Rare Replay Review: One Developer’s History in One Package

Posted in Kulturecade by - October 11, 2015

The long and storied history of the videogame development studio known as Rare is a fascinating tale that reflects the sporadic realities of the videogames industry. Rare was one of the most prominent, highly regarded developers of the late 90’s that created a bevy of titles, some of which are often regarded as the best games for the Nintendo 64 platform. The studio was soon after bought out by Microsoft and put to work developing for the Xbox and Xbox 360. Their works slowed for a number of reasons, but the games they produced always had the same Rare charm that made the studio great.

Enter the Rare Replay Collection, an expansive collection of over thirty games produced by the studio throughout the course of their long lineage, all on one, half-price disc. The collection is missing a number of notable Rare classics that couldn’t be added due to copyrighting issues, but any way you look at it, the Rare Replay Collection is one cracker of a deal.

Included in the package are a number of notable classics that span generations such as the Banjo-Kazooie series (original, Tooie and Nuts & Bolts), the Viva Piñata series, Battletoads, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the Perfect Dark series and the Jet Pack series among many more. All of these games (aside from Grabbed by the Ghoulies) are straight ports from the original games or the remastered versions if they were previously available on Xbox Live Arcade. Also worth noting is the fact that any saved games you had for these titles on Xbox 360 can be imported to the Xbox One, which is a fantastic feature.

A lot of the games included in the collection hold-up very well, despite their aging appearance and out-dated controls. Banjo-Kazooie, Conker, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Viva Piñata and Jet Pack are some of my personal favourites that are still great games to play through. These games all have a certain timeless characteristic that makes them charming and just plain fun. On the flip-side of this, a lot of the older arcade games do not hold up well at all and probably won’t keep your attention for long unless you have a particular reverence for that style of game.

A unique mode called ‘Snapshots’ has also been created for a few of the older arcade games. These are bite-sized, ‘rom-hack’ style challenges that have been created specifically for the Rare Replay Collection that add some longevity to a select few games. The challenges for Jetpack are along the lines of “shoot 10 aliens in 30 seconds” or “beat this level in one minute”. Nothing too crazy or exciting, but it does add a little something extra for those old games. It’s unfortunate that these snapshots weren’t added for every game in the collection, as there is plenty of potential for some awesome challenges to be created, however the decision is understandable when considering the scope of this project.

Each game has been given a unique set of ‘Milestones’, which act as in-game achievements. Completing these Milestones rewards Xbox Gamer Score points and stamps. Collecting enough stamps unlocks additional bonus material such as developer commentary, videos and other such behind-the-scenes media. This behind-the-scenes stuff is fantastic and absolutely fascinating if you have even the slightest interest in the history of Rare or video game development.

The Milestones themselves however, leave a lot to be desired. The games that were previously released on Xbox Live Arcade all have their own set of in-game Achievements, which is great, however the Milestones for these are all simply “achieve 50/75/100 etc. Gamerscore”, which is slightly underwhelming. The Milestones for the games that didn’t have Xbox Live Arcade releases are even more underwhelming, to put it lightly. The majority of these are “play for X amount of time”, “beat X level”, “Jump X amount of times”. These Achievements feel like a completely missed opportunity and to be frank, kind of lazy.

Truth be told, there doesn’t seem to have been a tonne of additional work put into this collection. A nice interface has been created that lets you jump in and out of the games with relative ease and some artistic vignettes have been added for the games that don’t support widescreen, but other than that and the previously mentioned Milestones, Snapshots and bonus-material, there isn’t much more here other than a big collection of old games.

And personally, I think that’s fine. Even if this were a full-priced release, the Rare Replay Collection would still be amazing value. A number of the games included are phenomenal experiences that still play well after so many years. If you own an Xbox One, you would be crazy to not pick up a copy of the Rare Replay Collection and relive some phenomenal gaming experiences from bygone eras. If you’ve played through these games before when they first came out, do yourself a favour and play them again. If you haven’t played many Rare games in the past, I envy you. You are in for a real treat.

Final Say: Play It

This post was written by
Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He's a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You'll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.
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