Rare Replay (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 15.08.2015

Review for Rare Replay on Xbox One

For 30 years, Rare has been developing games and put out some of the most memorable and cherished titles of all time across many platforms. Upon its 30th anniversary, the developer has released the most varied compilation since 2009's SEGA Mega Drive Ultimate Collection (Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection in North America), which featured over 45 Mega Drive/Genesis titles. Rare Replay boasts 30 games across multiple generations of consoles, from the 1980s' ZX Spectrum to last generation's Xbox 360. With 30 games and a $30 price tag, it almost seems too good to be true, especially considering that some of these titles (almost $100 used on Amazon!) have become highly collectible given the scarce amount of cartridges that were manufactured in the first place. Is Rare Replay the ultimate hub of the classic Rare games the world grew up with from the past 30 years? Find out in this review of the compilation for Xbox One.

Before Rare Replay boots up, things are a bit disorientating: many Xbox 360 ports of the Rare games are individually installed (Perfect Dark, all three Banjo games, Jetpac Refueled, Kameo, both Viva Piñata games and Perfect Dark Zero), so dash out any hopes of playing any of those games when the disk is first inserted, since the installation for each is rather long. However, if eager for the earlier games in the Rare oeuvre, then dive right on in and be treated to an outrageous musical number that feels like the intro to Jim Henson's "The Muppet Show," featuring pretty much every single Rare character that isn't named "Donkey Kong" or "James Bond." It's a catchy and rollicking introduction that sets the mood that Rare is known for, compounded with a very appropriate theatrical style interface that ties everything together with sound bites and animated menus. It shows that Microsoft Game Studios and Rare spared no expense when it came to the presentation.

With all these retro Rare games running on Xbox One, it wouldn't be surprising that all the games run smoothly and fluidly. Sadly, that is not the case for Rare Replay, which is a mixed bag of performance and control issues for much of the selection. Many of the much older 2D isometric games, like Snake Rattle and Roll, Sabre Wulf or Gunfright, were not optimised to be controlled with an analogue stick, making the controls for these games feel extremely inaccurate when moving. Pretty much every ZX Spectrum game was lazily ported, as they are full of flickering sprites and slowdown. For what it's worth, Battletoads was always more or less a well put together game and came out great, and with the options for save-states, those who struggled with the bike portions can finally drudge their way to victory. There is also a rewind feature that lets anyone "undo" up to about 10 seconds' worth of gameplay for all titles up to the Nintendo 64 generation. Rewinding is a feature that can also be turned off for those who desire a more authentic experience, but it is disappointing that the rewind cheat is not available in any of the 3D games.

Screenshot for Rare Replay on Xbox One

Rare Replay does have a very solid list of games to play with. Out of the 30, about half are true high quality classics. Not all of Rare's games hold up as well, such as games like Underwurlde, which plays like a frantic and nonsensical godforsaken mess. Grabbed by the Ghoulies, which had an interesting premise for melee combat being regulated by the second analogue stick, turned out to be a very boring and mind-numbing experience with a completely unappealing main character. Despite that some of these games might be real turds, the overall package of Rare Replay is a worthy one that does have some of the finest games of their respective generations.

Rare chose to present these games "warts and all," and this is fine, but the real issues of this compilation aren't the quality of the games themselves, but more to do with the technical issues from slowdown to flickering pixels, or just poorly optimised controls. While titles like Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts went from bad to worse, games like Kameo or Grabbed by the Ghoulies were made to play very smooth and look great. Although Conker's Bad Fur Day does not run as smooth as it could, it is by far the smoothest and best looking it ever has been, and those who pine to play it don't have to go hunting for an N64 console and shell out about a hundred bucks for it. For many people, this compilation will be worth it for Conker alone.

Screenshot for Rare Replay on Xbox One

Aside from the sloppy emulation of the older 2D games, some titles came with their own issues, too, disappointingly. Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts run atrociously, with a lot of lag and choppy frame rate. While Conker's Bad Fur Day does have some choppiness, it is nowhere near as bad as what is in the aforementioned titles. After all the initial disappointment of Nuts & Bolts has finally passed since its release for not being Banjo 3, Rare Replay could have been a chance for it to redeem itself, but, instead, a port that actually plays worse than the original is included.

With Perfect Dark Zero, it's already embarrassingly glitchy and full of the most unintentionally hilarious use of weightless ragdoll physics, but, sadly, Rare took no effort to make it run 60 fps (instead of the usual 30), like the Xbox 360 remake of Perfect Dark. Not all is doom and gloom, since Blast Corps basically runs perfect, and still holds up gameplay-wise after all these years, and with the latest patch, Jet Force Gemini gets a more logical control scheme for the Xbox One controller (basically like Gears of War). The first two Banjo games and Perfect Dark are pretty much the same as the Xbox Live Arcade versions and run flawlessly, and while the twin Viva Piñata games run smoothly enough, their pre-rendered cut-scenes play with a lot of stuttering.

Screenshot for Rare Replay on Xbox One

Microsoft and Rare have made an impressive compilation with Rare Replay, but they could have done better with some of the conversions and features. The featurettes are an interesting look into the inner workings of the studio and how they came up with some of the game concepts and ideas, and there is a great sense of sadness and regret amongst the developers that is obvious: Rare just is not what it used to be in Microsoft's hands. This is especially evident just by playing the later games in the Rare canon, specifically the rushed Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, which has the characters make constant self-depreciating comments in the latter, knowing that the fans will hate the game and references to high-level Microsoft executives broadening to other demographics. It can be a bit depressing to know that these were written in jest, yet it all came true and makes Rare Replay almost feel like a eulogy to one of the greatest English game studios of all time.

Some people might find the games that are pre-Battletoads to be minor distractions compared to the later games, and even then, not all games were given equal treatment when it came to converting them for Rare Replay. Regardless, Xbox One has an excellent compilation, and for its price, there is a pretty good chance that anyone will find a few games in there that will satisfy.

Screenshot for Rare Replay on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Rare Replay is a worthy purchase and is definitely worth it for anyone who really loves their N64 games (barring Bond or DK). While the ZX Spectrum games are amusing distractions, some of them were lazily ported and still have their old technical flaws like slowdown or flickering graphics. If Rare Replay is proof of anything, it does show how Microsoft stomped much of the daring creativity out of the developer and relegated them to Kinect and avatar dashboard shenanigans, completely wasting their talents between Kameo and 2015 (and possibly onwards). Some of the games in here are real solid nines out of tens, and maybe even one of them is a ten out of ten, but they are held back by the otherwise sloppy conversion and that makes Rare Replay somewhat disappointing at times. Performance issues aside, this is probably one of the best game compilations out there and is at an unbeatable price.




Microsoft Game Studios





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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