company’s ever made.
On the Xbox and Xbox 360 side of things, I’ve always found Grabbed by the Ghoulies to be an underrated and enjoyable brawler, Kameo is a decent adventure title with a clever transformation mechanic, both Viva Pinata games are impressively substantial and unique simulation titles, Jetpac Refuelled works as a simple downloadable remake, and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, as drastically different from the N64 originals as it is, is also pretty clever and fun.
In terms of the more problematic 3D titles, Jet Force Gemini feels dated with its requirement of standing still and holding a trigger button to properly aim instead of simply using the right analog stick, and ends up feeling like a title that would benefit from a sequel or remake. Perfect Dark Zero, while not terrible, also did little to shake up the crowded FPS genre even when it originally released, and that still holds true today.
As far as features and content unique to Rare Replay, all the included games have Xbox achievements to earn, but they actually serve a purpose outside of boosting your Gamerscore. Each achievement has a corresponding in-game milestone that is marked as a stamp on a ticket, and once your ticket is completely filled up, you level up and unlock a new blank ticket to fill up, along with various behind-the-scenes goodies for both specific games and Rare in general. These include impressively substantial mini-documentaries, as well as concept art and unused music tracks. It’s nice that Rare included genuinely satisfying rewards for sinking time into each game, and longtime fans of the company will find some truly interesting goodies to strive towards unlocking.
Also included are Snapshots and Playlists, which are a good way to earn additional milestones. Snapshots have you play through brief moments from the older games with a specific goal, while Playlists are a marathon of moments from various games that you must complete without dying too many times. While I didn’t find these as interesting as the unlockable material, fans of Rare’s older games will appreciate this unique way of experiencing each title.
On the technical side of things, everything runs quite well, albeit with one major exception. I have no idea of how this happened, but Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts has a consistently dreadful framerate, which I hope can be patched out at some point.
Most of the older games are run in their original 4:3 aspect ratios, with the exceptions of Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Jet Force Gemini, and Perfect Dark, which all offer widescreen functionality. As a cute touch, clicking the right stick on the older games changes the display to emulate an old CRT television, with blurrier graphics and all.
I’ve already stated that most of the older titles included here aren’t my cup of tea, and a few of the later ones definitely have some issues. Still, there are a lot of very good games included in Rare Replay, alongside its entertaining unlockables. Considering that the compilation will only cost you $30, and you’d have to spend more than that just to purchase the included Xbox games, it’s one of the better deals in recent memory, and one that both newcomers and longtime Rare fans will get something out of.
This review is based on the Xbox One exclusive, which was provided to us.
Rare Replay isn't without its weaker titles, but a generous amount of quality games and fun unlockables still makes it a great offer.