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Platform: Xbox One

Rare Replay Review

A celebration of a development studio done right

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Microsoft announced at E3 just two months ago that they would be releasing a collection of games developed by Rare in the extensive and celebratory Rare Replay. It felt a little strange, since ardent fans of the developer have voiced their frustrations with Microsoft’s handling of the studio over the last few years. Rare might be back in action with their new Sea of Thieves coming in the not-too-distant future, but this nostalgic collection tells a story of the company’s past. While not every game is a must-play, the highlights make this package worth your money.

Rare Replay

Shoving the sordid history of Microsoft and Rare aside, let’s take a moment to assess the collection of games Rare has assembled for its 30th birthday. Microsoft’s mantra of 30 game for $30 certainly sounds great, but not all of Rare’s collective library is worthy of outstanding praise - or even worth being replayed on your Xbox One. The games Rare offers include genre staples like Banjo-Kazooie, but also forgettable outings like Grabbed by the Ghoulies. With the exception of the cult-classic Battletoads, which is most notable for its punishing difficulty, most games prior to the N64 era of Rare won’t land on the radar of Xbox One owners.

That’s not to say all of these arcade classics are bad. There are stinkers from the early days, like Sabre Wulf and Underwurlde, and it’s unlikely that anyone who isn’t already a nostalgia driven fan will find these games to be more than a short distraction. Games like Jetpac, Rare’s first game isn’t bad, but it’s not gonna hold your attention for very long. The same is true for Atic Atac, Kinght Lore, Gunfright, and Cobra Tirangle - decent games which might appeal to those who played them when they first came out, but antiquated in today’s video game world.

There are still capable games that stand out. Games like Slalom, R.C Pro-Am, Super R.C. Pro-Am, and Snake, Rattle, & Roll are able to entertain. Rare has also added some features to make these games more accessible by modern standards. Most arcade games have snapshot challenges, a way for you to play levels from older titles in small, repeatable chunks. Also these games have a rewind feature not included in the original release. If you’re finding Battletoads too challenging, hit the rewind button and you’ll instantly get a second shot at the punch you missed or obstacle you hit.

Of course these arcade games are all just appetizers for the titles which truly put Rare on the map. Starting with the stupidly fun Blast Corps, where you blow things up to make room on the map for large vehicles, Rare hits a sweet spot in the late 90’s for which they are famous. Banjo-Kazooie still plays very well and is just as fun as it always was. Perfect Dark controls a bit strange in a twin-stick shooter world, but it plays competently enough for you to enjoy blasting your way through DataDyne and Skedar baddies. Even without HD graphics or reworked mechanics, the best games in Rare’s collection are well worth replaying.

Rare Replay

Fans of the fighting game Killer Instinct will have noticed I haven’t mentioned this title yet and it’s because the game feels a little clunky when compared to the finely tuned games of today’s fighting genre. The hitbox feels weird, the controls aren’t as responsive as you would hope. Killer Instinct might have been a viable fighting option back in the day, but with the rebooted series waiting for you for free on your Xbox One, it’s hard to recommend the 1996 version.

The game that struggles the most to hold up is easily Conker’s Bad Fur Day. The anti-mascot platformer, Conker’s humor is antiquated, its controls are sloppy, its design feels obtuse. At a time when voices were first starting to find their way into video games, the comedic take Conker presented felt fresh and original, but the brash - and occasionally tactlessly offensive - humor feels like a cover up for game which was mechanically mediocre upon release. Suffice it to say, nothing about Conker has aged well.

Then we reach the Xbox era of Rare. After a rough start with Grabbed by the Ghoulies and the well-meaning, but uninteresting Kameo, we reach the great Viva Pinata and the sequel Trouble in Paradise. While these games are relatively understated in the Rare library and very much one-hit-wonders that were forgotten over time, they are definitely the unexpected gems. Viva Pinata and its sequel feel like complete departures from the rest of the collection as goofy management simulators.

What is most important about Rare Replay is how it manages to turn itself into a piece of video game history. It is hard to find developers (or any company) that have lasted more than thirty years, and Rare deserves to be commended for that. Rare Replay isn’t necessarily important because the games still hold up today. Its worth isn’t determined by whether or not you can plop a modern teenager in front of a console and keep them entertained with Battletoads. The collection is more about preservation than it is about modern relevance.

Rare Replay

Not only does Rare Replay conserve its history by compiling thirty years of video game efforts, but it also has gathered documentaries about the developer and the games they made. These videos are locked as achievements for progressing through the many games. It’s unfortunate Rare make you wade through games you may not be interested in, in order to learn more about the developer’s history, but it’s nice to see Microsoft really putting an effort forth instead of slapping thirty games together and seeing how much money they can make. Rare Replay isn’t about making old games fun to play for new audiences, it’s about making sure the legacy of a developer, great or not, is kept alive.

Even with the dismissible arcade titles and bumps in the road the collection on the whole is worth owning. While there are some painful omissions, there’s nothing surprising about what was excluded and why. Games like Blast Corps, Battletoads, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Viva Pinata totally validate your purchase of Rare Replay. The collection has it weak points, but Rare Replay is a worthy library of games for fans of the developer or those who missed some of the beloved classics from the stable.

Rare Replay acts as a piece of video game history, and deserves to be celebrated. It’s safe to say that the entire collection won’t speak to everybody, but the beauty of the Rare library is that you’re bound to find at least a few titles that are appealing. Whether you like shooters or platformers, whether you like your games to be tough as nails or casual and laid-back, something in this back catalog might just satisfy your tastes.

Rare Replay
Rare Replay box art Platform:
Xbox One
Our Review of Rare Replay
The Verdict:
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Rare Replay
8 images added Aug 13, 2015 21:11
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