Gaming nostalgia with Rare Replay (Review)

rare-replay-coverClassic game compilations have been a popular staple for consoles for many years now with publishers such as Atari, Capcom and Sega revisiting their classic arcade or console titles from years past. The Midway Arcade Treasures compilations on the original Xbox were a favourite of mine not only for the games (Robotron: 2084) but for the behind the scenes videos, including some from Robotron and Defender creator Eugene Jarvis.

Microsoft might not seem like a publisher able to do anything remotely like that (at least outside of Halo) but it turns out they do thanks to developer Rare who has been in the business now for over thirty years. Their history covers multiple games and platforms over that time and with Rare Replay we get to see a lot of it in a way that is welcoming, enjoyable and most importantly shows a lot of love for the work.

It’s pretty remarkable to see the amount of varied emulation solutions that are in place here for all these games. Not only are there Spectrum games but you’ve got NES and N64 games too, a full port of Xbox game (Grabbed by the Ghoulies) as well as the first batch of Xbox 360 backward compatible titles.

It was joked at the time that thanks to Rare Replay the Xbox One had more Nintendo games than the WiiU Virtual Console in the USA. Whether that’s true or not, having a number of notable games from Nintendo’s platform on Xbox must have helped convince a number of fans to jump in.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies ported across nicely to the Xbox One.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies ported across nicely to the Xbox One.

The following are included in the compilation (grouped by year):

  • Jetpac, Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac (1983)
  • Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore (1984)
  • Gunfright (1985)
  • Slalom (1986)
  • R.C. Pro-Am (1987)
  • Cobra Triangle, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (1989)
  • Solar Jetman, Digger T. Rock (1990)
  • Battletoads (1991)
  • R.C. Pro-Am II (1992)
  • Battletoads Arcade (1994)
  • Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
  • Blast Corps (1997)
  • Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
  • Jet Force Gemini (1999)
  • Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie (2000)
  • Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
  • Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003)
  • Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
  • Viva Pinata (2006)
  • Jetpac Refuelled (2007)
  • Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)

There are some conspicuous titles missing from the list. GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong Country are the most notable which fall under the Nintendo umbrella. There’s also Conker: Live and Reloaded which was the Xbox version of Conker’s Bad Fur Day; that might be due to the multiplayer modes being tied to the original Xbox’s now defunct service. As expected, there are no Kinect games to be found here either.

It’s worth mentioning that the installation of Rare Replay is going to hit your HDD where it hurts as the Xbox 360 games (both disc and XBLA titles) are all additional downloads that will leave a massive queue on your console while. If you’re on a slow connection, be prepared to wait if you want to get at everything. If you were Xbox 360 gamer, there may not be a big incentive to have digital versions of Rare’s later games as you might already own them but considering what you get within the whole package for the price it comes out to be a pretty good deal.

The games take center place in Rare Replay's main menu, but the rest of the content is just a short step away, if you've unlocked it.

The games take center place in Rare Replay’s main menu, but the rest of the content is just a short step away, if you’ve unlocked it.

The compilation is structured into different areas: one for the games (Game Gallery), one for archives (Rare Revealed) and another for challenges (Snapshots). The basic premise is that for every game you play and challenge you complete, a virtual ticket is stamped. As you complete tickets you unlock content in the archives. The challenges are pretty neat as they don’t require you to play the whole game, only complete a section necessary to complete it. They appear to start off easy and increase in difficulty on the later ones.

It’s a nice idea that convinces you to at least give each game a go but it’d have been nice to at least have some content available from the outset to give you as taste of what you’d be playing for. It also means some items may never be seen which is a bit of a shame for a product meant to celebrate this developer’s achievements.

The early Spectrum games might be treated as mostly curiosities but they are playable and you could certainly see them working in modern updates for console or mobile. Jetpac Refuelled is a decent example of that and it is surprising more of their back catalogue wasn’t leveraged this way. It’d certainly add to Microsoft’s number of platform exclusives.

There’s definitely a few (relatively) modern games that are worth checking out. The port of Grabbed by the Ghoulies looks great and is a fun little game that will appeal to younger players thanks to its relatively simple controls and Scooby-Doo style.

From the 360 side not only is there the XBLA versions of Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie (which of course come via the Nintendo 64) but there’s also the cheerful and relaxing Viva Pinata games which still look quite impressive thanks to their inspired cutesy papermache animals. Kameo holds up well as a platformer/adventure with some great moments and crashing through fields of enemies doesn’t get old too either. Perfect Dark Zero was a launch shooter on the 360 which felt like it was trying to fill a Halo sized hole and though it might not be fondly remembered by many I still love the Bond-style intro.

To keep the died hard Xbox gamers occupied the compilation in total provides up to 10,000 gamerscore spread across the games within Rare Replay as well as the 360 BC games. You might have to work pretty hard to get them all!
For anyone who are fans of any part of developer Rare’s extensive history, this is a great way to treat yourself to a big steaming cup of nostalgia. Hopefully in time we might even see enough new games from them in the coming years to fill a volume two. 🙂

Rare Replay is out now on Xbox One.

Note: I was hoping to grab a few more screenshots for this review but ran into some early technical hurdles transferring them all to OneDrive. I did however find a great video from Arrekz Gaming that covers all the games in the compilation and have included it below.

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