Playing games of yore has become almost as trendy today as enjoying new releases. Xbox had a stroke of genius and blew us away this past E3 (or perhaps trying to make up for previous E3 blunders) when they announced backwards compatibility on the Xbox One. Rare Replay is their first major foray into their retro game catalog: a collection of 30 games from the critically acclaimed developer Rare, packaged together for us gamers to enjoy, at the cost of $30.
Obviously, 30 games is a lot to play in a few weeks, and some of these titles (*cough*Battletoads*cough*) are known to be quite difficult. I’m not going to review every single game in this article; that’s not really the point of Rare Replay and if you want thoughts on these older titles, you can easily find them online. What I am going to do is talk about Rare Replay as a collection, reflection and celebration of the accomplishments of this fine development studio. I tried my best to play all the games in order to give you my overall feeling and thoughts on the collection.
Packaging 30 games from different generations had to be quite the challenge. How do you graphically and technically surround this abundance of games in a product that makes sense for both the old and ‘fairly’ new? The stylings of a circus side show which was used in Rare Replay not only showcases the eclectic nature of this collection, but also celebrates the wit and humour that Rare brings to their games. 8 bit graphics look just as good in this application as the 3D Xbox 360 titles. A game that was originally played at 4×3 ratio is surrounded by a gorgeous illustration of that title. Obviously, the innards of the games have not been updated but it makes the downgrade in graphics much more appealing.
Some games hold up better than others. I found myself more attracted to playing the much older games than those from the Nintendo 64/PlayStation One/Original Xbox era. There is something about old 3D that didn’t age well. When it comes to controls, well let’s just be thankful that the Xbox One controller still has a D-pad! You will need it. I’ve found that the analog was too responsive for games that were not built for it. And thank you Microsoft for adding the Rewind feature! For those of you who watched me stream Battletoads, that feature is the key to getting through a lot of these games. I really was trigger happy 🙂
Now the compilation doesn’t have every Rare game in existence; there are some notable titles missing and that has to come down to the rights owners. While Perfect Dark is in the kit, its predecessor GoldenEye 007 and the Nintendo classic Donkey Kong Country are missing due to licensing issues. To be honest, the collection is so well rounded, I barely noticed they were missing. Besides, age didn’t really treat GoldenEye all that well and there are enough platforming games included like Banjo Kazooie and Conker’s Bad Fur Day that my appetite was satiated. I had enough game time with Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze recently that I wasn’t missing the Kong family.
Along with full games, Rare/Microsoft included a Snapshot gallery. Look at these as you would NES Remix: a series of mini games based around the titles in the collection with specific goals for you to achieve. They are well constructed and a great test of your skills.
Another notable feature are the documentary videos called ‘Rare Revealed’ that give you some insight into the history of this development studio. These must be unlocked using stamps that you collect as you play the games included with Rare Replay. I personally feel that these short videos are the real added value in this collection as it gives insight into at what makes the Rare dev team tick and what inspired these games.
I only ran into one bug but I am not sure if it has to do with Twitch or with Rare Replay itself. While streaming, some games would glitch and crash both apps. When not streaming, I did not encounter this but it was hard to keep track of which game I was playing and which level I was on when the crashes happened. I am mentioning it here just in case you encounter it. It really isn’t a deal breaker.
If you own an Xbox One, you would be amiss to not get your hands on Rare Replay. At $30, it gives you an amazing look at the story of one of the most prolific and oldest development studios, a playable snippet of video game history and 30 games spanning many genres that will give you hours of fun.r. I really hope that this collection becomes a success for Microsoft because I would love to see the same treatment applied to other development studios and game series.