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Rare Replay Xbox One Review: The Ultimate Retro Compilation

Journey through the back catalog of one of Britain's greatest developers.

Review by Jaz Rignall, .

Boasting no fewer than 30 games from Rare's extraordinary back catalog, Rare Replay takes us on a three-decade-long trip through gaming's history, starting with the 1983 ZX Spectrum classic, Jetpac – which was originally released under the auspices of the legendary Ultimate Play the Game label – all the way through to the 2008 Xbox One title, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.

The game is actually ten applications in all – nine Xbox 360 titles that are downloaded directly to your hard drive and run under backwards compatibility, and a tenth program that contains the rest of the games, which all run under emulation. At least, I assume the older games run under emulation, because they look absolutely identical to their original counterparts – just crisper, clearer, and with some great (optional) border art surrounding the screen.

What's immediately apparent when you boot up this compilation is just how wonderfully crafted and beautifully presented it is. It strikes the perfect balance between looking great, sporting a few frills like curtains opening and closing (with a neat touch that the menu music then becomes slightly muffled) and showcasing carnival-style ads for the games, but not being so slow or obtrusive that you become annoyed waiting for things to happen.

But it's when you get into the games proper that you can really appreciate the attention to detail that's been poured into this historic compilation. The non-360 games can be saved at any time (and they auto-save just in case you forget) – so you can drop in and out whenever you wish and continue from where you left off. There's a full rewind option that lets you reverse the last ten or so seconds of gameplay – which is an absolute godsend for some of the absolutely rock freakin' hard early games like Battletoads and Snake, Rattle and Roll. Some games also have an unlimited life toggle, and even a CRT monitor effect. Brilliant stuff!

It doesn't end there. While I would have been fully satisfied with what I've already outlined, Rare has gone above and beyond with this collection, creating a "Stamp" system – I'm sure named in tribute to the Stamper brothers who started Ultimate Play the Game back in the early 80's and were Rare stalwarts all the way through until their departure in 2007. This is basically a huge series of challenges that award stamps that you collect to unlock things like making-of videos and featurettes, Rare tunes, concept showcases, and unseen projects and ideas. Challenges vary from just opening and playing a game to specific tasks like collecting or discovering certain things. There's even a series of dedicated challenges that exist as a playlist of portions or moments of a game with a specific target you need to achieve. These range from short challenges, such as killing a certain number of creatures in a short amount of time to finishing up a game that's near completion.

I think these challenges are a great idea. While it's possible to blitz through a game using unlimited lives and the rewind option, the challenges give you targets to aim for that aren't always so easy, and essentially give you a different way – or ways, depending on the challenges – to play the game.

While this compilation of titles has been wonderfully put together, the real stars of the show are, of course, the games themselves. The collection represents a stellar journey through the back catalog of perhaps the most important British developer in the history of gaming. At this point I wish I had the time to go off on a tangent about how historically influential many of these games are, and why (if you're interested, the Retronauts team and I discussed many of these games in a podcast episode back in March), but I'll save that for another time.

Instead, I'll simply say that, clichéd though it may be, there's something here for everybody. Depending on when you first discovered Rare games, this package just oozes memories and nostalgia. If, like me, you're from the very dawn of computer gaming, then obviously the collection of ZX Spectrum titles like Sabre Wulf, Lunar Jetman and Knight Lore, complete with authentic sound and attribute clash, are going to send you straight back to sitting hunched in front of the TV during the mid-80's. NES players have a smorgasbord of titles to wax nostalgic with, ranging from Rare's first game on that console, Slalom, through the late 80's and early 90's games like Snake, Rattle and Roll, RC Pro AM, Cobra Triangle, and the legendarily difficult Battletoads.

Of course, it doesn't end there. The hits keep on coming all the way through the 90's and 00's. There's the Battletoads arcade game, Killer Instinct Gold, one of my all-time faves, the absolutely awesome Blast Corps, three Banjo games, a pair of Perfect Dark titles, two Viva Pinata titles and, as way of a nice historical endcap to the Jetman series, Jetpac Refueled. And that's still not everything on this compilation! The only games that seem to be "missing" are Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country, but that's for reasons that should be patently obvious.

Ultimately, Rare Replay is an excellent journey through three decades of gaming that's both a pleasure and – to those who mightn't have played some of the early Rare and Ultimate games – an education. For younger players, I'm sure some of the older games will seem a little simplistic and long in the tooth, but to people like me who cut their gaming teeth on many of these titles back in the mid 80's, it's terrific to be able to play them again with modern-day trappings like save game features. What amazes me is that I managed to finish many of them the first time around – these days I'm dying every few seconds and constantly using the rewind feature to avoid making repeated mistakes. One thing's for sure – no matter which Rare game is your first, this compilation is a reminder of how tough games used to be back in the day.

At $30 for 30 games, this is a great package for the cash. Even without any frills, this would have been a splendid jaunt down memory lane – but add in all the extras that have been lovingly added to this compilation, and you have an absolutely top-notch collection that offers exceptional value for money. Just playing through the games for a short period of time each takes a few hours, but there's so much more to Rare Replay than just that. With many different challenges to complete – plus the challenge playlists – Rare Replay represents a high water mark for compilations.

