Review: Rare Replay

RarestoryRare Replay is a compilation of titles from Rare’s esteemed thirty year pedigree. There’s thirty titles included all up ranging from the company’s humble beginnings on the ZX Spectrum all through to more recent offerings that appeared on the Xbox 360. For the most part, the selection of games provides a diverse look at Rare’s history in games, and wherever possible most of the titles feel like they’re appropriate for the collection.

But there are definitely some glaring omissions from the collections. Obviously, a large majority of the Nintendo titles that made Rare truly famous are missing, but some versions of the games (like Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Nintendo 64 rather than Conker: Live & Reloaded) may leave some fans disappointed.Rare1Rare have stated in pre-release interviews that these weren’t decisions made lightly, and I definitely can empathise. But thankfully, despite a few (completely subjective) disappointments along these lines, Rare Replay as a compilation is one of the best we’ve seen in a generation rife with such projects that merely up the graphical fidelity and call it a day.

Thankfully, however, Rare have not skimped out with the games they have managed to include. Most (if not all) of the Xbox 360 titles come packaged together with all their released downloadable content. Perfect Dark Zero has its iconic Facility map, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts has its L.O.G. Challenges too. In fact, Rare have even gone the extra mile and included the arcade version of Battletoads which has been quite hard to come by if you didn’t live in Europe. They’ve even tweaked the original Battletoads to be slightly more approachable if you so wish, but more on that later.RarePresentationBeing a compilation of already existing games, the real differentiating factor that Rare Replay has to get right is in how the whole experience is packaged and presented. Thankfully, the creative minds at Rare have put an incredible amount of love and care into Rare Replay – presenting these games in a unique and quirky way only Rare could. It could be very easy to slap a basic menu on that packages all of these games together, but Rare have truly gone above and beyond.

The whole thing is presented like a gallery of sorts with a carnival aesthetic. Every character you love and remember from these games has been deconstructed and altered into puppets who jump and animate across the screen from time to time. Each game you select has a “game stage” constructed to capture the feel and aesthetic of the game it’s representing, and it’s a small yet fantastic touch that really highlights how much love and care has gone into crafting Rare Replay.Rare2The games themselves are a mix of titles with varying graphical quality but for the most part they’re just as you remember them. Some of the Nintendo 64 games, namely those which didn’t appear already in a remastered form (ie. Blast Corps and Conker’s Bad Fur Day) look better in terms of resolution but still suffer from some framerate drops which is disappointing. Similarly, Xbox 360 games are run using the Xbox One’s native backwards compatibility functionality so performance is variable for each of the games – Perfect Dark Zero, for example, doesn’t run any smoother than it did back in 2005.

Each game’s menu also has a unique little tune composed either from or paying homage to already existing music or from scratch, as some of these games didn’t even have soundtracks when they were first released in the early 80s. The attention to detail here is fantastic, and any fan of Rare will recognise the tunes from years past just from a few seconds of these new tracks. There’s even a quirky opening number that references all the characters and games in the compilation – think the DK Rap but with more charm (as if it wasn’t hard).RareGameplay
When you first boot up Rare Replay you’ll be greeted with three options; Rare Revealed, Game Gallery and Snapshots. Game Gallery is exactly as it sounds – exhibiting the thirty games in the collection either in chronological release or alphabetical order.     It’s here where you’ll be spending most of your time so it’s nice to see the menus are intuitive and easy to navigate, for the most part. Games can be loaded into and exited out of wherever the player wishes, with the added benefit of autosaves and save staters for the older games. For those who lack the skill to even think about getting through Battletoads, it even has a rewind function. Those who fear the games original difficulty has been compromised need not – everything is just as it was all those years ago.

