There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the works of Rare Ltd. Over the past 30 years, this world renown British developer has produced some of the most beloved and influential titles in video game history. To celebrate their temporal milestone, Rare has packed thirty titles from their diverse catalog onto Rare Replay. Has time been kind to these once revolutionary titles or has quantity trumped quality?
Rare Replay is a delight for anyone interested in the history of video game development. Ranging from 1983’s Jetpack to 2008’s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, players experience the rapid evolution of a burgeoning medium. Gunfright and Knight Lore display the advance sprite work of Rare’s (then named Ultimate Play The Game) ZX Spectrum games. Blast Corps and Banjo-Kazooie represent the experimental days of 3D action games with bulging polygons and large environments. 2007’s Jetpac Refuelled quick-hit arcade fun is a stark reminder of the imposed limitations of early downloadable console titles. A series of unlockable documentaries flesh out the backstory of Rare and their signature titles and even a few canceled projects. More than any previous collection, Rare Replay is an interactive tour of the ever changing hardware and gameplay concepts of the past 32 years.
Fortunately Rare Replay is just as much fun as it is educational. Thanks to a number of gameplay and visual enhancements, many of the titles remain just as engaging as they were decades ago. The ability to rewind 8-bit titles and infinite lives means you can finally beat Battletoads. Right stick camera adjustment and improved visuals, a feature added in an Xbox 360 rerelease, allow Perfect Dark and Banjo-Kazooie to be easily experienced with modern controls. In fact, every visual button prompt has been altered to match the Xbox One’s controller, easing the transition from title to title. Outside of the Xbox 360 titles, holding down the start button returns to the lovingly detailed main menu, making it a breeze to switch between games. For the more social player, over a dozen titles feature local multiplayer as well as online play for nearly every Xbox 360 game.
Sadly a couple of these classic titles don’t translate quite as well. Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Jet Force Gemini suffer from stiff camera controls that frequently interrupt the flow of gameplay. Rare has attempted to rectify this with a patch to Gemini, but the slow horizontal panning can often result in receiving damage from unseen foes. The Xbox 360 games featured in Rare Replay utilize the recently announced Backwards Compatibility with mixed results. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Perfect Dark Zero’s severe framerate issues are a near constant nuisance that make some sequences borderline unplayable. Slowdown is also noticeable in a few ZX Spectrum titles, though it should be noted many Spectrum developers intentionally stressed the hardware in more difficult sequences. These issues could be resolved in a later patch, but at the time of this writing these titles are not recommended.
Rare Replay is a must own title for any nostalgic Xbox One owner. Hidden gems such as Grabbed By The Ghoulies and Digger T. Rock make up for a few less than spectacular ports. The robust multiplayer options and lengthy single player experiences add up to hundreds of hours of superb gameplay. Rare Replay is the new standard for game compilations thanks to it’s thoughtful adjustments to classic games. But it’s the inherent quality of those titles that makes it so enjoyable for new and experienced players. Rare Replay is a wonderful celebration of the breadth and depth of a beautiful library 30 years in the making.