Rare Replay plays like a love letter to the history of video games, a treasure trove of 30 games covering 30 years of Rare’s history, lovingly put together and bound to disc. The 30 games cover multiple genres, from fighting to platformers, FPS to racing. Rare has created a compilation that is like no other, and raises the expectations on what a compilation disc is capable of.
Booting up Rare Replay for the first time it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options the game gives you from the get go. All the games are available to play, easily accessible through the games user friendly menus. Having played a few Rare games over the years, it was clear that the whole compilation had been compiled with a genuine love and respect for the source material, and you do feel like you are being welcomed into some secret club, with hidden handshakes and members badges, but instead of badges you are treated to unlockable content delving into the stories behind the games via unlockable videos, sound clips and artwork, and this just adds to the whole nostalgic experience.
The games themselves are each presented in a virtual theatre, with the games themselves serving as each “production”. Each game entry is presented as such, and details such as release date and a quick introduction all served up via the games introduction screen. Yes, some of the earlier games feel dated, but that is a minor aside to the sheer amount of nostalgia and content served up. Some of these games are as old as I am, so when I first booted them up I had no idea as to their relevance or even at times what to do as you progress through each one. Some of the earlier games do need a little bit of patience, but this says more about our expectation as gamers than it does on the games themselves, using that long lost arcade tactic of trial and error, but Rare has this covered by including help that can be snapped to the side of the screen to walk you though each one.
Each game is presented in it’s entirety, albeit with some modern additions such as the ability to save your progress in some of the older games, or tweaks under the hood such as improved framerate issues and polygon rendering on the n64 entries, which all add to the experience should you care enough to notice them, but once you are lost in the joy of playing each game these do pretty much go unnoticed, which was probably the whole point of them being implemented in the first place. Older games are bordered with original artwork to account for our larger, modern screens, harking back to the game box artwork from yesteryear, another welcome touch. This is not to say either that the older additions to the compilation no longer feel retro – Jetpac and Lunar Jetman, the oldest of the games in the compilation, do hark bark to a more simpler time, with simple controls and objectives, but the fact that they are still fun to play is testament to the games themselves.
Playing the games in order of release is like sitting in a time machine and playing through the history of videogames as a medium. Now I don’t want to go all meta and highbrow when writing a review, but rarely, if ever, has a game offered this experience. Starting with the older games and working through each one you do start to see patterns and trends emerging that are now taken for granted in modern gaming. The introduction of tutorials, button combos, NPC”s, and a ton of other gaming conventions are introduced and developed as you work your way through the timeline Rare has presented here.
The vast majority of the games included are quite justly considered classics of their respected genres, from the original Killer Instinct or Perfect Dark, but a handful do miss the mark, including a few obvious omissions such as GoldenEye and the Donkey Kong Country series. These are quite easy to overlook as the beauty of Rare Replay is the abundance of choice you are presented with.
Another welcome addition/stroke of genius is the Snapshots that Rare have created for many of their earlier games, which serve as Rare Replay’s mini-version of achievements – that’s on top of the achievements that are available, to a grand total of 10 000 Gamerscore. Snapshots serve as a means to unlock hidden content, turning the theatre into more of a museum as you look back on over 30 years of history as told by the people behind the games themselves. Normally I am one of the first to skip over these additions, but here it is a joy to see the people who created these games talking about them in such a loving way, with an obvious appreciation for the final product that they created.
Rare Replay is an absolute must for any gamer, a unique and lovingly presented take on the history of videogames. The sheer wealth of games available ensures that there is something here to love, and I expect a number of developers will want to follow Rare’s example in presenting such a compilation that not only delivers on a number of quality titles, but is given in such a tight and well crafted package.
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