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Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: Rare Replay (Microsoft Xbox One)

Rare Replay Review

The overall collection and value of this package is impossible to question. Thirty years, thirty games, thirty bucks - the theme is obvious, but so is the value. A lot of time and effort went into this compilation, which has its flaws, but with more hits than misses.

I have been playing video games for a long time, and I enjoy an opportunity to go back and play some of my favourite older titles, especially in new compilations with achievements tacked on for good measure. A good number of these titles hail from the era when there was no online leaderboards, no multiplayer matches and no recording of your content (unless you were like me, and ran your consoles through your VCR. Sadly I do not have my old videos any more). So the idea of packaging them up, making them something that you can share either through video clips or achievements, really helps to blend the old with the new.

Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection was one of the best game compilations from the last generation that I have ever played, but Rare Replay might be right there with it. Some of these games are truly hidden gems, such as Jetpac from 1983. It was interesting to come home the other day and see my son playing a game like this that came out sixteen years before he was born. Other classics like R.C. Pro-Am and Battletoads immediately tickled my nostalgic sensibilities as well. However, these are not all just old games, but we get some of Rare's newer titles that were on the Xbox 360 as well, such as Kameo and Viva Pinata.

Rare Replay Xbox One

I will not claim to have played all of these games over the years, and there were several I had never even heard of. That is the great thing about this collection. There are some absolute stars on the list, but not everything here is bright and shiny. Some of these are lesser known games, and for good reason. That is not to say that games like Digger T. Rock are bad, but they are hardly classics and are more there as filler, I suspect, than any genuine expectation that people will want to play them again.

And while the compilation acts like a digital museum of Rare's history, unfortunately, that story is also incomplete. With the popular Donkey Kong and Golden Eye games not Rare's, it means that some of Rare's best work is not in the compilation. It is a shame, but it is also quite understandable.

What is harder to forgive is the odd way in which the Xbox 360 games are handled. Instead of residing on the disc and being channelled through the same menu access as the classic titles, they are run using the Xbox One's new emulation technology, that will power all of its backwards compatible games. I was really curious to see how this process panned out. Anyone who has worked with emulators in the past knows that sometimes games just do not want to play nice. The hardware the games are running on may be several times more powerful than their original system, but if the emulation software is not entirely up to snuff, you will see severe performance issues. Unfortunately I saw performance issues in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Viva Pinata. I fully expect that these games will get patched and the framerate issues resolved, but it is disappointing to realise you would have a better experience with the original games on an older console. It's also not a great sign of things to come with Xbox One backwards compatibility. It might be a while and some updates yet before that becomes truly compelling.

Xbox One Game Review

However, this is only a handful of the games, and they are not unplayable or broken by any means. Elesewhere the emulation has been used as an opportunity to turn the game into the definitive version of it. For example, in the NES Battletoads, Rare took the time to fix the bug later in the game that made it impossible to advance through with two players (a buddy of mine and I just about lost our minds on that issue back in the day).

Not only is this a collection of games, but a handful of notable other options make their way into the package. The Snapshot challenges are fun and reminded me of NES Remix, offering players little mini-games that serve as training devices as well. Here the players will run through small pieces of the first sixteen games in a points versus time limit scenario that helps add some much needed variety to those games. There are also extra videos and tools on top of the classic games to round out the package.

Rare Replay's technical challenges on a handful of games stand as the only aspect that detracts from an otherwise outstanding collection of titles. With titles reaching back as far as 1983 and as recent as 2008, this is one diverse collection that promises a lot of fun around a variety of genres. Thirty games. Thirty bucks. It's pretty tough to top a collection like this.

- Nick H.
US Editor

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Review: Rare Replay (Microsoft Xbox One)
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