QCF: Rare Replay
Friday, September 18, 2015
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hen you’ve been in the business of developing games for over thirty years, the work and charm you put into your games gets more and more noticeable. In the case of Rare though, this sort of quality that truly defined them, and pushed them to get where they are today.

A brand that was once synonymous with a certain gaming giant, and responsible for vast majority of the gems available on their hardware nearly two decades before, has since found a new home, and been quietly established a new identity with the big M ever since.

Granted, it is fourteen years late, but the giant has finally decided to host one best celebrations to be found on a commemorative game collection called Rare Replay; an assortment of classics to bear the Rare name (well, most of them anyway) in a value priced package priced at just thirty dollars.

While the deal alone makes the trip down memory lane worth all the hype, the attention to detail and care put into this title, makes it one of the best love letters to video games that I’ve seen in years.

Admittedly, Rare is one of those weird exceptions on the scene where they were never quite acknowledged by name, but for a consistently familiar sense of charm and whimsy to their products that could be recognized across their entire library, and that hallmark is affectionately apparent with the selection available in Replay.

The developer has existed since 1982, which was a weird point in time where the status of video games and its viable future was far from certain, at least before the NES changed all that anyway. So to see that Replay goes this far back is novel—but it also takes strides to deliver something that we don’t often see in game collections.

It focuses more on being a self-aggrandizing piece of history than a nostalgic cash grab, and the effort is delightfully endearing.

Everything that’s accomplished in any one of the included games within the collection is monitored and recorded, with the rewards for each little advancement extending beyond the prize of an achievement for your gamertag. All the achievements you earn also act as “stamps” the Rare Replay tracks on a virtual ticket stub, and after gathering a certain number of them, you’re able to unlock an assortment of videos that are viewable from the first hub of the game.

These vignettes include feature interviews, behind-the-scenese look at the development of the iconic games within the arrangement, and a slew of stories recounting the history and experience of working of what working for Rare was like from the studio staff themselves. The presentation has earnest documentary-styled approach that delivers a cinematography over everything and anything that’s Rare, and it’s just a real treat to kick back, and watch.

So much so that’s it’s a shame that these video aren’t available any other way, but it definitely offers some incentive to play the generously sized volume of software that’s bundled within the collection.

Of the thirty games included within the arrangement, there are entries that date back to Rare’s ZX Spectrum days under the moniker of Ultimate Play. Some of the titles like Jetpac, and Sabrewulf, are synonymous with the British studio, there are a slew of others that glamourize the Rare trademark of “ambition over function” and it’s weirdly commendable that they were thrown into the mix to begin with.

For every little treasure like Jetpac, and Snake Rattle ‘n Roll, we’re given games like Atic Atac and Underwurlde, and to say that these titles haven’t aged well is an understatement; their ports are dismally faithful, right down to all the clunky control, cryptic direction, and difficulty that hold them back from being anything more than products of their time.

Granted, these games aren’t awful, but some modernization couldn’t have hurt it in the slightest, as far as the UI and control is concerned anyway—especially when these optimizations are available to other titles within the collection like Jet Force Gemini, and Perfect Dark.

What does make the visit to these nuanced relics more interesting however is the Snapshot feature that’s included; a mode that devises a slew of micro-challenges that’re built around set mechanics and elements of the game in a manner that will test skill, and patience for any players who hope to have a chance of success.

While the available Snapshot trials are only available to all the generations that take place prior to the Nintendo 64 era and above, it simplifies the gate of accessibility to a majority of the more ancient games within the collection, and helps make them more appealing to play in their own right.

Another helpful feature that surprisingly takes a nod from emulation programs is the Rewind feature. At any point that a player happens to gloriously fail within any of the more retro titles, they’re able to set the clock back up to a minute of where they were in the title prior to the failure; giving them the second chance that the software never natively afforded before.

It sound like a small feature to romanticize sure, but when you’re glued to every intense turn that R.C. Pro AM or Cobra Triangle throws at you, and one slip-up throws off your entire game, well then, it’s at that point you come to appreciate a mechanic that works to keep that sort of excitement and engagement intact.

While the ZX Spectrum titles are a bit of a hit and miss in terms of the playability, there’s another flaw they have that the NES titles happen to share as well—performance and processing.

I’m well aware of all of the hardware limitations that the original hardware that ran these games in their heyday had; the sprite flickering, and slowdown—these are fully acknowledged, and are moot point to the following criticism. What I’m referring to are the frequent bouts of screen-tearing, hard-crashes, and framerate-skipping—yeah you read right, framerate-skipping, a crime much, much more despicable than slowdown will ever be.

In addition to these flaws, some of the Xbox 360 to have some framerate issues of their own, animating at an inconsistent pace that makes the on screen stuttering awkward to contend with from time to time.

What’s even more baffling is the interface and data distribution of these titles in terms of their inclusion. While they all are accessed through an internal HUB within the game, a few of the N64 titles, along with the entire Xbox 360 selection are all managed as individual installs that’re distinct from the main installation of Rare Replay itself. It’s clear that this decision was made in order to display the capabilities of the new backwards-compatibility that Microsoft recently announced for the Xbox One, but in terms of utility, and convenience—it’s clumsy and unnecessary.

Despite the number of issues this bundle is plagued with, Rare Replay is one of the best collections that’s ever been produced in video games today. The sheer value of the package and the content it boasts will cater to hours, and hours of enjoyment, in addition to being an incredible insightful, and enjoyable piece of historical preservation in video games.

If you own an Xbox One then this is a no-brainer; get this game, it’ll be the best $30 you’ll ever spend for time to come.

Article originally appeared on Press Pause Radio (http://www.presspauseradio.com/).
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