Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: August 4
Rare, despite being relegated to a mostly support role in Microsoft for the past few years, has been in the games business for over 30 years with a ton of games under their belt covering pretty much every generation to some extent. So it seems high time that Rare got a collection of their own and they now have in Rare Replay, an Xbox One exclusive at an attractive $30 price featuring 30 of Rare’s games spanning way back from the mid-1980s to their last actual game they made, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts in 2008.
There’s no arguing that you get a lot of gaming per buck, I mean Rare Replay literally costs $1 per game included. And many of these games are being made available for the first time on a Non-Nintendo system because that’s where Rare really made its mark. But collections, especially ones focused on bygone eras, can be a double-edged sword, with nostalgia being replaced by the fact that games haven’t aged well, were poorly emulated or just weren’t that good to begin with. Does Rare Replay fall into that category? Read on to find out.
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There are a lot of collections out there, and for my money the best collection is easily Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. It’s all 16-bit, but for $20 you got nearly 50 games. There’s no arguing value for pure content there. And there are some true gems included such as Sonic 2, Beyond Oasis, Shining Force II, the 16-bit Phantasy Star games, etc. But there’s also a lot of awful garbage on there, some of which I used to remember pretty fondly til I played it again. Altered Beast is pathetic. Fatal Labyrinth. which I spent HOURS on in my youth, really did not age well. And all Comix Zone ever had going for it was it’s unique look, it was a cheap and not fun at all brawler.
Rare Replay suffers from a similar problem, and I think it’s to a much bigger extent. As in, any of the games from the ZX spectrum era are completely unplayable. Not only are they ridiculously obtuse, they control horribly and often you have no clue what you are doing and just die a bunch. Dark Souls isn’t for masochists, any Rare game from the 1980s is (and they all look roughly the same, occasionally with a different perspective).
And while the NES/SNES era games have their charming moments, none of them have really aged very well or again, weren’t good to begin with. Battletoads still looks insanely good for an NES game, but it’s so incredibly cheap that it’s almost no fun to play, and I’m not even talking about that impossible bike level. The ultra-rare arcade port is even worse. It’s not as cheap surprisingly, as it’s a straight-up quarter munching brawler, but it’s also absolutely no fun.
For me, things finally picked up in the N64 era stuff. Conker’s Bad Fur Day hasn’t aged well. It’s got bad camera issues and the humor is dated and juvenile and only kids way too young for it would find it funny, making it pretty painful to sit through. Killer Instinct Gold is virtually unplayable, as it is just not a great game to begin with and moves far too slow. Jet Force Gemini is noteworthy in that it’s one of the first 3D action shooter games, but with a terrible camera and bad manual aiming the novelty wears off fast. But both Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel are perfectly decent platformers, even if they are way too bogged down with collectibles. Blast Corps is very simple but also a lot of fun. And Perfect Dark is still a blast to play.
A collection should either be extensive with very few gaps or just the cream of the crop fine-tuned to a T for whatever platform it’s being remade for. Rare Replay just feels very slapdash in this regard.
So then we get to the more or less final era of Rare Replay, which is the Xbox/Xbox 360 era. There’s the now infamous Grabbed by The Ghoulies, which got absolutely savaged upon its release. Playing it so many years later, it’s not completely terrible, but not great either. Finally there’s the part of Rare Replay you probably have played at some point if you own a 360. The perfectly all right Kameo, the abysmal Perfect Dark Zero, the underrated Viva Pinata games (my personal favorites of this collection) and their last attempt at a real game for many years, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, in which the vehicle building is actually pretty fun, but comes at the expense of good platforming, which is what Banjo & Kazooie fans were actually looking for.
Rare Replay does offer a staggering amount of extras not only in concept art, but behind the scenes videos & even looks at games that never came to fruition. Some of the footage frankly doesn’t paint Rare in a great light (i.e. they fully admit Battletoads is a straight up TMNT rip-off (duh) and made mostly because they thought it had a lot of merchandising potential, WHAT VISIONARIES), but it’s all interesting. The big problem is all of it is locked behind achieving various arbitrary goals, which make you play way more than you’d ever want to. Why on Earth is this content locked at all? Good way to assure most people won’t see a lot of it.
Despite Rare Replay‘s massive collection, the real problem is still the huge missing gaps in their gaming history. I’m sure it’s due to licensing issues and whatnot, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of their most memorable games are simply not here. So what Rare Replay ends up being is clearly whatever they could get their hands on and not spend too much time or money licensing to keep this collection at a budget price. I mean, I’d trade every crappy ZX Spectrum title for California Games, for example. A collection should either be extensive with very few gaps or just the cream of the crop fine-tuned to a T for whatever platform it’s being remade for. Rare Replay just feels very slapdash in this regard.
The ultimate question you have to ask yourself here (as with many huge collections of games) do the handful of good games outweigh the bad enough to make this worth your money? With Rare Replay I lean towards a yes, but only slightly, as this collection just has too many hoops to jump through to unlock the extra content and I can’t see this collection holding people’s attention for any long periods of time.
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