Review: Rare Replay
Simply going on quantity Rare Replay sets a new standard for the compilation videogame. The collection is made up of thirty titles spanning a length of time not far off the entire duration of videogame history. Beginning with Jetpack in 1983 and ending with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts in 2008, it moves from retro to modern and strikes an interesting balance between old and new games.
Whilst not a complete anthology, Rare Replay does include games from all key stages of the developer’s history. Due to licensing issues from Rare working as a second party developer for Nintendo there’s a few notable omissions from the collection – namely the Donkey Kong Country games and of course
Goldeneye StarFox Adventures. As the trademarks for their own intellectual properties were retained this doesn’t effect other Nintendo classics such as Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Perfect Dark. In total there’s enough great games on offer to help overlook any missing titles.
The games are presented through an impressive looking interface that elevates the compilation as more than simply a legal ROM collection. Menus are brought to life using art from the games, and the older titles can be played inside detailed and well crafted boarders that preserve the original 4:3 aspect ratio, and offset the difference in size between the old TVs they were designed for and the new TVs everyone now owns. With the pre-Nintendo 64 games there’s further emulator style feature – notably save states and an instant rewind options. This makes the games a lot easier, and whilst those looking for a serious retro challenge may be disappointed by the ability to effectively cheat the game, it does help elevate some of the older and more archaic titles to a more playable state.
And yeah, in some ways Rare Replay feels as much of a celebration of Rare’s bad games as their good ones. The collection also spans such a variety of consoles and a large period of time that for most gamers it will be a mix of familiar and unfamiliar titles. Depending on how old you are, and subsequently which era of Rare history you grew up with, will likely effect how you enjoy Rare Replay. For me it’s Nintendo 64 Rare that delivers the strongest nostalgic value – and lets face it – this was the point at which they were making their best games. Going back to these titles is something I’ve enjoyed a lot, especially the two I don’t own for the Nintendo 64 – Conker and Banjo-Kazooie 2, which are incidentally two of the console’s most expensive and rare (pun intended) games.
Meanwhile another gamer may find the same enjoyment from the ZX Spectrum era of Rare’s catalogue. The oldest console I own is the NES, I’ve never had a ZX Spectrum – and whilst I found its games interesting from a historical point of view, I can’t say I had much fun playing Attic Attack.
Moving forward in time and the Xbox 360 section of Rare Replay is surprisingly great. Banjo-Kazoo: Nuts & Bolts, Viva Piñata and Kameo: Elements of Power are all excellent, and Perfect Dark: Zero is, err, okay. Here the games can be enjoyed without the issues of age being a factor. You don’t need a rewind button before the game becomes playable, you don’t need nostalgia to add to the fun, and you don’t have to deal with a camera that rotates in the wrong direction.
Unfortunately it’s here in the 360 department that Rare Replay runs into some structural issues. Whilst the older games are played inside the collection, the Xbox 360 games make use of the Xbox One’s new backwards compatibility features, and exist in their original format, running on emulated software.
This is mainly detrimental to the experience but does have a couple of upsides. In particular there’s the option to boot the games from the Xbox One dashboard as well as the Rare Replay menu. This highlights how substantial the compilation really is; it includes plenty of titles that hold up outside the frame of the collection.
These games will work with existing saves and achievements, if you’re half way through one of them on 360 (as I was with Banjo-Kazoo: Nuts & Bolts) this is a useful feature. If you’re playing through one again (for me this is Kameo, which I last completed almost ten years ago) then it’s disappointing to find the game lacking in enhancements or new achievements/challenges. There are stamp unlocks within Rare Replay, but these are simply linked to GamerScore milestones and do not modify the original title’s targets. This is a particular shame for Perfect Dark: Zero, which (as with many 360 launch games) has a tedious and unbalanced achievement list.
This also means increased load times when booting from the Rare Replay menu and returning to it, and each game requires an individual update. Xbox 360 logos and a partial incorporation of the Xbox 360 user interface further damage the game’s presentation values, and occasional slowdown from the emulation is disappointing too.
Whilst running the Xbox 360 games on an emulated Xbox 360 does make a degree of sense, running half of the Nintendo 64 games on it doesn’t. Here Rare takes an axe to the selection, chopping it into two distinct categories – those that were re-released on Xbox Live Arcade and those that were not. This is detrimental to the experience of Banjo-Kazooie 1 & 2 and Perfect Dark. Meanwhile the presentation of Conker, Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini and Killer Instinct: Gold is pretty much faultless.
Rare Replay offers a lot, and includes awesome games covering a large span of time. There’s a lot of room to pick favourites, but with its mix of great 360 titles, classic retro games, and some of the best Nintendo 64 games ever made, there’s definitely something for everyone. Whilst the Xbox 360 emulation isn’t ideal, this is only a small detraction from a well thought out and impressive package. Scoring the games individually is perhaps a challenge for another day, and their collective quality can’t be summarised with a single number, so for now here’s the verdict on the compilation – pretty damn good, eight out of ten.