Rare Replay Review for Xbox One
It’s been easy to forget about Rare. Sorry, Rare, but since the launch of the original Kinect for Xbox 360 back in 2010, you’ve been kind of invisible to anyone who doesn’t care about motion controls. Which is most of us at this point, right? But, before the Kinect Sports series, Rare produced a diverse range of innovative games, and this 30th anniversary celebration is a timely reminder of why Microsoft paid a mind-boggling $375 million to own it in the first place.
What you actually get here are games both from Rare and its celebrated precursor Ultimate Play The Game, drawn primarily from the ZX Spectrum, NES, N64 and Xbox 360. It’s a real mixed bag, comprising established hits as well as lesser-known games – no matter whether you’re looking for a quick hit or a lengthy adventure, there’s something to get your teeth into here. The beautifully presented package also includes a healthy dose of bonus content like some fascinating insights into games that never made it off the drawing board.
The oldest and most basic games in the package are the ZX Spectrum games, of which there are seven: Jetpac, Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore and Gunfright. They’re all important to the Rare story and were big hits in the early Eighties, but they’re a bit of a mixed bag today. While Underwurlde was never that good in the first place, well-regarded games like Sabre Wulf are much more difficult than the games most players are used to today. On the other end of the scale, Jetpac is still an excellent arcade-style shoot-’em-up. The emulation is great, with games presented at the original 4:3 aspect ratio with attractive border artwork. There’s a filter which emulates the old CRT TV look surprisingly well, with the traditional curved edges, fuzzy RF input and scan lines.
Onto the NES games! We’ve got Slalom, RC Pro-Am, Cobra Triangle, Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll, Solar Jetman, Digger T Rock, Battletoads and RC Pro-Am II. There’s some truly excellent stuff here – we’d overlooked Slalom when Rare Replay was announced, but it turned out to be surprisingly addictive. The likes of RC Pro-Am and Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll are also excellent, and amazingly the former doesn’t feel redundant despite the inclusion of its sequel. Elsewhere, the legendarily difficult Battletoads is a good example of the work that has been done on this compilation – the Rare Replay version fixes a bug from the original game which rendered one level literally impossible to complete in co-op.
The N64 contingent consists of two distinct sets of games. Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie and Perfect Dark are the enhanced versions as released on Xbox 360, and run through the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility mode. As such, they include widescreen support and other various bonuses. The other set is emulated, and consists of Killer Instinct Gold, Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. The emulation work here has gone into enhancing the 3D visuals of the original games, and for the most part this works a treat – Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini and Conker’s Bad Fur Day all look awesome. 2D elements look blurred and indistinct, which is a limitation of the low-res source material and doesn’t affect those games too badly. Unfortunately, Killer Instinct Gold looks like a real mess as the fighters are 2D sprites. Still, it’s one of the few weak games anyway, so if you’re like us you may not spend too much time on it.
Then there are the Xbox 360 games: Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, Jetpac Refuelled, Viva Pinata, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Viva Piñata: Trouble In Paradise. All of these run through backwards compatibility and retain their original achievements, so if you already played these games on your Xbox 360, you won’t be able to score some easy points by retreading old ground.
There are a couple of outliers in the package, too. Battletoads Arcade has never been released on a home console before and is an amusingly brutal beat-’em-up, albeit one that is amongst the cheapest credit-suckers of the mid-Nineties. Grabbed By The Ghoulies, the lone original Xbox outing, has come out astonishingly well – while the combat is slightly awkward just as it was back in 2003, the visuals have been boosted to 1080p at 60 frames per second and it looks phenomenal.
While much has been made of the absence of some of Rare’s biggest hits such as GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong Country, we don’t have any problems there – such licensing issues are unavoidable. However, we do have a couple of gripes. Firstly, we’re surprised that the Game Boy Advance was completely overlooked – we’re sure that someone out there would have liked to have seen It’s Mr Pants or more Banjo games. Secondly, the documentary extras are unlocked in a set order, rather than your preferred order. Not a huge deal, just kind of annoying.
However, these minor criticisms don’t diminish the fact that Rare Replay is an astonishing collection, whether you’re a hardcore Rare fan, a veteran gamer or just someone who appreciates excellent games. It’s a great retrospective on an important developer, but it’s also a fantastic set of games. And at the budget price point it’s been released at, it’s an essential part of your collection, because nothing else on the console will offer so much entertainment for your money.