Archives by Day

Rare Replay

Platform(s): Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Rare
Release Date: Aug. 4, 2015


Xbox One Review - 'Rare Replay'

by Adam Pavlacka on Aug. 5, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Rare brings together the adventures of its iconic characters in a collection of 30 games that span the decades.

Spanning 25 years of video games, the 30 titles included in Rare Replay are a collection of some of the best that the company has to offer. The oldest titles in the collection were originally released on the ZX Spectrum computer, which was big in Britain but never really made inroads in North America. In addition to the Spectrum titles, there are games from the original 8-bit NES, the Nintendo 64, Xbox and Xbox 360. There is even an arcade title thrown in for good measure.

The full list of games includes:

Atic Atac (1983)
Atic Atac may be old, but it is essentially a dungeon crawler through an old castle. You have to pick up items, find keys, eat food to replenish your health and figure out how to escape the maze. There are even three different character classes, each of which can use a different type of secret passage.

Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
This is perhaps Rare's best-known title. Originally released for the Nintendo 64, the version on offer here is the XBLA port of the game. Banjo-Kazooie holds up extremely well and is considered a "must play" platformer by fans of the genre.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)
Nuts & Bolts suffered from a negative fan reaction on release, not because it was a terrible game but because it wasn't a platformer like the previous two Banjo games. Instead, Nuts & Bolts introduced vehicle-based gameplay and the ability to customize vehicles LEGO-style. Unfortunately, the version included in Rare Replay has significant frame rate issues that weren't present in the original game.

Banjo-Tooie (2000)
The sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie offers up more of the same. It is basically "bigger" in all respects but otherwise very similar to its predecessor.

Battletoads (1991)
Battletoads has a deserved reputation for being "controller throwing" difficult. This is one of the NES games that everyone played but only the most dedicated ever beat. Thankfully, the glitch that made the game impossible to beat with two players has been fixed for Rare Replay.

Battletoads Arcade (1994)
This is the only game in the collection to have never been released for a home system before Rare Replay. As an arcade game (and a Battletoads game), it is designed to be difficult and eat quarters, but it's not simply a cash-in. In all the ways that matter, Battletoads Arcade is a better game than the NES original.

Blast Corps (1997)
The goal of Blast Corps is to blow up stuff in order to make a path for a convoy that cannot stop. The premise is thin, but the destruction is so much fun. If you missed it on the Nintendo 64, be sure to check it out here.

Cobra Triangle (1989)
Speed boats. Guns. Tropical locations. A sea monster for the box art. Cobra Triangle is a perfect example of the late '80s gaming aesthetic. It's also a pretty fun little outing. Just be sure to hit the ramps straight on if you want to snag the power-ups.

Conker's Bad Fur Day (2001)
When Nintendo and Rare were known for being "family friendly" above all else, the two decided to do something different with Conker's Bad Fur Day. Gameplay is similar to the Banjo games, but the game is loaded with innuendo, violence and vulgar language. If Nintendo ever had a "rebellious teenage moment," this was it. A censored version of the game was ported to the original Xbox, but the version on offer in Rare Replay is the original. Play it; just don't be easily offended.

Digger T. Rock (1990)
This little gem was Spelunky before Spelunky was Spelunky. That's all that needs to be said. The graphics may be simpler, but the gameplay is just as challenging.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003)
This is the only game in the collection to be running as a native Xbox One title. Originally released for the first Xbox, Grabbed by the Ghoulies is a fun little brawler that appears to have aged well. The new coat of paint does wonders. It looks and plays nicely on the Xbox One.

Gunfright (1985)
Track down outlaws and shoot them in the face. This is policing, Old West style.

Jet Force Gemini (1999)
This is a great sci-fi platformer and third-person shooter that is hampered by an incredibly dated control scheme. Getting to play this one is going to require fighting with the controls, especially if you've played anything recent. If any game could've benefitted from the ability to remap inputs in the emulator, this is it.

