2015 marks Rare’s 30th anniversary, making them one of the longest running developers in the industry, and what better way to celebrate than having a trip down memory lane? Rare Replay is the first game in Microsoft’s fall 2015 line-up and it starts with a bang, particularly a bang for your buck. Rare Replay contains thirty games throughout Rare’s library ranging from popular classics like Banjo-Kazooie to obscure games such as Underwurlde. All of these games in one package raises some questions: Do they all work? Do they still hold up? Are controls fixed? Well, let’s find out.
The games in Rare Replay range from games that came out all the way in 1983 (back when Rare was known as Ultimate Play The Game) to 2008 so the graphics won’t blow anyone away. But it is an impressive showcase of how far gaming has come; from the simplistic dully colored Gunfright to the beautiful colorfulness of Viva Pinata. Some of these games do hold up well actually, the original Battletoads is about as good-looking as an 8-bit game can get and stands tall with modern retro-styled games such as Shovel Knight. While the cartoony characters of the Banjo games and Conker’s Bad Fur Day help make their blocky graphics almost seem like a stylistic choice instead of a necessity. Perfect Dark in particular look good due to the Xbox 360 remake being used instead of the original Nintendo 64 version; sadly, Jet Force Gemini didn’t have the same fate and might be the worst looking game in the collection.
One thing to note about Rare Replay is the beautifully done menu system. The menus are in the style of a theatrical play and it gives plenty of love to every game. I had fun just looking at the menus of the games that I already liked due to how well made they were. There was clearly a lot of love put behind this game and the menus are proof of that.
Thirty games in Rare Replay means that there’s thirty stories to tell; however, most of the stories are nothing to write home about as Rare has almost always focused on gameplay the most. The stories range from generic fantasy stories (Underwurlde, Knight Lore) to ’90s Saturday morning cartoons (the two Battletoads games) to cartoon fairy tales (the first two Banjo games) to sci-fi spy stories (Perfect Dark and its sequel). The stories in these games do their jobs, but they’re nothing to write home about. A lot of the games do have a sense of humor which is one of Rare’s best traits, the Banjo games having some particularly funny moments.
However, there is one exception to this: Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Conker is one of the few games that successfully blends video games and comedy together, resulting in a game that’s just as fun to play as it is to watch and see what humorous things happen next. The game has a wide range of humorous topics such as the risqué (how did they get away with that flower!?), toiler humor (literally) and even insane movie parodies. If you want a game with a story that’ll keep you entertained then Conker should be your first stop in Rare Replay.
The sound is another area of Rare Replay that shows how far video games have come as a medium. The game starts off with the simplistic beeps and boops of Jetpac all the way to Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts which has so many unique sounds and a fantastic orchestral soundtrack.
If there’s one thing Rare does well, it’s their soundtracks. Almost every game from Battletoads on has a score with at least one song that will get caught in your head; the whole soundtrack to the first Banjo game is ingrained into my mind. Rare Replay‘s list of composers contains such icons as David Wise, Grant Kirkhope and Robin Beanland; not many companies can compete with the music that has come out of Rare and Rare Replay definitely shows it.
Gameplay has been one of Rare’s main focuses as a company, it’s what’s made them so beloved. However, this doesn’t mean that every game in Rare Replay still holds up; in fact, I don’t think the majority of the pre-Battletoads games play well in modern times. Games such as Lunar Jetman and Knight Lore just throw you into the game while giving you no clue of what do; it’s incredibly jarring in a day and age where games give you crystal clear ideas of what your objective is. The early games don’t control all too well either, games like RC Pro-Am have very wonky controls that take some time to get used to.
However, once we reach Battletoads the gameplay becomes excellent. Games such as Battletoads Arcade and Perfect Dark can still hang with the best of their respective genres; while Banjo-Kazooie is arguably the best 3D platformer of all-time with Banjo-Tooie not being far behind. It’s an outstanding accomplishment that Rare has produced this many games that have seemingly aged like fine wine.
Rare has even updated several games to have more “modern” control styles, particularly Jet Force Gemini which had been a source of speculation pre-release.
It’s important to note that as of this writing, some of the Xbox 360 titles have frame rate issues; Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts in particular. This is most likely due to those games running through the Xbox One’s new backwards compatibility system, hopefully these issues will be fixed when backwards compatibility officially launches in November.
Rare Replay is an achievement in multiple ways. Not only is it an achievement that all of these games actually work (especially with problems recent collection games have run into), but it is an achievement that many of these games withstand the test of time and are as fun now as they were when they originally released. While Rare Replay might not have all of Rare’s best games due to licensing issues (Goldeneye and their Donkey Kong games sadly couldn’t join the fun), it still proves that Rare is one of the best developers in the industry and that they’re finally back. Rare Replay is a must buy for any Xbox One owner, there’s sure to be a game for everyone in it.
Rare Replay is available now, only on Xbox One.