If you’re reading this with any interest, odds are you’ve heard of Rare. Their legacy is still most closely tied to Nintendo’s not-so-glorious days, thanks to a bear, a bird, and a backpack. It’s been a long time since then, and a reunion is in order. Fortunately, these classics have aged quite well.
Nintendo’s cart-based holdout is arguably the console that made Rare a household name. Banjo Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Perfect Dark are shoo-ins for inclusion in any greatest hits-style compilation from the company best known for making the N64 a good place to play. What pleased me most, however, were the games I didn’t think would merit inclusion: Blast Corps. and Jet Force Gemini.
Both games enjoy something of a cult-hit status among N64 devotees, but aren’t necessarily regarded as essential titles for N64 gamers, though, in my mind they should be. Getting to see these N64 games presented in (most of) their original glory is great for fans that fell in love with Rare through games like Killer Instinct. Some of the titles have had minor tweaks to remove Nintendo branding, but most retain their original look and feel. Due to these titles relative obscurity, they didn’t get the same treatment as their more popular siblings, and thus remain nearly completely untouched, which is perfect.
Alright, I hate Battletoads, but I hate it so good. It’s the quintessential NES hard game, full of level design meant for the most hardcore players out there, and that damned turbo tunnel that sent many a controller to an early grave.
Even decades later, Battletoads is still impressively difficult, and it’s the best argument for the inclusion of Rare Replay’s rewind feature, which I’ll talk more about later. Battletoads is a game that’s just as frustrating to an adult as it is to a child, and if you can handle that difficulty, it can be quite rewarding.
There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes content to unlock in Rare Replay, and it’s nearly universally good. Each of Rare Replay’s 30 games includes a set of achievements. Earning an achievement earns you a sticker for your ticket. Completing a ticket (usually) unlocks a new video or song. Some of these are from Rare’s classics, and some are from projects that never came to fruition.
The end result is a fascinating look at the creative process behind some of the firm’s most famous games, as well as a look at the people who make them. The videos are very well done and really do a great job of conveying how much the people making these games care about them, and how they make players feel. I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of stuff, so these inclusions add so much to the game for me. These kinds of unlockables are enough to even get me to play some of the stinkers on this list. I’m looking at you, Sabrewulf.
It took me a while to discover snapshots in Rare Replay, but once I did, I was hooked. Each game in pre-N64-era game in Rare Replay offers five different challenges for players to complete. Each challenge takes about two or three minutes and range from mind-numbingly easy to hair-pullingly difficult. They’re a great way to earn stickers and give kind of a Warioware vibe to things. It’s a fun way to experience some games in Replay that you might not touch otherwise.
When Rare was founded in 1985, games were still mired in arcade-style thinking: if the game is challenging, players will keep trying. While that was true back then, the same thoughts aren’t quite so prevalent 30 years on.
To reduce the frustration newer gamers might feel playing an unforgiving ‘80s-style game like Jetpac or Sabrewulf, the older games feature a rewind button. By holding down the L-trigger, players can rewind their game up to 30 seconds. It’s a nice little mechanic that saps a lot of the frustration out of some of the most difficult games the company has ever made. There’s no rewind feature for newer titles, like Conker or Perfect Dark, which isn’t too bad, considering how relatively easy those titles are.
If I had to make one major complaint about Replay’s rewind feature, it would be that the rewind itself can be hard to control. Finding the exact moment you want to go back to isn’t easy, and if you’ve passed it up, that’s too bad, there’s no undo here; you’re just stuck with the choice you made.
I think every Rare-made Xbox 360 release is represented in Replay, though I could be wrong. All the 360 releases on offer function the same way other backwards compatible titles do, in that they’re run on an emulator. The games run as well as they did on the Xbox 360, and that’s really great. My only real gripe with the 360 titles comes from the fact that you’re actually kicked out of Rare Replay and sent into that emulator. Getting back from there means your Xbox will kill the emulator and start Rare Replay over again, which is a bit of a lengthy process.
I hated Grabbed by the Ghoulies way back in 2003, and I still hate it now. It’s a bland, boring, Luigi’s Mansion wannabe and it’s aged about as well as a gym sock. I imagine the conversation surrounding Grabbed’s inclusion on Rare Replay included a lot of tears and cursing. I wish they would’ve modified this one like they did Conker, maybe just add a disclaimer or even a simple, “We’re sorry,” at the title screen. Warn us we’re about to start a flaming turd, people.
I don’t even have much to say here. I’d never played Gunfright before Rare Replay arrived, and I’ll be glad to never play it again. I get that it’s a game from a simpler time, but it just feels messy. Controlling your character is a pain, and the point of the game is to find an outlaw by first finding scared townsfolk pointing in the general direction of the enemy, or a building, or another person pointing in another direction.
When you finally find your target, they’ll basically kill you, and it’ll start over. Or you’ll just quit and be happy this awful game is no longer draining your life force.
Rare Replay is more than just a collection of games spanning the studio’s 30-year history; it’s a look inside the minds of those that made the games you love. Tons of studios put out collections of their classics, but few do it with the care and insight that has gone into this collection. Rare Replay is one of the few instances I can think of in which the extras make the game. Laying out ideas for canceled games was a brilliant move and one I respect. Making the games more accessible with the rewind feature was brilliant, and also quite possibly the only way anyone will beat Battletoads.
The whole of Rare Replay is greater than the sum of its parts. It helps that some of those parts are considered classics, but it’s the extras that show how much developers truly care about their creations and the people who play them that really makes this game worth playing.
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