Published Aug 04, 2015Repackaging old games for new audiences began as a welcome shift in future-forward gaming culture, which had historically abandoned past-gen games as graphic fidelity improved with each console iteration. Inevitably, cynical cash-grabs followed, but the retro rerelease get its reputation back with Rare Replay, a 30th anniversary package that condenses the studio's history onto a single disc/download.
Okay, so not entire history. Rare Replay does make a major misstep. The British studio may have begun in the early '80s, but it reached, shall we say, rarefied heights in the mid '90s with their work-for-hire Nintendo 64 classics Donkey Kong Country and GoldenEye 007, a James Bond tie-in that changed first-person shooters. Both are unfortunately absent here, presumably due to rights issues. (They not only made games for Nintendo but also were partially owned by them.)
Still, there are 30(!) other games on offer, beginning with their 1983 and 1984 efforts like Lunar Jetman and Underwurlde back when the company, founded by brothers Chris and Tim Stamper, was known by the awkward moniker Ultimate Play The Game. These titles were created for the forgotten early computer ZX Spectrum and the iconic but presumably no less primitive Commodore 64. These vector graphics games are essentially historical footnotes, lacking the nostalgia factor of, say, Activision's Pitfall, but still welcome as a way of demonstrating how the artform has evolved. (One way is the difficulty of levels, which were way harder and less saveable once upon a time, though Rare has tried to ameliorate that with a rewind button).
In fact, the compilation itself acts as a history lesson for younger gamers, offering up the game equivalent of DVD special features, including concept art, music and a wealth of unlockable video clips, documenting Rare's rise and the making of several of its most famous titles. There's also Snapshots, which functions somewhat like NES Remix as far as repurposing game segments with specific challenges.
Oh, and for the full throwback experience, there's a special CRT filter for the '80s and early '90s games that make your fancy flatscreen look like it's coming out of an old-timey cathode-ray tube.
Rare began coming into its own after hooking up with Nintendo for NES racing games like Slalom and RC Pro-Am and bizarre beat-em-up Battletoads, a Double Dragon-like side-scroller, but the best Rare games came out on the N64, from charming platformers like Conker's Bad Fur Day and Banjo-Kazooie, to third-person shooter Jet Force Gemini and first-person shooter Perfect Dark, a spiritual sequel to Goldeneye that builds on its brilliant mechanics.
The Stamper Brothers eventually sold the company to Microsoft, and the package includes a number of games that run on a separate Xbox 360 emulator, which is kind of annoying. (Though it's pretty cool that it remembers any saves you may have had.) The highlights here are the Banjo sequel Nuts & Bolts, action-adventure launch game Kameo and the Sims-meets-Animal Crossing gardening game Viva Piñata.
Rare Replay is undoubtedly a great deal, but it's also great to just get gamers playing old titles to remind them that creativity matters more than graphic fidelity when it comes to sheer enjoyment. (Rare/Microsoft Studios)