But what is baffling, however, is how clumsy and awkward the transitions are between Xbox 360 games and the rest of Rare Replay. Not only do these games install separately to the rest of the package, but launching between the Xbox One’s built-in 360 emulation and the normal Rare Replay package did, on a few situations, mess around with our save files. A proper reboot of the game solved the problem, but it’s something that’s worth mentioning. It is, however, impressive that any cloud saves will automatically work and that the online for these games is cross-platform enabled. But only games that were online previously are online here – there’s no new added online multiplayer for any of the other games in the Rare Replay package.Rare6
To keep things interesting, Rare Replay is wrapped around a ticket system where stamps are awarded for completing certain milestones in-game. These can be as simple as playing or finishing a game or more complicated, with the 360 games having their milestones being tied to their Gamerscore. Did you finish Perfect Dark Zero? Rare Replay will retroactively reward you for achievements gained in old 360 achievements too, which is great. Fill a card with stamps and you’ll rank up, and unlock more scintillating behind the scenes looks at the inner workings of Rare, both past and present, in Rare Revealed.

Rare Revealed is the other major component of the Rare Replay package. It is, once again, a glorified gallery, but it features a lot of new and never before seen video content talking about Rare as a company. From things as simple as reflection on what makes a Rare game, to specific behind the scenes featurettes, players can expect to see hours of cool footage that any fan would appreciate. There’s certainly some nostalgia at play here, but the content is especially intriguing for those who are new to Rare’s catalogue or simply revisiting it.Rare8There’s even some video footage of some of Rare’s more ambitious, but cancelled projects. Concept art reels are provided too, but with commentary. As mentioned previously, Rare could’ve easily just half assed it and cobbled together already existing assets but they’ve really gone the extra mile to curate original content that any fan will enjoy watching. As an added plus, the conversations are incredibly candid too, perhaps providing a reason why there’s a big disclaimer divorcing Rare’s own opinions from Microsofts. Anyone with an interest in Rare, game development or even the industry will enjoy the extra content created for Rare Revealed as it’s incredibly insightful and one of the highlights of the Rare Replay experience.

The games themselves all run and perform like you remember. Some better than others, of course, but the team at Rare have done a great job at emulating the Nintendo 64 titles which, bizarrely, would be the hardest thing to do. Grabbed By The Ghoulies, while not Rare’s most loved title, has been entirely rebuilt from the ground up to run in 1080p, which is a feat in its own. From arcade games to fighters to shooters to platformers, there’s a large variety of games in Rare Replay that’s bound to appeal to anyone. And a large majority of them still play great too.Rare5What perhaps bolsters Rare Replay’s offerings is that it provides a wealth of multiplayer options for players. You can play a heap of the games with friends via split screen whether it be Battletoads, Killer Instinct or even Conker’s Bad Fur Day. These games all perform great with multiplayer and, once again, provide a diverse range of experiences whether it’s competitive or cooperative play you seek. And as we previously mentioned, some of the games even have online play – although at the time of writing a lot of the 360 titles are no longer active online, but perhaps this will change in the near future. Regardless, looking at the possibilities for offline multiplayer and solo play experiences, there’s still a lot of content to get through for a modest asking price without even considering online multiplayer.

The third and final section of Rare Replay is the Snapshot and Playlist modes. They’re a rather minor offering but they bolster an already strong offering. Snapshots are short challenges that give the player a goal to complete and rarely last more than a few minutes. Playlists group together similar Snapshots (ie. All the ones that require the player to survive) to extend the snapshots idea. They are admittedly quite shallow offerings but they are perfect for when you just want to pick up and play the game, earn some stamps but not sink a few hours into everything else.

Rare Replay is clearly a love letter to the fans of Rare that they’ve accumulated across the last three decades, and it’s even clearer that it’s been put together by people who have nothing but respect and care for both their fans and their own catalogue. There’s a wide variety of games (with an open possibility for more) as well as a wealth of options whether you want to play with your friends or by yourself.

But the only thing that stops Rare Replay from being a truly great game is the awkward transitions between the Xbox 360 titles and the rest of the package, as well as some more questionable choices in the titles. Killer Instinct 2 exists for the Xbox One with online functionality, why not include this instead of Killer Instinct: Gold? Where is Conker: Live & Reloaded? These are subjective yet bizarre missteps – but regardless of these Rare Replay represents excellent value for money and will be one of the benchmarks that all compilations should aspire to.

Excellent Variety
Outstanding Presentation
Interesting & Worthwhile Extras
Awkward Xbox 360 Transitions
Some Game Selections & Omissions