It may seem like every publisher and his dog are releasing compilations or sets of games gathered together and resold as a new package, but this collection of games from Rare’s long history feels more like a present to fans than an attempt at cashing in on old games.
This review also comes with a caveat that I’ve only touched the surface of the package, with many features hidden within goals such as completing a game, revealing making of videos and rare (no pun intended) glances into gaming past.
Rare, of course, have a huge wealth of games to offer up. Their first games, under their old Ultimate moniker, graced the Sinclair Spectrum and continued from 8-bit home computers to consoles, growing into the Rare of Nintendo fame and their heyday with Goldeneye and Banjo Kazooie. It seems strange that their biggest hit, the James Bond tie in that came some 2 years after the Goldeneye movie, is missing due to various licence issues even though an Xbox Live port has been created (though never released), but that’s the one element of their control and the sequel-of-sorts, Perfect Dark, is present. Aside from this most of the other Spectrum and Commodore 64 games that Ultimate released, such as Trans Am and Cookie, aren’t there either, nor is the Xbox version of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, only the N64 original.
With so much history it’s nice to see Rare still have their trademark humour and skill at presenting from the outset. The game opens with a unique song and dance number that features many of the compilation’s characters and sets the scene for what is to come. Everything is presented in this theatre format and it works well to join the games together, despite their different styles, formats and aesthetics.
Artwork and short histories are displayed next to each game and tokens are earned by playing the game for the first time or completing milestones along the way. These then unlock video features, further artwork and music from the games. It’s well worth unlocking the video documentaries, which discuss some of the difficulties of making these classics as well as being a chance to dip a toe in the workings of games industry of old.
But with nostalgia also comes a warning. Yes, it’s the old shadow of the rose tinted retro games come to haunt you. While Rare are to be commended in showing each game with their original aspect ratios and control schemes, it’s also clear where gaming has made massive games and the resulting playthrough of some of the older titles can be jarring for modern gamers. 8 Bit games are notoriously difficult, partly because of the twitch controls needed to avoid sudden death. A rewind element has been added to counter this, but it’s no less frustrating. N64 titles also suffer from the single analogue stick they were stuck with at the time. Going back to these games after being so used to twin sticks is a stark reminder of how games have evolved for the better.
Still, if you buy a compilation of retro hits then you should really be aware of what you’re getting from the outset. The original Xbox and 360 games fare better, of course, and the latter use the new backward compatible feature on Xbox One to allow them to be played as they were originally designed. Bearing in mind that this feature is still in Beta, the games here seem to be pretty good representations of the originals and will be some players’ first foray into the feature.
As a history of gaming from one developer, though, Rare Replay is an incredible package at a great price and one that anyone with even a passing interest of the history of gaming should check out.