Jetpac (1983)
The very first game ever released by Rare before it was even Rare. Like some of the other ZX Spectrum titles, Jetpac was released under the Ultimate Play the Game banner. Simple in design but addicting in play, Jetpac grows on you the more you play.

Jetpac Refuelled (2007)
An updated version of the original Jetpac that was released on Xbox Live. Interestingly enough, Jetpac Refuelled contains Jetpac, meaning that Jetpac itself actually appears twice in the collection: once within Rare Replay and once within Jetpac Refuelled.

Kameo: Elements of Power (2005)
Originally planned for the GameCube and then moved to the Xbox before being cancelled at the last minute and ported to the Xbox 360 as a launch title, Kameo had a rough path to release, but the end product is worth it. Bright, colorful and open, Kameo takes Rare's trademark style of gameplay and mixes it with (what was at the time) some impressive visuals. Though it has been outdone in the graphics department, Kameo still looks good and plays well.

Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
The worst entry in the Killer Instinct franchise, KI: Gold is more of a curiosity than anything else. The SNES version of Killer Instinct would have been a better choice.

Knight Lore (1984)
An isometric adventure, Knight Lore mixes action with puzzle-solving. A groundbreaking game upon its release, Knight Lore did for adventure games what Doom did for first-0person shooters. Even if this isn't your typical genre, it's worth checking out just for the historical significance.

Lunar Jetman (1983)
Take the flying and shooting mechanics from Jetpac, toss in a lunar rover, a bomb and an alien base that wants to take you out and you have the basics of Lunar Jetman. It's fast, challenging and relentless.

Perfect Dark (2000)
No, it's not GoldenEye, but Perfect Dark is just as good. This is the shooter that introduced heroine Joanna Dark to the world. All of the modern first-person shooter conventions are here, and the gameplay still holds up today. The Xbox 360 remake is the version included in Rare Replay.

Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
As awesome as Perfect Dark was, Perfect Dark Zero isn't quite as hot and didn't age well. It was a decent selection as a launch title, but looking back, everything about it feels dated, including the blatant Samsung in-game advertising on the title screen.

R.C. Pro-Am (1987)
You get to race little RC cars on a track. It's fun and addicting, and has appeared on countless "Best of NES" lists, but the sequel is better.

R.C. Pro-Am II (1992)
You get to race little RC cars on a track. The second installment offers up everything that was in the original, along with a better upgrade system. This is the definitive version of the game.

Sabre Wulf (1984)
Sabre Wulf has you adventuring through a jungle with nothing but a sword. The concept is good, but the game runs extremely fast, with large collision maps. If this is the same speed that it ran at on real hardware, then progress is more luck than skill, especially since your weapon has very little reach.

Slalom (1986)
Speed your way down the mountain and get through the gates while avoiding hazards, such as trees and other skiers. Gameplay is basic. The variety is in the number of courses.

Snake Rattle N Roll (1990)
In order to play Snake Rattle N Roll, you need to hold your controller at a 45-degree angle. If you don't, the directions are skewed. Once you have that down, be prepared for a challenging NES game that offers a mix of platforming and puzzle-solving. This is the type of game that makes for a great speed run, assuming you have the skills to master it.

Solar Jetman (1990)
Developed by another company for Rare, Solar Jetman is arguably not a "Rare game" in the most technical sense, but as far as look and feel is concerned, it fits right in. The game uses rockets and inertia to good effect as you navigate your way across multiple worlds. It's simple in concept but difficult to master.

Underwurlde (1984)
Much like Sabre Wulf, playing Underwurlde feels more like luck than skill. The game runs very fast, and the lead character bounces around like a maniac. You'll probably check it out once and then never play it again.

Viva Piñata (2006)
This is Rare's cute and cuddly virtual garden program. An open-ended sandbox game, Viva Piñata is kind of like The Sims, except with cute animals and pretty plants. It's also a great game for families to play.

Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (2008)
Officially a sequel, Trouble in Paradise is more like the definitive version of Viva Piñata. Yes, you can play the original, but this is everything the original has and more.

