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Nostalgia is a weird emotion. It wavers wildly from person to person and between age groups. So when anyone sits down with a package of games varying in age and release platform, you’ll get a variety of reactions. Rare Replay is banking that at least a handful of these games will spark some childhood memory and let you relive them. For myself, the games that got a rise out of me almost all exist from 1998 onward. Fortunately, Rare isn’t just showing off a series of games from its history, it’s also showing off why they’re a developer that’s been around for over thirty years.
For most of us Rare Replay will hinge greatly on exactly what is included in the package. Thirty games for $30 is a great deal but if all you’re getting are throwaway titles then why bother? The more recent Rare titles, like Nuts & Bolts and Viva Pinata, help support this package as wonderful a value since both those games are closer to $50 nowadays. The earlier you go in release the further my knowledge dwindles. I recognize games like Battletoads and RC Pro-Am but have little experience with either. And any titles coming out of the 80s that only saw release on the ZX Spectrum, which was primarily popular in the UK and Europe, are all new to me. Those older titles waver between wonderfully designed gems to complicated and complex titles that desperately need their original manuals.
The wrapper that binds these games together is pretty great. You can quickly cycle through all the games and once you’ve made your selection you are given more info and a small video giving you a better idea of what the game will play like if you’re unfamiliar. Each game has a series of stamps, or in-game achievements, and the more stamps you earn the more behind the scenes features you gain access to. It’s a bit of a shame to see these interesting videos locked behind lengthy and occasionally difficult gameplay. In addition you can take on challenges for some of the early Rare titles called ‘Snapshots’. These Snapshots can be as simple as killing a set number of enemies in a set amount of time or can be a series of challenges, across different games, with limited lives. Snapshots also help you earn stamps that you’ll probably need to if there is a specific video or two you really want to watch.
The package isn’t all perfect however. When you enter the disc for the first time you’ll be installing eight Xbox 360 games, plus Rare Replay itself, which can be somewhat time consuming. Those 360 games are all included in the Rare Replay package and can be launched either from inside the Replay wrapper or independently. It feels a little clunky at times but the 360 emulation isn’t bad and you can warp back to Rare Replay from inside the 360 game. However whenever I switch back Rare Replay seemingly forgets I’m playing, despite still being logged in, and calls me ‘Player’ and shows none of my stamp progress. I have to quit the game and relaunch if I want to continue on like normal. Some of the older games don’t run very well either. There is some framerate and stuttering issues with games like Knightlore and Gunfright but that seems more like an original game issue and not an emulation problem.
Going back to relive some of my favorite games from my childhood is a mixed bag. Not all of these games hold up and even if you didn’t spend hours trying to figure out Jet Force Gemini in 1999, I doubt 2015 is the time to finally do that. But what’s truly special about Rare Replay isn’t just our nostalgia. It’s rummaging through Rare’s older titles and finding a new game you had never heard of and realizing you actually like it. Jetpac really surprised me and I feel gravitated towards it. Reliving Rare’s history makes me feel closer to them in some strange way. Getting to know their past, recent or otherwise, makes me very hopeful and eager for what else Rare could do. Nostalgia may rule your decision to play Rare Replay but don’t be afraid of those titles whose names you don’t know.