Some of my fondest gaming memories start with the Nintendo 64. Some days, when I knew both my parents were going to be at work, I’d fake a sickie and when I heard them leave, I’d rush to lounge for some quality game time (I may not have been the best kid, I’ll admit it). My favourite game for a spell was Banjo-Kazooie. The game controlled well, had great humour and, overall, was a great action adventure experience. So at E3, when I heard that the Xbox One was getting Rare Replay, and that Banjo-Kazooie was going to be part of the collection I was very excited. I was keen to see if the game I’d spent so much of my youth playing was as good as I remembered. Rare Replay has given me that opportunity, as well as the chance to play some classics I never experienced as a child.
Rare Replay is a celebration of the last 30 years of developer Rare’s video games. The collection includes 30 titles spanning from their early work like Jetpack (1983) and Sabre Wulf (1984), through to some of their more recent titles like Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (2008) and Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (2008). This compilation was made possible with the help of the new Xbox 360 backwards compatibility feature that Microsoft has recently introduced. Older titles run via emulation and for the most part, the games have been optimised well and run without a hitch. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. I had never played this title before and was looking forward to giving it a try, as I loved the original Banjo-Kazooie. Unfortunately, the game suffers from some pretty hefty frame rate issues; to the point where it becomes a real hassle to navigate the hub world. While this is the only issue I have encountered, it’s pretty disappointing that a game as old as Nuts and Bolts couldn’t have some work done to it in order to make it run smoother on a more technically proficient platform like the Xbox One.
Rare Replay has given me a chance to play through the games I was either not around for, or just missed completely, like Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Perfect Dark. I had heard a lot of good things about Conker’s and was pretty keen to try it out. Sadly, I found that the game controlled very poorly in comparison to Banjo-Kazooie. The platforming and camera controls felt inferior compared to other titles from the era. I had played a little of Perfect Dark as one of my friends owned it when I was young. I had an idea of what I was in for but it didn’t take long before the game started to show its age. Poor shooting controls that rely heavily on auto aim and really poor AI make it difficult to slug it out and play Perfect Dark for an extended period of time. These titles may instil great feelings of nostalgia to those who played them in their childhood, but it seems both games have aged poorly.
Herein lies the problem with Rare Replay. It’s a fine line between celebrating the milestone of a developer and cashing in on the prior success of a company that unfortunately has been releasing some pretty average games over the last few years. Rare did some great work creating the emulator to run the older titles. They even built in a rewind feature for those of us that struggle with old school arcade titles. But it appears as though there has been little effort put into the newer titles. The backwards compatibility that Microsoft introduced to the Xbox One appears to be the only work that has gone into bringing the newer titles to the compilation. There’s no upscaling, no optimisation and no HD textures in any of the titles. While I understand it would have been a pretty big project to make so many titles look prettier for the Xbox One, it also doesn’t help dismiss the thought that Rare Replay is just a cash grab.
Despite its shortcomings I’m thoroughly enjoying Rare Replay. It’s given me a chance to replay some classics from my early days of gaming while also giving me a chance to discover other Rare titles that I didn’t know existed. If you missed the Xbox 360 ports of Banjo-Kazooie or Perfect Dark I’d recommend grabbing Rare Replay and trying them out. If you’re a younger gamer and you’re interested in seeing how far the industry has grown, this is a great compilation of varied titles that will give you an excellent overview of the good and the not so good games that have helped shape gaming into what it is today.