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[Rare Replay sounds like it’s going to make a big splash. But know that for every Blast Corps or Perfect Dark included, there’s a slew of games both famous and unknown that aren’t included in the humongous pack. Do you recognize a few of these titles? If you want to try getting on the front page, try starting your own blog, especially about Grabbed by the Ghoulies ~Striderhoang]
Microsoft made a hell of an announcement at E3 regarding Rare, the legendary company that it purchased from Nintendo in 2002. Thirty games developed by the company are going to be included in the Rare Replay compilation set for the Xbox One.
That’s pretty awesome! Everyone has been going on and on about how this compilation has everything Rare has ever made! It’s got Battletoads! It’s got Conker! All three Banjo-Kazooie games! Viva Piñata! It’s awesome that Rare’s total history is included in this one single game disc.
Except it’s not. There are a few games that have been omitted from the release for one reason or another. You probably already knew that, since some of the omissions are pretty glaring. Here, I’m going to attempt to make a guide as to what Rare-made games have not been included in the Rare Replay collection as, honestly, in some ways it’s easier to list what isn’t there than to give a full list of what is.
1. A lot of ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, and MSX games.
Rare originally got its start as Ultimate Play The Game, a humble game developer based out of the United Kingdom. It released most of its games via the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, a computer that was incredibly popular in the UK but was absolutely unheard of in the United States. The Spectrum’s primary way of loading software was via tape. Cassette tape. That is an absolutely foreign concept to us in the States since even on consoles like the Commodore 64 and Amiga you had floppy disks that were used for storage and programs. Tapes? That’s weird. But that was how you did things on the Speccy, and it did it relatively well.
If you’re curious about what in the hell a ZX Spectrum is, check out Lazy Game Reviews’ video that covered the machine. Getting a PAL machine like the Spectrum to work in a NTSC region is a lot of work!
For the record, we’ve got a bunch of games to list here: Psst, Tranz Am, Cookie, The Staff of Karnath, Alien 8, Nightshade (pictured above), Blackwyche, Entombed, Imhotep, Outlaws, Dragon Skulle, Cyberun, Pentagram, Martianoids, and Bubbler.
Why all of the omissions? Well, most of those games are too obscure for even a hardcore gamer to recognize, and honestly there’s a chance that Rare/Microsoft didn’t see the use in including all of these games that almost nobody actually played. For every person who will play the Spectrum games that are included on Rare Replay, like Jetpac and Sabre Wulf, there are countless gamers who fondly remember Battletoads or Banjo-Kazooie more.
Another issue involves rights. See, around the time Ultimate Play The Game released Gunfright (also on Rare Replay), which came right after Nightshade in 1985, there was a change in Ultimate’s operations. Ultimate’s founders, Chris and Tim Stamper, had sold the Ultimate name to US Gold, a contemporary developer, who kept the Ultimate name attached to various titles. The company itself was very secretive about this, and as such it’s a little unclear just how many of these games were actually made by Ultimate or US Gold. The last two games in the list are definitely US Gold releases, with the Ultimate name on them.
A lot of those above games may have been omitted because some of them weren’t really Rare games to begin with.
2. A LOT of NES games.
By 1987, Rare was a fully-fledged game developer for the new hotness that was the Nintendo Entertainment System. The sheer volume of titles that it developed for or ported to the NES is astounding: over 40 titles, including ports of other games. These games run the gamut of genres and settings. You’ve got the above Wizards & Warriors series, home versions of game shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel Of Fortune, shooters like Captain Skyhawk and pinball games like Pin-Bot. Even the dreaded port of Silent Service was a Rare-developed title.
Y’know what? Silent Service is better left off of Rare Replay. It isn’t a very good game, and it is easily more common than most every other NES game on the market. This game is a plague. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Rare even dabbled with games based on movies, like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
You could actually do four-player gameplay on this particular game, as the box annoyingly illustrates.
The games I’ve listed are only a fraction of what Rare actually made for the NES, of course. But do you notice something about all of the games pictured?
They all have different publishers.
Like I said earlier, Rare was a video game developer, not a publisher. This means that all of those Rare titles are segmented, owned by different companies and rights holders. To negotiate their release on a modern console would be an absolute pain. Even so, I’m sure that Rare had to do some sort of negotiation for games like Slalom and Battletoads to be a part of Rare Replay. After all, Slalom is an NES black box game and Tradewest, the publisher of Battletoads, hasn’t existed for twenty years. The company it was folded into (Midway) hasn’t existed since 2009. There were probably some hurdles to jump there.
Speaking of Battletoads, though…
3. Battletoads & Double Dragon (and Battlemaniacs)!
Back in the day, Battletoads was published by Tradewest. Double Dragon was published by Tradewest. Tradewest decided to dip its Battletoads chocolate into Double Dragon‘s peanut butter to make a crossover game that combined elements of both franchises. The Ultimate Team®!
There’s a good reason why this one isn’t on Rare Replay: Double Dragon‘s rights are all over the place. It would be silly to negotiate rights for just one game — one that isn’t even top-notch (Yeah, I said it!).
Not a ton of people remember Battletoads’ legitimate sequel, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, which was released on the Super Nintendo in 1994 during the second half of the SNES’s lifespan. It’s a solid game, and one that you can only really play on the SNES. There was a Sega Master System port, but it was left incomplete and it wasn’t made by Rare. Oh, and there were two Game Boy games: one is just called Battletoads, and it is actually a completely new game in the franchise. The original game was also ported to the Game Boy under the title Battletoads In Ragnarok’s World.
