“A Rare Gathering”

Rare Replay is this generation’s strongest collection of games. In a market where remasters have woven themselves into the very DNA of this console’s lifecycle, Rare Replay sets the bar for video game compilations. The anthology of 30 games, spanning 30 plus years, captures the weirdness and forward thinking of Rare’s unique catalog. Ranging from R.C. Pro-Am to a handful of Xbox 360 launch titles, there no shortage of variation to the package. Rare Replay excels in extending a company’s lasting legacy to all generations, whether you’re revisiting childhood favorites or discovering classics for the first time.

For the weary, Rare Replay isn’t just some collection of ROMs and emulators re-released to capitalize upon nostalgia. Rather, it’s a fully realized experience of its own, with amazing extras and a charming presentation, to boot. Yet, unlike many collections, Rare Replay isn’t a “best of” type of package. There are plenty of games that struggle to stand the test of time, though still qualify as historical touchstones alongside the array of timeless hits. The few games that more than hold up, such as Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark still impress after so many years. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be found, and even knowledge to be gained from Rare Replay, as it not only conveys the influential story of Rare, but of the past few decades of video game history.BanjoRare Replay goes above an beyond in the presentation department, making the transition of older titles to modern package all the more seamless. The game is set to a theatrical aesthetic, matched to fantastic musical number and all. It’s gallery-styled menu system furthers the enthusiastic presentation, interjecting charming transitions and relevant information such as achievements. On default, the library of games is organized to appear in the order each game was released, spanning the decades. Any title released prior to the Nintendo 64 era, is surrounded by an arcade like screen border with art inspired by the game loaded up, with the 4:3 image boxed in. This adds an infectious sense of character not only to the specific game, but the collection, as a whole.

The handful of 360 and XBLA included in the collection run in an Xbox 360 emulator, which adds 15-30 seconds of booting up, as each individual title is separately installed. It’s made possible by Xbox One’s new Xbox 360 backward compatibility function, though not all titles tend to run perfectly. Framerate issues and the occasionally freeze infected the experience of a few titles, with Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts being the worst offenders. It’s somewhat disappointing to see some of the games run so poorly on superior hardware, but the indisputable charm of Viva Piñata and fast action of the original Perfect Dark, hold the inconveniences back from being too overpowering.BattletoadsnesThe studio’s work in recent years has been somewhat spotty, with their hand in 360’s avatars and Kinect Sports ending up being quite forgettable. Rare Replay embraces what once made the studio so unique, reminding and educating audiences why Microsoft acquired the developer back in 2002. While each game might not stand the test of time, the library is honest representation of the studio’s past work. There’s nothing wedged into Replay that comes across as a cash-grab and the breath content creatively weaved within the experience is of a quality very few collections achieve. Most games play and look just as they did on their original platforms, but a few new features make their way into the mix to slightly modernize some of the older, less approachable titles. On top of being able to utilize save and load states on-the-go, a stellar rewind ability allows players to freely reverse the last 10 seconds of play, safely avoiding any unwanted altercation. It’s a fantastic way for newcomers to experience the challenges of Battletoads and Cobra Triangle with a smartly designed safety net.

Another of Rare Replay’s stronger suits are the small documentaries, which unlock after spending time with certain titles. These intimate shorts are a treat for longtime Rare fans and provide a wealth of intriguing information in regards to the evolution of the studio, as well as its employees over the years. The insight into the making of classics like Conker and Banjo, alongside concept art, unheard music, and a look at some of Rare’s unreleased games, add a relatable sense of wonder and creative energy to the package. The slate of 30 games harnesses that energy, each ambitiously striving toward their own unique goals. Not every title is able to prevail, but the compilation is able to soften what disappointing blow they may have delivered at the initial time of their release. Each game, regardless of their fundamental missteps, feels like a part of something bigger and far more important. Rare Replay dedicates itself to fine tuning each title’s intentions, coherently leading them in the right direction, eventually joining to form an enthusiastic and joyfully journey through the work of one of the industry’s most prized developers.PerfectDarkConclusion: If it weren’t for Rare Replay, a slew of fantastic games would have passed me by. The level of care and character behind the the collection is consistently impressive, with so many of the titles still holding up by today’s standers. Yet, Rare Replay resits gearing all it’s focus toward the incredible package that it is, leaving plenty of room for the history to speak for itself. While some games struggle to hold up–falling behind in terms of controls and what not–the compilation, as a whole, drowns out the less memorable experiences, among the amusing and the greats. It’s a terrific way to explore 30 years of Rare by way of some of the studio’s most memorable work. Rare Replay is a must have collection for anyone with an interest in video game history, as well as those simply looking for a good time.

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