|System: Xbox One|
|Pub: Microsoft Studios|
|Release: August 4, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language|
by Sean Engemann
Microsoft had a pretty solid showing of upcoming games, peripherals, and new features at this year's E3. One of the most exciting announcements that came out of the press conference wasn't a new intellectual property or AAA blockbuster, but rather a compilation from one of the industry's most prolific developers of the past. During their glory days on Nintendo consoles in the '90s (and a few gems in the early 2000s), Rare was a name that commanded attention. When their logo flashed on the screen, you were guaranteed a quality gaming experience. It's no surprise then that aging gamers such as myself are drooling over a collection like this. Despite some technical glitches and the disheartening omission of a few beloved titles, Rare Replay is a solid collection at a bargain price.
The opening montage is smile inducing, filled with cardboard cutouts and popsicle stick puppetry wrapped in a musical number that could give LittleBigPlanet's Media Molecule some stiff competition in the charm department. The presentation and ease of navigation between the menu and game selection screens is worthy of praise. Set in a posh cinema with red velvet hallways and golden trim, the box art is ornately framed, with remastered theme music playing in the background of the selected game. From each title screen you can quickly scan the control layout, toggle cheats, check milestone (achievement) progress, and switch between game modes. There were times when characters would casually jaunt in front of a description I was reading, but it was hard not to shake off the annoyance with a chuckle.
Nearly a third of the games in the inventory are ones you may never have heard of; relics from the 80s when Rare founders Tim and Chris Stamper were creating games on the 8-bit ZX Spectrum console under the publishing moniker Ultimate Play the Game. Hallmarks from their era, these simple designs have surprising depth and challenge. Some modern conveniences allow you to fudge the rules. With Rare Replay's menu accessible via holding down the "menu" button on the controller, you can save every classic game (not the Xbox 360 titles) and reload exactly where you left off. The most clever feature comes in the form of a "rewind" cheat which allows you to instantly wind back the action up to ten seconds, reworking your path to avoid damage or a lost life.
Getting into Rare's partnership with Nintendo, fond classics such as Battletoads, Killer Instinct Gold, Banjo-Kazooie, and Perfect Dark, showcase Rare's versatility of genres. Add in some early Xbox 360 hits like Kameo: Elements of Power and Viva Piñata, and you've really got a pot luck feast of Rare treats. They've dabbled in 2D and 3D platformers, isometric adventures, racing games, first and third-person shooters, brawlers, fighting games, and even life sims. That gives Rare Replay a broad selection, with something sure to please every gamer out there. The ESRB rating even spans the spectrum. It's quite humorous to watch Viva Piñata's oh-so cute video lecture on safety with online interactions, and then get slapped with a disclaimer about the mature content in Conker's Bad Fur Day before even loading the game. It's a shame that licensing issues have kept out some of Rare's best works such as GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong Country (and I can't figure out why the Wizards and Warriors series didn't make the list), but it's pretty hard to complain considering the chosen thirty are quality picks.
Achievement hunters will be thrilled with the ability to rack up some relatively easy Gamerscore points. A hefty handful of points are earned simply by playing a game for the first time, and Rare Replay doubles up for the Xbox 360 games, awarding its own achievements on top of the ones found in the original game.