When Rare Replay was first announced at E3 2015, I looked at it is a rather straightforward deal. A compilation for 30 of Rare’s top titles for the Xbox One presents immense value, even if it’s sold for $60. However, the final package is so much more. Not only does Rare Replay contain those 30 games but also features Snapshots, short challenges for retro releases like R.C. Pro-Am, Battletoads and much more which earns you the ability to access some excellent short documentaries on Rare’s history and development process over the years. The ultimate kicker is that Rare Replay costs $30. That’s one classic game for $1 a piece with challenges and all the videos. How is that not a bargain?
"Many of the other games make up for it though. The retro section is fantastic for its breadth and I was ecstatic to re-experience games like Blast Corps and Banjo Kazooie again."
So it’s a given that you should own Rare Replay if you even have the slightest inkling or nostalgia towards any of these games. However, it’s also worth knowing what you’ll be getting into. The 30 games include classics like Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Battletoads Arcade, Saber Wolf and so on. The collection is noticeable for the missing games though including Goldeneye 007 and the Nintendo related properties like Diddy Kong Racing, Donkey Kong Country, Starfox Adventures, etc. This is pretty much a given since it didn’t seem realistic for Nintendo-licensed characters to appear on the Xbox One anyway. Regardless, that’s what you won’t be getting with Rare Replay.
Many of the other games make up for it though. The retro section is fantastic for its breadth and I was ecstatic to re-experience games like Blast Corps and Banjo Kazooie again. It should be noted that many games like Perfect Dark and Jetpac Refueled are actually Xbox Live Arcade titles which originally released on the Xbox 360 and must be downloaded separately to work with Rare Replay. This is all included in the same package but the bad news is that each one of these titles will require a separate update. That’s quite a bit of download time before you can get to some titles.
Some games, especially those released after Microsoft acquired Rare, also don’t really showcase the best that Rare has to offer. Kameo: Element of Power is a fairly decent time waster in retrospect while Viva Piñata is one of the more entertaining new IPs from the studio in a long time. But then there are titles like Grabbed by Ghoulies, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts or Perfect Dark Zero. When you experience the best that Rare has to offer, it’ll be hard to chug through some of the lesser title for completion’s sake.
"Every game brings something to the table, whether it's the odd design of Jet Force Gemini, the fighting game bliss of Killer Instinct Gold, the gargantuan levels and exploration of Banjo-Tooie..."
Also, if you’re a newcomer to all of these games, then you’d best be prepared – Rare Replay immediately thrusts you into the action and leaves you to figure things out for yourself. This is to be expected in many of retro titles but it’s somewhat awkward to get used to some of the old-school elements. Perfect Dark’s lack of waypoints and mini-map make it more difficult than your average casual shooter – it’s also way less forgiving in terms of mission success. It won’t be hard to get into the swing of things but there aren’t any instructions, tutorials or introductions to familiarize yourself with first.
That being said, there’s just way too much gameplay value here to ignore. Many of these games, with the right amount of tweaking, would be right at home with today’s AAA releases. Rare’s character design and atmosphere is still iconic after all these years. Every game brings something to the table, whether it’s the odd design of Jet Force Gemini, the fighting game bliss of Killer Instinct Gold, the gargantuan levels and exploration of Banjo-Tooie or just the entire concept of Blast Corps. You’ll undoubtedly find a few games to treasure more than others but that’s the magic of this collection – it brings those games back to you, just as you remembered them, and throws in a few other quirky experiences as well to tide you over.
If you don’t want to plow through every single other game, you can always head to Snapshots and attempt to complete various challenges based on them. These earn you Stamps and when enough Stamps are acquired, you unlock a new documentary video detailing Rare’s history. If you don’t want to select one challenge at a time, you can enter into the Snapshot Playlist which gives you curated lists of Snapshots to complete.
"At the end of the day, I'm thankful for a compilation like Rare Replay, warts and all. It reveals a company that used to release experiences unique to the industry regardless of the time period."
On the one hand, I appreciate being able to work towards something other than Achievements which can be incredibly rewarding. On the other hand, I can sympathize with people who want the videos to be unlocked beforehand. What if someone just wants to sit back and explore the history of Rare? Why lock them out of many of these excellent videos and force them through the content? Once again, it’s a matter of preference but it would’ve been nice to see the Stamps go towards something else while the videos remained unlocked.
Those worried about the performance of these games on the Xbox One can rest easy – they run incredibly well and deliver fantastic experiences that may have been too heavy for their original consoles. Not everything is hunky dory, especially when it comes to multiplayer in some games like Conker’s Bad Fur Day which still see some frame rate issues when playing split-screen. Some of the oldest games also don’t feel like they’ve been emulated properly though they’re still playable for the most part. You’ll find many of the retro titles come with a “Rewind” button which moves gameplay back by 10 seconds if you hold down the Left Trigger. And boy will you ever need it since games like Snake Rattle ‘N Rolls can be fairly unforgiving for today’s player.
At the end of the day, I’m thankful for a compilation like Rare Replay, warts and all. It reveals a company that used to release experiences unique to the industry regardless of the time period. Even if it didn’t always deliver a top game, it always strove to bring something different to gamers each time. With its beautiful presentation, challenges and the overall content offered here, one can certainly hope that Rare Replay signals a return to the Rare we grew up with and loved.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
30 games, the majority of which run smoother and better than ever. Snapshots mode offers unique twists and challenges. Documentary videos are well made and present a great look at the evolution of Rare. But seriously, 30 games of which Perfect Dark, Blast Corps, Killer Instinct and more for $30.
Documentary videos must be unlocked by completing Snapshot challenges, which some may find irksome. Oldest games have some emulation problems. Not every game is a winner and Rare doesn't do much to ease new players in.