I remember a time when I was a young boy, growing up with my SNES, and being truly amazed by the talents of a company I had never heard of before, Rareware. Rare's golden logo was stylish and hypnotizing, and for a while, everything they made seemed to have the Midas touch. Donkey Kong Country and all its sequels and Killer Instinct were the first games that wowed me from Rare, because I had never before seen such amazing graphics, sound, and music come through my SNES to my television screen. I was hooked and wanted to see what the future held for such a talented company, and they made a fan and true believer out of me. When the Nintendo 64 came around, Rare continued to amaze me. Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and Perfect Dark were some of my absolute favorites (they still are today). Let me tell you about how this once golden company transfixed me, excited me, and left me with so many great recollections, big and small.
This video was my first introduction to Donkey Kong Country, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much of my young, childlike mind was blown upon viewing all this in-game footage. It was 1994 and I was almost 10 years old, the Playstation wasn't out yet, the Saturn was JUST coming out, and this wonderful game was coming out for my bestest pal, the SNES, AND IT LOOKED LIKE IT WAS FROM THE FUCKING FUTURE. A 32 meg game? I didn't even know what that meant, but it sounded important and impressive and I wanted to play the shit out of it. The backgrounds were unbelievably stunning, especially when they went from day into night or when it rained in the middle of a level. Donkey Kong Country was fucking GORGEOUS, its entire design was revolutionary, and its gameplay was unparallelled. The platforming was so tight, the controls were as smooth as a delicious, impeccable booty, and finding all the secrets and hidden areas spoke to the completionist in my heart. Seeing the 3D models and hearing about how all the technology was on the cartridge, that I didn't need to buy an adapter to play Donkey Kong Country; I couldn't believe it. I used to own the VHS tape where the footage up above is from (thanks, Nintendo Power), and I damn near wore it out watching it so many times. It was cool to get to learn tricks before even owning the game, and I was happy to see that so many people involved with Donkey Kong Country's creation were young guys not too much older than me; I wanted to grow up to be like them one day. Rare made 2 great sequels to Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, with Donkey Kong Country 2 being my personal favorite (I'll probably go into detail about it soon, because it is SO INCREDIBLE, it deserves its own blog post).
Clearly Rare could make exceptional platformers (and Killer Instinct was a fun fighter that made multi-hit combo moves famous), but could they revolutionize again, in a different genre altogether? Yes, they could, and yes, they fucking did. Jesus Christ, Goldeneye, where do you even start?! I saw this game playing in Electronic Boutiques on the first floor of the Kings Plaza mall, thought it was the coolest shit ever, and it was from my good buddies at Rare; how could it fail? It didn't; in fact, Goldeneye surpassed every one of my expectations. The missions themselves were a lot of fun, and I freaking LOVED how the game gave the player more objectives to complete the higher the difficulty level. Goldeneye emphasized stealth on the more difficult settings; James Bond couldn't afford to get shot with so many bullets, so you had to learn to be SNEAKY in order to complete each area. Cheats were awarded to hardened veterans who could complete stages in record time (speedruns DO payoff at times), and you haven't lived unless you have played around with the All Guns cheat and created three-handed James Bond (watch laser + Moonraker laser = PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY). Just PAUSING THE GAME was fun; I'll never get tired of seeing that spy watch (and thinking that James stood frozen in time by accessing the game's inventory and options). The real magic, though, was always the multiplayer. Yes, it's very difficult to go back to it now because of the slowdown, but back in 1997, you can bet your ass my friends and I were in awe. We had 4-player battles to the death with any guns and explosives we wanted (and I was king at exploding remote mines in midair), and it was all on a single screen. My cousin and I invented Russian Bomber Squad with Mishkin and Boris, and we used to run around shooting rockets at my poor younger brother (I hit him with a rocket from across an entire room once; it was my proudest moment). My friends and I would call a friendly meeting at the helipad outside the bunker to discuss non-violent solutions to our problems, and I was always the first one to aim my reticule at someone's face and shoot it. Rare was one of the first; fuck it, THE first company to make a great game out of a movie license, and every single FPS that came after Goldeneye owes its multiplayer formula to its pioneering ways.
Banjo-Kazooie, you wonderful adventure, you. Rare, you never stopped trying to top yourself, and Banjo-Kazooie was one of the best 3D platformers ever created. Sure, Super Mario 64 came first and set the groundwork for how a 3D adventure game should be, but you took that groundwork and expanded on it; truth be told, today's platformers owe more to Banjo than to Mario. Collecting all the various objects in the game was a great time, and there was always an incentive to do so (how else can you even get to the true final boss and experience the best ending?). Exploring the rich world of Banjo-Kazooie and combing its every nook and cranny for every collectible never got boring or felt too much like a fetch quest (which is sadly what Donkey Kong 64 felt like). Gruntilda's rhymes were always fresh and I thought she really could have had a career as an MC. Clanker was fucking terrifying when I first saw him because it looked like flesh had been ripped off a damn ROBOT. I remember slamming Boggy in the stomach with Kazooie's powerful beak and being shocked that it didn't get him to throw-up a Jiggy (don't act like you didn't do the exact same thing!). And having one of the final battles be a game show where you had to remember specific things about the various worlds in order to advance was GENIUS. More than anything else, Banjo-Kazooie's greatest strength was its world, because it felt like it always had more secrets to offer and mysteries to solve. Rare managed to beat Nintendo at its own game with its unique platformer.
Rare, you provided some excellent games in your prime, and you were the company I looked up to the most; you guys were my personal heroes. I know times have been tough ever since you found a new home with Microsoft, and you haven't been able to create the same kind of magic you did when you were with Nintendo. I still believe in you, though. Wherever you end up in the future, I know one day you can achieve greatness again. You provided gamers with fantastic games that we will always love; hopefully one day, you can once again shine like the golden treasure I always thought you were.view gallery (4 photos)