Rare Replay Review
If Rare Replay exists for historical reasons, it is to show how long-term development can extract a certain identity from a developer. And, sadly, but a handful of studios exist with a 30-year lineage. Studies like this are, you might say, rare.
Rare often made mistakes. Few will reminisce about WWF Wrestlemania for the NES or Taboo the Sixth Sense, also NES. It's best that both are missing from Rare Replay. Rare is and was an imperfect development studio, although none can ever claim to be perfect. Even their misses, say some of the slogs through their earliest ZX Spectrum output – with that permanently clashing purple, teal, red, yellow, and green palette – still show signs of enlightened energy.
Characters such as theirs were few. They had charm, they had an animated fervor, and certainly they had personality. Even when pixel counts didn't allow for any of it, Rare's gift of ingenuity made it work. Their romps on the ZX Spectrum defined not only Rare, but much of European game design. Stubby, bouncy, and often laborious platform and isometric games were key exports. Those, or slippery, single screen action affairs.
Each would become a hallmark, and not just for Rare. Europe was swamped with them, always pinched by the restraints of home computers of the early '80s. Japanese designers focused on precision. European designs were about the identity, precision be damned.
Nostalgia may be high in certain corners of the world, but little of the "Speccy" library holds up to anyone outside of those ingrained early personal computing circles. Then Rare found the NES.
Slalom, with its “Stupid Sexy Flanders” lead character, is a charismatic if passe skid down a mountain. RC Pro-Am followed, a perfect match-up of miniature 8-bit tech, fluidity, and kid-like enthusiasm. Music and pace made the material serious, much as it would be to any child in command of small time vehicles – and in some cases, adults too.
Rare Replay pulls in a few oddities harkening to Rare's Spectrum era like the isometric quirks of Cobra Triangle and Snake Rattle 'n Roll, both marginal.
Toadally Awesome, Croaking Amazing, Ribbiting Action
Under Microsoft, Rare Replay seems to exist as much as it does to celebrate Rare's past as much as it does for Microsoft to acknowledge the studio's existence.
Of course, Rare Replay has Battletoads, two of them in fact. The NES original and often forgotten arcade edition, odd that it's forgotten since it's the best of the Battletoads (even if it's still insufferably difficult). Still, the inclusion is welcome as it's the first home port of the 1994 arcade release.
Rare Replay skips over the entirety of the 16-bit era, understandable since they were under Nintendo's caring wing for much of the time. Besides, under Microsoft, Rare Replay seems to exist as much as it does to celebrate Rare's past as much as it does for Microsoft to acknowledge the studio's existence.
What's next is the N64 era, a plethora of platformers and shooters as the studio dropped a chunk of their whimsy to exchange it for violence. It can be seen happening with Battletoads - the arcade is a bloodfest – but Killer Instinct Gold, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and Perfect Dark swept the studio up in adulthood. This was in-between two adorable Banjo Kazooie offerings and the wildly goofy Blast Corps, but still.
Finding Their Pulse
... plus Banjo Kazooie Nuts 'n Bolts, which no one played but they should have.
Rare's often uncredited best work came after, though. Under Microsoft, the studio pumped out the enormously pleasant childhood horror Grabbed by the Ghoulies, the luxury of Kameo, the splendor of Viva Pinata, plus Banjo Kazooie Nuts 'n Bolts, which no one played but they should have. (Perfect Dark Zero never happened. It did, just not really.)
Annoyingly, these Xbox 360 games need downloaded individually, hogging hard drive space and making access a pain. At least they're bundled, though, and their color - or the sheer abundance of it rather - is a shock compared to the rest of a generation stuck with the grays and browns of war.
Rare Replay is mostly the hits, but there are still plenty titles missing. Killer Instinct 1 & 2 are locked to a bundle in Microsoft's Killer Instinct reboot. A missing trilogy of Wizards & Warriors games is a loss, and obviously everything Rare did which was licensed (or under Nintendo's copyright) – ranging from a rendezvous with Mickey Mouse, a few game show adaptations, and of course Goldeneye - are sidelined.
The “kiss and make up” portion are a series of glossy, all-smiles video retrospectives, peaks at unreleased software, and soundtracks. Oh, and a glorious paper puppet show introduction which is all joy. So is Rare Replay and so was Rare. That's past tense since now they make Xbox 360 Avatars. Xbox One doesn't use them, but Rare makes Avatars. What a way to go.