A rare breed.
It’s been a long 30 years since British development studio Rare released its first game. Originally created under the name Ultimate: Play the Game in 1982, it isn’t just a studio with a lengthy history, but one that has played an important role in the evolution of the gaming industry. With over 120 games made and more than 90 million copies sold around the globe, it has influenced other developers with its masterful design across its genre-extensive portfolio.
To celebrate its 30-year anniversary Rare has put together a special, Xbox One-exclusive collection called Rare Replay. Consisting of 30 of its titles priced at $30, it's a package made first and foremost to celebrate the six generations of gaming history of Rare, and it succeeds in an exceptional way of doing so.
Rare Replay's 30-game cast is loaded with a mixture of iconic and lower-key titles. On one side of the spectrum you have Perfect Dark and Battletoads, games that were regarded as the best of their respective release year. On the other, there’s Atic Atac and Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll. This healthy mixture of titles is great for discovery, as there is a variety of classic games that provide a historical learning experience supported by iconic titles that provide a dependable means of entertainment value.
Each of these 30 games is wrapped in a well-constructed menu that is intuitive and kind on the eyes. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for, and it goes far beyond just throwing all 30 games into a launch hub. Each title has its own page equipped with thematic art along with details regarding the game and its contents. There’s enjoyment to be derived from the simplest of things, including reading about games you may have never played and viewing the Milestones available to unlock before plunging into the experience.
What Rare Replay succeeds most at is making it as easy as possible to jump into games from various generations. Outside of the few Xbox 360-oriented titles included, each game can be booted immediately within the main interface. Within seconds you’re able to play games that previously required a serious investment in time and money to play. Made better, nearly every game runs to its original standard, but with new options including a filter, border, as well as cheats that can make the difficult retro games easier to complete. The only exception to the high standard is Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. It suffered from frame-rate instability on the Xbox 360, and it's only gotten worse with the transition to Xbox One. Surprisingly, other Xbox 360 backward compatibility titles including Perfect Dark Zero aren’t shaken by similar problems. As disappointing as it is, that leaves 29 solid games to play.
Given the age of the games present—ranging from 1983 to 2008—you may be under the impression that you’re only going to get a couple minutes of enjoyment from each game, and that’s where Snapshots and Playlists come into play. Using these two game modes, you’re able to dive into key moments of Rare’s classic roster in an effort to conquer unique challenges. In the case of Snapshots, there are five bite-sized challenges available for 16 of the games in the collection. These range from more straightforward scenarios such as staying alive for a period of time or collecting items to unique formats that bring out the best in each game. Playlists are much more difficult in nature as they function as a series of Snapshots that must be completed successfully in order. Both of these game modes offer a quick way to jump directly into an exciting section of play in the collection’s older titles and enjoy their difficulty without some of the headaches of ages past.
Snapshots and Playlists also come with leaderboard support. In some cases you may find yourself revisiting the most enjoyable challenges to see if you can earn a better rank. The leaderboard can be filtered down to those only on your friends list, providing a halfway form of multiplayer for classic titles. It's worth noting that multiplayer functionality in titles that originally supported it, such as in the case of Perfect Dark, has survived the jump to Rare Replay.
Rare Replay makes an effort to reward you for your progress no matter what game you play. Each of the 30 titles are equipped with Achievements, some more than others, as well as Stamps to be earned by toppling Milestones and Snapshots. For those who may find that unlocking behind-the-scenes footage isn’t enough, the game comes equipped with a staggering 10,000 Gamerscore. That’s more than just about any game in Xbox history, making this an affordable title perfect for Achievement hunters.
Each time you acquire six Stamps, you level up, unlocking a new behind-the-scenes video or musical track in the process. If you’re a fan of video games, then this unlockable content is a joy to experience whether or not you’re a fan of Rare’s catalog due to their stellar production value and the significance of the studio. With over 60 minutes of video detailing how games like Banjo-Kazooie were conceived in addition to first-ever looks at some of Rare’s never released titles, it’s a compelling way to incentive you to pursue goals across the library. However, since unlocking every Stamp requires you to complete just about every game in the collection in addition to their Snapshots, at some point you are likely to steer to YouTube—once they are available—rather than work tirelessly to unlock the rest of the videos and music.
In the event that you don’t end up spending much time in the 16 or so pre-N64 era games included in the collection, it’s still worth the $30 price of admission. Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and the more recent Viva Piñata are extraordinary titles that are as great if not better than just about any new game you’ll play in 2015 at a fraction of the price.
Rare Replay is a momentous celebration of gaming history. The package has been constructed with care and attention to detail, offering gamers of all types a glimpse into the past of one of the industry’s greatest studios. It’s a shame that Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts’ framerate isn't held to a high standard, but all 29 other games have transitioned well onto Xbox One and benefit from some of today's meaningful luxuries. The result is arguably the most thoughtful game collection in history.