Towards the end of the last console generation they hit rock bottom, tasked with churning out Kinect Sports games for the titular much-maligned motion capture device. There was a growing fear that Microsoft would have them servicing the casual market indefinitely.
Thankfully, things seem to be looking up for Rare, as their considerable creative chops are now being put to far better use. As well as being involved in the development of Killer Instinct for Xbox One, and helming the upcoming Sea of Thieves, they’ve also recently put out Rare Replay, a much anticipated collection of their greatest hits, exclusively for Xbox One.
Rare Replay is an impressive package, but the irony here is that it does much to underscore how utterly wasted Rare have been over the past few years. In fact, you could probably argue that the real point of the whole exercise is to draw a line under the company’s recent output and thrust them back into the limelight, thereby adding perceived value to any future projects bearing their hallowed name. Notably, their logo has now reverted back to that iconic golden ‘R’ after a few years of brandishing something far more generic and corporate.
Whatever the truth of the matter, Rare Replay win-win for gamers. There are some absolute gems here, such as Banjo-Kazooie, Blast Corps, Battletoads, Jetpac, Atic Atac, Perfect Dark and more.
Which brings me to my next point. If you have a look at the full list here, you’ll notice that a fair few of Rare Replay’s main attractions were originally released for the N64. In fact, quite a lot of what’s on offer has never seen the light of day on a Microsoft console before.
And this is one area in which the Redmond giant struggles to compete with Nintendo and Sony; cashing in on nostalgia. The Xbox brand is far too young to have any truly retro classics to call its own, so is often forced to borrow from elsewhere, in this case, Rare’s aforementioned N64 glory days. It’s a interesting talking point, given that Microsoft are appropriating goodwill for which a rival console maker deserves at least partial credit.
Furthermore, analysis by Eurogamer suggests the use of some kind of emulator to get the games in question running on the Xbox One. I’d be interested to know how that came to pass, and how it compares to Nintendo’s own Virtual Console solution or third party emulators.
So, while Rare Replay is certainly an excellent purchase, it not only shines a harsh spotlight on Microsoft’s squandering of Rare’s talent in recent times, but also invites unfavourable comparison as regards how they previously flourished under Nintendo’s stewardship.