A fantastic package that charts the history of one of Britain's most important developers. It works both as a historical archive, and as a top-tier package of classic games. There really is something for everyone in this wonderfully crafted anthology.

4.5 /5

Rare Replay Xbox One Review: The Ultimate Retro Compilation Jaz Rignall Journey through the back catalog of one of Britain's greatest developers. 2015-08-03T23:30:00-04:00 4.5 5

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Comments 17

  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #1 brionfoulke91 2 years ago
    Awesome! I will never own this because of the console it's on... but it's cool to see that it's out there, and that so much love has been put into it. I play all my Rare games the old fashioned way, on the console that they were on. I agree with you that Rare is the most important British game developer of all time, and has one of the highest quality game libraries of any developer. And the difficulty of their games is just sublime.
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  • Avatar for Sturat #2 Sturat 2 years ago
    On the one hand, this seems like one of the most well-designed retro compilations ever, but on the other, I've never liked a single game developed by Rare...
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  • Avatar for yuberus #3 yuberus 2 years ago
    This is definitely a pickup for me whenever I end up with an Xbone, but I have to admit I wished all the stuff had just been on the disc to begin with. I suppose that could have ended up being far too large, though.
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  • Avatar for PlatypusPlatoon #4 PlatypusPlatoon 2 years ago
    Wow, this is an absolute steal for 30 bones. It's a shame that most of the gaming population - especially the older crowd that would most appreciate the retro slant of this compilation - will never get to sample this, present company included, because the Xbox One isn't exactly flying off the shelves. I'd happily pay $60 to play this on another platform, but sadly that isn't an option.
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  • Avatar for Xemus80 #5 Xemus80 2 years ago
    Glad to see it's not some half-assed compilation. The lack of Wizards & Warriors is disappointing but I'm looking forward to revisiting Banjo-Kazooie, which I haven't played since original release. Even though I do most of my console gaming on the PS4, stuff like this makes me glad I bit the bullet and picked up the XBOne when I had the chance.
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  • Avatar for TotalHenshin #6 TotalHenshin 2 years ago
    Very excited for this to arrive in the mail. It's part of the reason I bought an Xbox One to be honest. This and Mega Man Legacy Collection coming out near the same time frame is pure bliss.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #7 MetManMas 2 years ago
    It caught a lot of negative feedback for being a vehicle-based game when everybody wanted a platformer, but I highly recommend Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. You're basically using blocks and parts like LEGOs to build vehicles that react to the actual in-game physics, and it can be fun to MacGyver up a vehicle suited for whatever mission you're currently working on. Also that Rare sense of humor is still around.

    Anyway, while I'm disappointed by the lack of any of the Wizards & Warriors games, if I had an Xbone I'd buy this compilation ASAP. I would like to try out the Battletoads arcade game, as well as play Jet Force Gemini and Conker's Bad Fur Day again.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #8 VotesForCows 2 years ago
    Sounds like a fantastic compilation. This has all made me realise that I've never actually played any of Rare's games though!
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  • Avatar for Wizbiscuit #9 Wizbiscuit 2 years ago
    Soon as this was out I came here to see (I am from UK) if the only reviewer I wanted to review it had... Great right up Jaz, nobody could have done it better :)

    How fresh to have something so timeline complete as this...
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #10 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 years ago
    Count me in for wishing for Wizards & Warriors. Would have rather had the Super NES Killer Instinct than Gold, too.Edited August 2015 by LBD_Nytetrayn
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  • Avatar for JohnnyBgood #11 JohnnyBgood 2 years ago
    Great! Really excited to see all those classics back!
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  • Avatar for hal9k #12 hal9k 2 years ago
    Outstanding review! Solar Jetman is one of my favorite, relatively lesser-known NES games (right up there with Battle of Olympus and Blaster Master), so I was excited to learn that it's part of a whole series of games that I'd never even heard about until recently. I wish the compilation weren't Xbox One exclusive, though...Edited August 2015 by hal9k
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  • Avatar for unoclay #13 unoclay 2 years ago
    If you cant play it on an NES controller, it just isnt legit.
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  • Avatar for kantaroo3 #14 kantaroo3 2 years ago
    This is a great collection and I recommend it without reservations.

    Great value for money too. It puts other offerings like Nintendo's VC to shame...
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  • Avatar for MykonosFan #15 MykonosFan 2 years ago
    The quality of this compilation really has me considering an Xbox One. I'm an absolute sucker for top notch collections like this. I'm really hoping studios with storied histories and titles take a hard look at Rare Replay and consider doing something very similar.
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  • Avatar for spaceharrier #16 spaceharrier 2 years ago
    I will buy a Xbox One for that compilation :)
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  • Avatar for spaceharrier #17 spaceharrier 2 years ago
    @brionfoulke91 Then get a xbox one ;) I will for this game...
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