Rare occupies an important place in gaming history, but the quality of the studio’s output has been spotty in recent years. Work on Xbox 360’s avatars and games like Kinect Sports make it easy to forget why Microsoft bought the legendary developer in 2002. Rare Replay serves as a reminder of what the studio once was, and inspires optimism for its future.
Rare Replay does not cover all of the company’s games, but it does a good job picking the ones remembered most fondly by fans. The studio has been around for 30 years, and has released more than 100 games in that time. Minus the games using Nintendo’s characters (who would never appear on a non-Nintendo console) the 30 that made the cut are close to the developer’s best.
The package comes with old favorites like Battletoads, Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Viva Piñata and more. It also has an assortment of arcade classics you may have missed. Some conspicuous exclusions exist, the biggest being GoldenEye, but considering the amount of content, they are easily ignored absences rather than disappointments.
Many of the games have aged poorly, but others are more fun than I remembered. Early games like Jetpac, Atic Atac, and Underwurlde fair the worst, but they deserve a spot on the disc and I’m happy they’re present. Jet Force Gemini proves to be one of the biggest disappointments. Its visuals have aged the worst among all of the Nintendo 64 games, and its controls feel especially off in a post dual control stick world. Others, however, like Blast Corps and Conker, while admittedly rough on the eyes (though not to the extent of Jet Force Gemini) unexpectedly proved to be among my favorite destinations. For every game I remembered being more fun than it actually was, two games surprised me by being better than I recalled.
Check out gameplay footage from Rare Replay in our Test Chamber video.
Every game offers a series of challenges rewarding stamps that open up an assortment of documentaries about the studio, its games, and music. The most worthwhile unlocks, however, are showcases of titles that never made it to release, like Kameo II. These are the hardest to unlock, but serve as worthwhile carrots for spending time with every game.
The package is impressive, and a lot of care and attention was clearly directed toward Rare Replay to make it a worthy anthology of the studio’s work. You can enter and exit any game at any time by holding down the start button, and the older titles offer the ability to rewind gameplay to correct mistakes. I also appreciate the automatic rewards doled out for achievements earned for the Xbox 360 games in the collection you already played. By just looking at Kameo, for example – a game I earned nearly all the achievements for in 2005 – I automatically received a number of stamps all at once.
A series of NES Remix-style challenges focuses on pre-1996 games, pulling specific levels and tasks are pulled from Rare’s early work. I especially enjoyed these, since they gave me the opportunity to experience the best or most interesting parts of vintage Rare without having to spend time practicing and memorizing – an unfortunate requirement of most classic games.
I have little reason not to recommend Rare Replay, even to those who don’t have nostalgia for the studio. The breadth of content is impressive, and each game has been faithfully ported and upgraded in ways that don’t interfere the original experience. It serves as an exciting reminder of Rare’s best years and makes seeing the developer’s iconic blue and gold logo exciting all over again.
For our original review scores for many of the games featured in Rare Replay, head here.