As an Xbox website, it would be remiss to say that the Xbox One has had its’ detractors this generation. After stumbling about with their Xbox One reveal a few years before – and effectively leaving the door open for PlayStation to backtrack on any controversial announcements that had fallen flat for the Xbox reveal – Microsoft and their gaming brand were in a period of transition.
E3 2015 came around and it can be argued it was at this point Xbox turned a corner with one of their biggest announcements, Backwards Compatibility. And one of the early adopters to take advantage of this emulation was Rare, who had been secretly preparing a compilation of 30 games – some of which took full advantage of Backwards Compatibility.
But Rare Replay had another trick up its sleeve to appeal to a core Xbox audience. Their announcement promised 30 games priced at £20, with 10000 Gamerscore. It was an achievement hunters wet dream.
Rare Replay launched on 4th August 2015 and was a compilation that included games from 1983 and Rare’s predecessor Ultimate Play the Game up to 2008, before Rare went off and made purely Kinect games for a few years (and almost lost their identity doing so. Another story for another time perhaps).
The full list of games included were:
Atic Atac (1983)
Lunar Jetman (1983)
Sabre Wulf (1984)
Knight Lore (1984)
R.C. Pro-Am (1988)
Cobra Triangle (1989)
Snake Rattle N Roll (1990)
Digger T. Rock (1990)
Solar Jetman (1990)
R.C. Pro-Am II (1992)
Battletoads Arcade (1994)
Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
Blast Corps (1997)
Jet Force Gemini (1999)
Perfect Dark (2000)
Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003)
Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
Kameo: Elements of Power (2005)
Viva Piñata (2006)
Jetpac Refuelled (2007)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (2008)
Many of the Xbox 360 titles – including those that had been remastered for the console from previous generations – took advantage of the Backwards Compatibility initiative. As a result, much of the 10000 Gamerscore came from pre-existing achievement lists. Rare Replay itself still contained 4000 Gamerscore; a mixture of in-game achievements, unlocking videos and extras and completing snapshots.
Snapshots were little challenges added into some of the older games in the compilation that worked on two different levels: They gave players an insight into some of the games they would have otherwise avoided but also provided unique challenges to those more familiar.
Some snapshots were also grouped in playlists, where players were given only a few lives to complete all the snapshots within a playlist of five grouped snapshots. All of these had online leaderboards also, which encouraged repetition to beat other players’ scores.
By completing snapshots and earning achievements, players earned stamps on their virtual stamp cards. Complete a stamp card and you could level up in Rare Replay. Then, by levelling up, you could unlock a variety of extras and goodies including interviews with developers other the years, concept art from released and unreleased games, and even some soundtracks.
The care and attention that went into the 30 games spilled over into the compilation. Rare Replay was presented as a theatrical experience, complete with a stage, lights and a brand-new musical number featuring many of the classic characters. Each game sub-menu also included a remixed piece of music from the original game it represented. Rare Replay certainly isn’t the first compilation to appear on consoles, but it offered so much more than simply a list of the games in a bland menu; a criticism that could definitely be aimed at the likes of the recent Konami Anniversary and Namco Museum Archive collections.
But how about the games themselves? With a list as extensive as this to choose from, you could easily find one or two personal favourites. Here are just a couple of mine…
Viva Pinata was perhaps one of the games that convinced me to make the jump from a PlayStation 2 to an Xbox 360 when I could finally afford one in 2007. Certainly, that and Halo 3 were the two games I bought with my console. It was this amazingly colourful world coupled with seeing HD for the first time that convinced me to make the switch.
Seeing it become available through Rare Replay and Backwards Compatibility reminded me of what an excellent simulation game Viva Pinata was. And it was surprisingly comprehensive and in-depth if you dug past the cutesy graphics. It was easy enough to get pinatas to visit your garden and take up residence, but only through cross-breeding flowers – and pinatas – would you get the variations to pop up, and it was a joy to see the sheer number of different pinatas that could visit.
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise took this further by introducing different climates and the ability to capture wild pinatas, but the first game will always have a special place in my heart and being able to revisit on my Xbox One was a major selling point of the compilation.
Having previously only ever played Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts – and for what it’s worth quite enjoying it – I was very keen to try out the originals. Again, through Backwards Compatibility, I was able to play the 360 port of the bird and bear classic platformer.
And it was easy to see what all the fuss was about; all the best platformers have an overworld to explore – looking at Crash Bandicoot and Spyro – but Banjo-Kazooie also had massive levels full of things to uncover too. It felt a little dated back in 2015 to play, but the charm of the characters and the world shone through 17 years after its initial release.
Despite being poorly received when first released, I thoroughly enjoyed Grabbed by the Ghoulies. Perhaps it was the regimented gameplay of having to explore 100 rooms and doing them one-by-one, or maybe it was the horror undertones and regular surprises? Or – and more likely – it was the puerile game title, which still brings a smile to my face now.
Then, going even further back, titles like Jet Force Gemini – a game which could have easily justified the £20 price tag on its own – Slalom, Cobra Triangle and both R.C. Pro-Am games all stopped me from trying out the other games in the collection because they were so good. Those older titles – pre-Nintendo 64 games – also had a Rewind feature, which meant their challenging gameplay was made a little easier for those that didn’t grow up with the unforgiving nature.
Whilst many would agree that Rare Replay was the best compilation in terms of content and added features, there were still a few duffers in there. And I’m sorry to say it was mainly the games that originally appeared on the ZX Spectrum. Games such as Gunfright, Atic Atac and Jetpac just weren’t for me.
All this, without once mentioning the Battletoads Turbo Tunnel Infinite.
Rare Replay is one of those games that still has pride of place on my harddrive; where others have fallen in recent years as file sizes continue to increase, the entire compilation still rests there, and will be going nowhere any time soon. The sheer amount of variation present and the additional work that went into the overall game should be held aloft for other compilations to emulate.
But what were your favourites in the collection? Hopefully those that grew up with the ZX Spectrum haven’t been too offended. Feel free to sound off in the comments though!