Rare Replay Review

Rare Replay is exceptional, both as a history lesson and a bargain way to play some of the best games ever made.
I like to imagine the discussion process that took place at Microsoft that led to the creation of Rare Replay.
“Hey, what are Rare doing right now?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Probably some crappy Kinect game or another”
“Didn’t we buy them because they were, you know, good? I mean, crazy good, with the toads and the werewolves and the spy games and whatnot? Whatever happened to that?”
“Oh, they were. You know, technically, we own all sorts of crazy IPs. Battletoads. Knight Lore. Perfect Dark. RC Pro Am. Oh, the memories. And we own all that. Funny old world, isn’t it?”
“We own those?”
“Do you reckon we could sell them?”
“I guess so. Should we?”
“Yeah, why not. Sell them. SELL THEM ALL!”
(thunder and lightning crash in the background, not for any readily apparent actual reason, but simply because it adds drama to the scene.)

From that, we get the Xbox One exclusive Rare Replay, a collection of 30 games, none of which were written for the Xbox One in any way at all. That’s because Rare Replay takes the output of the British studio acquired by Microsoft back in 2002 all the way back to space year 1983, when Jetpac made its appearance, all the way through to 2008’s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, covering Spectrum ZX, NES, N64, Xbox and Xbox 360 games along the way.
No, you don’t get everything Rare produced; rather obviously that game they made for the N64 with that suave spy dude isn’t present, for example, and neither is that one with the Nintendo-owned Ape in the Country, either.
But what you do get is quite impressive. Specifically, when you buy Rare Replay, what you get is Jetpac, Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore, Gunfright, Slalom, R.C. Pro-Am, Cobra Triangle, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, Solar Jetman, Digger T. Rock, Battletoads, R.C. Pro-Am II, Battletoads Arcade, Killer Instinct Gold, Blast Corps, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, Viva Piñata, Jetpac Refuelled, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.

If you can’t find something to play in that lot, you’re really not trying.
I’m notably a fan of all things retro, and generally my preference is for games to be played as they originally were, and optimally on the original hardware. That’s not always possible, however, and Rare Replay strikes an excellent balance between accessibility — all you need is an Xbox One and around 50GB of hard drive space — and presenting games as they were, warts and all. Knight Lore had slowdown when it had multiple onscreen sprites back in the day, so it still does now. Classic titles were 4:3 affairs, and they still are, with optional side overlays to fill the rest of your 16:9 modern screen.

As they say, "It's in the game." No, wait, wrong company.
As they say, “It’s in the game.”
No, wait, wrong company.

Reviewing thirty games at once is an exhausting process, and one that’s not really going to work anyway, because there’s such a mix here of titles that’ll only really twang the nostalgia glands if you were there at the time, alongside curios that you might not have played and a few titles that haven’t aged all that well.
The thing is, for each and every gamer that could be entirely different games. I’ve already started to see a rash of “Rare Replay: Best To Worst” kind of lists pop up online, and they’ve all got one thing in common.
They’re all nonsense. ONLY MY OPINION COUNTS!
No, that’s not true either. I have my own tastes and quirks and favourites, but they could be different to yours. For me, Slalom is cute in that it was Rare’s first NES game, but it’s otherwise not worth playing in my view. Kameo has nice creature designs, but it’s bland. I could never get on with Killer Instinct in any way at all.
Conversely, Jetpac holds up well, Battletoads is still remarkably hard but remarkably fun, and the same is true of the arcade game, which I’d never played before. Blast Corps remains as brilliant as ever, although it’s a bit of a shock to the system to be playing it at NTSC speed as distinct from the more sluggish PAL code that I loved back in the day.
Your views might differ, and you might think that Kameo is great but Battletoads is all difficulty and no trousers.
Although if you can’t appreciate that Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll is an absolute golden masterpiece, then, I’m sorry, but gaming just isn’t for you.
Maybe you should take up a new hobby. Competitive cottage cheese gargling or something.
All of the games are emulated in one form or another, although the Xbox 360 titles work under the Xbox One’s new emulation layer, which means that they install as their own “apps” under the Xbox One dashboard, whereas every other game is launched from within the Rare Replay app, where you can also launch the Xbox 360 games if they’re installed. Microsoft provided me with download review code, so I don’t know if it’s different for a disc version, but there’s a pretty hefty wait to play the later games while it’s installing.
Still, there’s always Jetpac.
Or Battletoads, if you like your challenges hard.  Yes, using the rewind and save states IS cheating.
Or Battletoads, if you like your challenges hard.
Yes, using the rewind and save states IS cheating.

Are there any valid criticisms of Rare Replay? Yes, there are, although they’re mostly minor. There’s some great video content covering interviews with some of the development teams, but not the Stamper brothers, sadly. They’re locked away against the collection of “stamps”, awarded for specific in-game goals. There’s one just for playing each game once, but later ones are tougher, and realistically not everyone is going to love every single game to want to play it to the point of exhaustion.
The emulators used are quite neat, allowing for save states and rewind facilities to take the “hard” edge off some of the classics, but they can be a touch wonky at times. I’ve had a few spots where audio dropped out, or games froze for a few seconds. There’s apparently a fix coming for Jet Force Gemini to make its controls less punishing, but for right now it’s good code stuck behind an obtuse control scheme.
It's kind of weird that the 360 titles install as their own apps.
It’s kind of weird that the 360 titles install as their own apps.

Rare Replay is a $49.95 purchase in Australia, which means you’re paying $1.66 per game, or slightly less if you can score it cheaper; as I write this I note that JB Hi-Fi has it for $44, meaning each game would only be $1.46 each.
Whichever way you crunch the sums, it’s astounding value. I’m excited every time I fire it up, and I already own most of the games in Rare Replay anyway.
If you own an Xbox One, you owe it to yourself to buy Rare Replay. I’m almost tempted to buy a disc version just so I’ve got something to play on that day in the future when Microsoft shutters Xbox Live and my download games will no longer play.
If you’re still not convinced, well, that cottage cheese isn’t going to gargle itself, you know.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.