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Enjoy the Rare Pleasures of Retronauts as We Discuss... Rare

It's an all-USgamer episode as British expat Jaz joins Bob and Jeremy to discuss England's most popular export: Rare. It's VAT-free!

Column by Jeremy Parish, .

Another week, another audio journey into the past with Retronauts. And this week, we really play up the Retronauts/USgamer allegiance by featuring an all-USG crew.

But could we do any less? One of our Retronauts Kickstarter backers requested an episode on the history of Rare, including their early days as Ultimate Play the Game, and who could possibly give us a better look into the mystery-enshrouded days of the '80s UK gaming scene than our very own Jaz Rignall? Take another journey into England's crowing achievement of the '80s straight from the mouth of someone who lived to tell about it first-hand. Meanwhile, Bob and myself are on-hand to play Glaucon to Jaz's Socrates and occasionally mumble about how hard Battletoads was.

As you can tell from the header art, we try and leave no Rare stone unturned! From Jetpac to Banjo-Kazooie, this episode tackles the full span of Rare's history. Even the studio's current output, which admittedly is pretty modest. Can the company rise again? Will we Americans ever learn to pronounce Twicross properly? These and many more enigmas are answered in this episode!

Download links:

Libsyn (1:30:44 | 63.4 MB | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud

This episode's musical selections:

This week's music comes from Donkey Kong Country, because it's the Rare game that the most people have played, and also because composer David Wise is fantastic.

Remember that Retronauts is available for free on the iTunes Store or via RSS, because only jerks charge money for stuff on iTunes. But! You can help us pay for the cost of producing the show via Patreon, if you're so inclined. You can also support this project by snagging the original hand-drawn/painted artwork for each episode. Thanks for your support, even if it's by just listening and not sending us hate mail.

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Comments 6

  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #1 Kuni-Nino 2 years ago
    Fantastic episode. I didn't know much about Rare's output in the 80's so hearing Jaz talk some tales from the UK was pretty interesting.

    My only problem is that you guys kind of glossed over the N64 era which was probably Rare at the peak of their powers. Maybe it's cause I have A lot of love towards Perfect Dark that I feel the game is sort of under appreciated. The level of customization in the multiplayer was unparalleled and the single player campaign was insane with a lot of levels with different objectives depending on the difficulty levels. Joanna Dark was an awesome character too. I understand the time constraints though and the episode was already big enough.

    Oh, one thing that should be mention as a contributor to Rare's collapse, they bled a lot of talent when some of the guys left to form Free Radical Design. You guys didn't mention that which I found odd because the devs at FDR definitely continued the carefree design Rare was known for. That exodus really hurt them along with the Stamper Brothers leaving.
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  • Avatar for hal9k #2 hal9k 2 years ago
    Great episode. Solar Jetman was one of my favorite lesser-known NES games, and I feel like I need to find a way to play or at least watch a video of its ancestors. You made great points about how technically amazing Battletoads was, and the amount of variety it contained. Lesser developers would've just taken one of the mechanics in that game, repeated it for 5 to 8 stages and called it a day. Battletoads had its flaws and hostile design choices, but it was bursting with creativity.

    I remember the hype for Perfect Dark Zero, based entirely on Rare's reputation. Although that didn't seem to work out, it would be nice to see them get another big chance like that and take advantage of it.
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  • Avatar for tenderbrew #3 tenderbrew 2 years ago
    Great ep. I remember being mortified when Rare when to Microsoft and left all my N64 hopes and dreams behind.

    But that Blast Corps. Man, what a goddamn game.
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  • Avatar for un #4 un 2 years ago
    Great episode, nice to hear Jaz talking about the 80's Ultimate games.
    A Spectrum owning friend spent a significant amount of time playing Jetpac and trying to convince us on the superiority of the Spectrum vs our other micros based on it. Their other 8-bit games always seemed to be over hard collectathons which didn't appeal to me as much, even if they were pretty.

    It's spelled "Twycross" btw :)
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #5 kantaroo3 2 years ago
    This was a good episode. One thing that was missing for me was any mention of the C64 games from Ultimate Play the Game.
    I still remember seeing screenshots of The Staff of Karnath (1984) as a child and wishing that my ZX Spectrum could produce such colorful games...
    I understand that Ultimate acted more as a publisher for the C64 titles rather than a developer, but it would be nice to hear a bit more about them.
    Another bit that was missing was their last ZX Spectrum games such as Nighshade or Pentagram. I had both and they were really cool though admittedly somewhat derivative from Knight Lore (as so many games in that period).


    Otherwise it was a good podcast and I really enjoyed it. I did not partake in their NES period days, but the SNES and N64 glory days were fantastic.

    Actually there is one more thing that could have been noted: how so many of Rare's games were collectathons. somewhere between Atic Atac and Sabre Wulf they develped a style of games based on difficult platforming combined with collecting a wide variety of knick-knacks.
    One could say that in terms of platformers they never outgrew that style. In retrospect Knight Lore's gameplay appears a lot less fantastic. But the graphics back then were unparalleled, and that style of gameplay had not yet grown old.

    Sure they had other more original output (Blast Corps, Goldeneye) but a lot of their big franchises revolved around a gameplay style which they came up with in the early 80s.

    Ah, Rare, such a great piece of my childhood...
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