Twenty one of the games are included in the main Rare Replay collection, with the remaining nine Xbox 360 games installing separately. With the exception of Grabbed by the Ghoulies, which was ported to the Xbox One, all of the games are running under emulation. This doesn't mean that they are all 100% identical to the originals, but most changes are minor. For example, the Nintendo logo has been removed from the Nintendo 64 games, and the copyright screens have been updated on some titles.

For the most part, the emulation is solid, with two notable exceptions. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which uses the Xbox 360 Backward Compatibility feature, has significant frame droppage in Showdown Town, the central hub world. It's not unplayable, but it is quite choppy. This is likely due to the fact that the Xbox 360 BC emulator used on the Xbox One forces vsync. Doing so eliminates screen tearing but at the cost of lower visible frame rate.

The other big issue that I ran into while running through the games had to do with the sound in Blast Corps. Originally a Nintendo 64 game, Blast Corps ran fine in the emulator until I brought up the Rare Reply menu to check the control settings. After that, the sound from the emulator went completely silent. I could still hear sound from the Rare Replay menus, but the game was dead silent until I quit and restarted.

Smaller technical hiccups included Kameo: Elements of Power failing to start with a "dirty disc" error (that was resolved by rebooting the Xbox One) and Jetpac Refuelled not being recognized by the Rare Replay application. All of the other games could be launched from within Rare Replay. Instead of launching Jetpac Refuelled, Rare Replay instead brings up the game's store page, and you have to launch it from there.

Thankfully, none of the technical issues are complete deal-breakers. They're annoying, but they don't keep you from playing, which is the most important part since the majority of games in the Rare Replay collection are worth playing. The only real stinkers are Killer Instinct: Gold, Perfect Dark Zero, Sabre Wulf and Underwurlde.

Jet Force Gemini gets an honorable mention under "games with issues," but that's only because the original control scheme is the only real option. Yes, we all lived with it back in the day, but trying to go from a modern shooter to the oddly mapped configuration is frustrating. There is an engaging game underneath, but you need to fight the controls to uncover it. To be clear, the game is accurate to the original experience. It just uses a very odd button mapping configuration.

In addition to the games, Rare Replay also offers some behind-the-scenes videos and remixed content dubbed "snapshots." The videos are slowly unlocked as you progress through each of the included games. A handful can be quickly unlocked just by starting up each game within Rare Replay at least once, though you'll have to work for the later ones.

Snapshots are Rare Replay's attempt at providing specific challenges. Only 16 of the games have snapshot challenges, and the rest are left out. Snapshot challenges aren't exactly remix attempts (so don't go expecting Battletoads in R.C. Pro-Am), but they're specific goals that seem to be designed to make you a better player.

Oddly missing from the collection are the original game manuals. Yes, Rare Replay has a basic right text guide via the Xbox One's help system, but that is a poor imitation of the original thing. Back when the majority of these games were produced, manuals were just as important as the game itself, since the manuals delivered both story and tips on how to best play. Not having scanned versions of the originals seems like a big missed opportunity.

The other missed opportunity is the lack of cross-buy support for the Xbox 360 titles in the collection. All of the Xbox 360 games include all of their respective DLC (which is awesome), but the licenses are only valid for the Xbox One. Buying a digital copy of Rare Replay does not add the Xbox 360 games to your download queue for the original console. On the one hand, that makes sense since this is an Xbox One title, but on the other, these are Xbox 360 games running under emulation, and Xbox Live is a service, so the consumer expectation is there. Additionally, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts runs much better on the original hardware than under emulation.

Ultimately, Rare Replay is a must-buy title if you have even a passing interest in a handful of the included games. While the technical issues prevent it from being an ideal collection, the value justification is impossible to ignore. The majority of these games are great choices, and at an average price of $1 a game (even less if you get it on sale), you're not really missing out even if you end up not liking a few.

Score: 8.5/10

More articles about Rare Replay
blog comments powered by Disqus