Turning 30 is a huge occasion; whether you spend it drunk in an inappropriate costume or use it to celebrate everything you have achieved is up to you. Thankfully Rare went with the latter and have used their 30th anniversary to give their biggest fans a momentous gift: Rare Replay. Comprising of 30 titles from their first title ever in 1983, including all their biggest hits up until 2008, Rare Replay has at least one game you’d love to replay.
Replay opens with almighty carnival music and a super special Rare theme song just for this occasion, which successfully sets the tone for the entire collection. The theatrics are fun and keep the games in perspective; it’s easy to reminisce about the first time you played these titles when the entire setting aims to make you feel like a kid. The player is issued a stamp book; it doesn’t replace achievements but instead works alongside them with a bonus reward system. Raising the red velvet curtains on these titles, I found myself chasing down the Rare stamps instead of points; it was my literal ticket to all the behind the scenes extras. Art, music, unused game concepts (be thankful Sundown didn’t happen) are rewards for your full exploration of Rare Replay, as well as 10,000 possible points for your Gamerscore. The more involved you are, the better you’re rewarded.
Playing them on a big screen, or cropped with game graphics borders made it possible to appreciate more how these games looked, and how far we’ve come. It wasn’t until I fiddled with options on 8-bit titles and the scan lines straight from the ’80s TVs appeared that I wondered how we ever played like that. Some of the earliest and most frustrating games now have two features that would have made my life far easier 20 years ago: autosave and rewind. Now when you get to one of those difficult sections and only have one continue left, simply save it and you can start from that point again next time. Among others, the rewind cheat allows you to rewind up to 10 seconds of play to save those crushing arcade defeats that plagued every kid of the ’80s and ’90s.
The 360 titles aren’t remastered, just backwards compatible; this means they look and play exactly like they always have. If you’re a newcomer to the titles in this collection, then this is a good time to get used to polygons and infuriating view controls. For those of us that didn’t want a Furby for Christmas and got these games new: you will not be disappointed. You can relive the music, questionable narratives and the struggles of early 3D gaming over 700 hours of play time. I think this officially makes Rare Replay the best value for money for a hard copy release, ever. A few of the included titles were slight before my time and I lumbered through them poorly, thankfully Rare also offers Snapshots as a different way to play and earn stamps and gamer points. Titles are turned into timed challenges so the player gets a chance to experience the intense arcade button-mashing revelry that no one should miss.
I was always disappointed by early games because the box and manual had such exciting graphics, backstory and character introductions. You’d then boot up the game and it never looked anything like the box art: I knew it wouldn’t, but I couldn’t help feeling let down every time. With Rare Replay, I’d had growing feelings of trepidation as it got closer: was it just going to be 30 graphics to flip through, play for a bit and get bored? Rare made the effort to up the whole novelty feel of a replay collection by including a mini manual for each game. When selecting a game the moves, rundown and directives were all there if I needed them, and easy to use. Navigating from one game to the other 29 is smooth and logical: they save automatically and holding the start button returns you to the game library so you can continue remembering how bad you were at all these games.
Playing older games on an X1 controller should give me some home ground advantage due to the sheer hours I’ve used it. However, it turns out that if you were utter crap at Killer Instinct and Battletoads 20 years ago, then you likely still are today. Starting most of these games didn’t require me to check the controls at all: regardless of which console they hail from. Either the moves came back easily or they were so perfectly simple it was as if I was still on a two-button controller. Rare Replay did an awesome job allowing the player to skip from 1983’s Jetpac, all the way up until 2008’s Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise. Controls, manoeuvrability and navigation of the collection never took away from the nostalgic experience and left me free to enjoy some of my favourite releases since the 64.
This collection isn’t just for gamers who knew the stress of the final continue counting down or the guilt of Banjo and Kazooie’s depressing game over every time you quit the game. Bravo, Rare; this is what a collection should be – accessible, nostalgic, technically sound and packaged in such a way that it feels new and fun. Rare Replay has been an easy way to access ten backwards compatible titles at once, and a fantastic opportunity to let my son explore the games that kept me company or drove me insane when I was his age. If you have kids be warned, the more you try to explain why isometric games were amazing, the more ancient they will believe you are. Now I have get back to being a foul-mouthed squirrel, just as soon as I shoo these kids off my lawn.
DISCLAIMER: this game was supplied to us by the publisher, and reviewed on XB1 across 10 hours of gameplay.