Originally known as Ultimate Play the Game, Rare started developing for the Spectrum home computer in 1982. Since then they’ve gone on to create some of gaming’s most highly regarded games, including Killer Instinct, Banjo Kazooie, and Battletoads.
Rare Replay showcases an impressive back catalogue of 30 games, starting chronologically with their very first title – Jetpac – and ending with 2008’s Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Older games are emulated within Rare Replay itself, while more recent games are launched separately as stand-alone Xbox 360 titles thanks to the recently enabled backwards compatibility functionality on Xbox One.
Playing games and earning achievements increases the player’s level, unlocking a series of short documentaries about the various goings-on at Rare. There’s a collection of featurettes, making-of videos, concept art, music, and – most interestingly – previously unreleased material. What I’ve seen of this material is high quality and candid, making for entertaining and informative viewing.
Aside from the easy achievements you earn from simply launching most of the games, other achievements (and there are 4,000 points worth to find here) can be tough to unlock. If you’re hoping to blast through and see the juicy videos after just a few hours of game time, think again.
Emulated games are presented in a framed 4:3 aspect ratio virtual display, and you can decide whether they look crisp, or are filtered by an old-school CRT overlay to more accurately recreate the experience you might have had with a vintage television. Emulator fans might be used to having more options than this such as scanline support, but the CRT overlay is nicely implemented, and helps remind players of the way things used to be.
Aside from the unlockable videos, there’s very little supporting information about each of the games in the collection, which feels like an oversight. Scans of the game’s boxes, manuals, or posters for the Battletoads arcade game would have been a nice inclusion. Not only is none of that present, there’s not even basic information like which platforms each game launched on, which is a shame.
Fortunately, the meat of the experience – the games – is intact. I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that all of the games are worth playing at least once. Even Jetpac, Rare’s 1983 debut, is worth having a crack at – if only to be reminded of just how brutally difficult games could be when levels were sparse and multiple hours of gameplay were achieved only because the player had to start over every few minutes.
The collection also serves as an interesting insight into the development of the video game industry itself. With regular samples spanning more than 30 years, you can almost chart the refinement of technology, design, and interaction complexity employed as video games grew from basement enterprise to corporate endeavour.
And if you’re looking for incredible value for money, 30 mostly top-drawer games for $40 is a value proposition you won’t beat – even on the App Store. In fact, it’s one of the best-value collections of software ever released for any platform ever. Hell, Humble Bundle would have a hard time topping this one.
Value and historical interest aside, however, what really makes this collection something special are the standout games included. Exactly which best fit that description for you will be down to your own taste, but whether your favourite is one of the Banjo games, Killer Instinct, Perfect Dark, the irreverent Conker’s Bad Fur Day, or something else, chances are pretty good the collection’s worth the price of entry for those games alone. Once you’ve got it, do yourself a favour and check out the rest – there’s not a dud amongst them.