Retro game collections are hardly new. Publishers have been putting out collections of old games for ages, throwing a bunch of Atari, arcade, NES, Genesis, etc. games onto a single disc. Looking at it cynically, it's a great opportunity for companies to make some money by selling people their old games for a second or third time.
But when a collection is as good as Rare Replay, it's hard to complain.
Rare is celebrating 30 years of game development by releasing 30 games in a package for $30, all originally released between 1983 and 2008. There's an impressive variety of genres represented, too: Racing games, beat-'em-ups, a fighting game, shooters, platformers, strategy games ... There's something for everybody, and for $1 per game, it's hard to feel too bad about the ones you don't like.
If you don't have nostalgia for them, the games made in the 80s are more likely to be in that "don't like" category, as many of them don't hold up as well as, say, Donkey Kong. Still, there's at least of bit of fun to be had running from monsters in Atic Atac or gathering fuel in Jetman.
And there's more to do in Rare Replay than just play those old games. Each 8-bit classic has been retro-fitted with new features like Rewind, which allows you to hold the left trigger on your Xbox controller and rewind gameplay to erase any mistakes you've made (useful, as these games are no joke when it comes to difficulty).
There are also new challenges to complete such as Snapshots, which present you with a small chunk of a classic game an a unique objective to complete. For example, one Snapshot for the racing classic R.C. Pro-Am tasks you with collecting all the stars littered around the track before the race ends. If these challenges sound fun (and if you ask me, they are) then you might also be interested in Playlists, which string several Snapshots together and give you a limited amount of lives with which to complete them.
These are all features that add a lot of value to these old games, which are already well-emulated recreations of their original forms. But if games from the early 80s aren't your thing, there are still a bunch of newer titles in the collection that are worth your time, including Battletoads, Killer Instinct Gold, Perfect Dark and Banjo-Kazooie.
The newest games in Rare Replay, for the most part, hold up quite well. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and both Viva Pinata titles (all of which originally came out on the Xbox 360) are nearly worth the price of Rare Replay's admission alone, as each provides hours and hours of quality entertainment. Getting to these Xbox 360 releases is slightly more clunky than the other games in the collection (they work via the Xbox One's new backwards compatibility feature, so you're literally leaving the Rare Replay program to boot up another game), but they otherwise work wonderfully.
But I have a lot of nostalgia for Rare's N64 era, so I spent probably 10 hours playing through all of Blast Corps -- destroying every building and finding every collectible along the way -- despite its outdated and unwieldy camera.
That N64 era can be pretty hit-or-miss, though. While I loved Jet Force Gemini growing up, its controls were clearly not designed with modern controllers in mind, making it difficult to play now (by default, you jump by pressing up on the right analog stick. Also, aiming is inverted by default and cannot be switched. Yeah, shooters, on the N64 were weird). Reportedly, a patch is coming after launch to give the game more modern controls, but at the moment it's hard to go back.
Then there are games like Conker's Bad Fur Day that have a devoted fan following but which... OK, look, I'm just going to say it: Conker was never a great game, especially compared to Rare's other platformers like Banjo-Kazooie. A lot of people loved it because it had a ton of bad words and inappropriate toilet humor, which was novel for the time. It doesn't hold up.
But even when some of its games fall flat, Rare Replay is chock full of the studio's signature charm. Even the menus have a certain amount of joy to them -- they're all colorfully animated as if the collection is a stage/puppet show. Not a single game in the package was simply thrown in without a second thought. All of them have had some amount of work done, even to the point where each game now displays Xbox One button prompts instead of the buttons from their original platforms.
To top it all off, playing games in Rare Replay unlocks various pieces of bonus content, including more than an hour of behind-the-scenes "making of" footage featuring the history of Rare and some of their most famous games.
There are some obvious omissions from the collection that are missing for obvious reasons. None of Rare's Donkey Kong games (from Donkey Kong Country to Diddy Kong Racing to Donkey Kong 64) are here, as those characters belong to Nintendo. Similarly, Rare and Microsoft don't currently have the James Bond license, so Goldeneye 007 is also out (Perfect Dark is an OK substitute, however).
If you grew up playing any of Rare's other games, though, Rare Replay should be an easy sell. If you didn't, there's still a good chance you'll find something to love here.
I mean, look. Viva Pinata is a game about growing a garden of animal pinatas that is part zen garden and part strategy game. You can send pinatas to friends. There's a pinata called a fudgehog (it's like a hedgehog, obviously). What's not to love there? You can buy Rare Replay for that experience alone, and the rest is just a bonus.