With all the Battletoads love that Rare Replay is getting, it’s weird to see the game’s true sequel omitted. Is it something to do with being on the SNES? That argument doesn’t quite hold water, since other games that were considered Nintendo staples made it into the collection. We’re left to wonder…
4. Donkey Kong Country (and Land, and 64)
Oh, come on. You knew this was coming up.
More than anything else, Donkey Kong Country put Rare on the map as a game developer. The visuals were astonishing for the time, and the gameplay is second to none, despite what some people have said in the last decade or so. This is one of those games with near universal acclaim.
I’ve talked about the franchise in the past and I briefly touched on its importance for Nintendo, but it bears repeating: Donkey Kong Country absolutely destroyed Nintendo’s competition and allowed Nintendo to cement its place as the king of 16-bit gaming. The game re-invented Donkey Kong and to this day the image of DK is based on his appearance in Country.
The game spawned three direct sequels: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (not Diddy Kong’s Quest, remember?), Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble, and Donkey Kong 64, which was made for the Nintendo 64, of course. The DKC games also had companion games on the Game Boy, under the name Donkey Kong Land. Those games were black and white, and while they drew inspiration from the console games, the levels are completely different. There was also a port of Donkey Kong Country for the Game Boy Color in 1999, which showed that an 8-bit version of a 16-bit powerhouse was do-able, albeit with some fairly severe limitations.
Diddy Kong even had a spin-off game on the Nintendo 64, which went under the title of Diddy Kong Racing. Despite the game having the first appearances of Banjo and Conker, this game is in a weird situation where the original release probably won’t be coming out for any console, Nintendo or Microsoft, in any form, because the two mentioned characters are owned by Microsoft and the rest are Nintendo owned. Maybe the DS version will hit the eShop some day (As that one has Banjo and Conker removed and replaced with other Kong characters).
Three guesses as to why the Donkey Kong Country series is being overlooked for Rare Replay. The first two guesses don’t count.
It’s so strange to see a huge part of Rare’s history completely overlooked, albeit for rights reasons rather than it being an old shame. You know that, on some level, the Donkey Kong games were part of the reason why Microsoft bought the company in the first place. I know most people probably weren’t expecting the Donkey Kong games to be included in the collection (I’d be surprised if anyone actually did), it’s just so interesting to see them omitted. It’s like seeing an American history textbook omitting the Vietnam War, or downplaying the election of Bill Clinton. It’s just odd.
4.5: Killer Instinct
This is one that I initially overlooked. Whoops.
The original Killer Instinct, as well as KI2, are not on Rare Replay? Why is that? Well, it may have something to do with the two games already being available on the Xbox One as downloads. Microsoft and Rare most likely didn’t want consumers to be forced to double-dip with the two KI games, especially since many Xbox One fans already have the two games. The image above depicts the SNES port of KI, which I’m sure will not be anywhere near the Xbox One or Nintendo’s eShop any time soon, though I’ve been wrong before…
I initially looked over KI‘s inclusion in this guide because I completely forgot that the KI game included in Rare Replay, Killer Instinct Gold, isn’t quite the same as KI 1 or 2. It was originally a Nintendo 64 release, owing much of its gameplay and character selection to KI2. KI Gold isn’t an exact conversion of the arcade game, however, as the arcade games utilized a hard drive to stream data to the game itself, resulting in some amazing FMV backgrounds and crazy-awesome audio that the N64 couldn’t quite replicate. The game itself is really fun, though, and well worth checking out. You won’t even care about the fact that it is technically inferior to the arcade version.
Fun fact: most of the hard drives that were included with KI and KI2 machines are long dead. Since replacing a 20+ year Seagate drive is basically impossible without stumbling on some new-old-stock, many KI cabs that still exist have been outfitted with CompactFlash cards or SD cards that contain the same data as the hard drives. Oh, technology!
5. Goldeneye 007
I feel bad for people who haven’t played this game, because playing it today doesn’t give anywhere near the same experience as it did when this game was new. Goldeneye was the first modern first-person shooter. Before Goldeneye, most FPSes were crazy fast shootbang fests where you shot everything that wasn’t you with a gun that was the size of a mini van. Goldeneye, however, dialed the tone back considerably and made the setting more realistic to tie into the James Bond film the game was ostensibly made to promote, even though it was released two years after the film. You know every modern FPS ever? They owe their existence in some part to Goldeneye.
This game was actually directly mentioned by Rare representatives as being omitted from the Rare Replay collection for not fitting with the idea of Rare Replay, with the games being focused on Rare created content. That makes sense, and is probably going to be used as a justification for why everything else I have mentioned or will mention in this article didn’t make the cut for the game. If you’re itching for some Rare FPS action, don’t be disappointed: Perfect Dark is included on Rare Replay, in addition to Perfect Dark Zero, which came out later but is actually a prequel. The original Perfect Dark is basically a spiritual successor to Goldeneye anyway, so you’re not completely left in the dust when it comes to shooters on the compilation.
6. Mickey’s Speedway USA
Hey, look at that! Mickey’s Speedway USA is a pseudo-sequel to Diddy Kong Racing! I must admit, this is one Rare title for the N64 that I often forget about. It isn’t a truly bad game, though. It’s just not as good as Diddy Kong Racing. Playing Mickey’s Speedway just makes one yearn for the likes of Diddy Kong and Banjo, barreling through volcanoes and sandy beaches as opposed to Mickey’s fairly-bland surroundings.
If you thought the other games were a licensing nightmare, check this one out. Disney’s lawyers probably sent a preemptive “Hell no” letter when they caught a whisper of Rare Replay being made.
Disney isn’t one to re-release its old games. Seems like it’s easier to re-make them, such as with Castle of Illusion or Ducktales. When that’s the case, why bother?
7. Star Fox Adventures
This game was Rare’s swan song for Nintendo (sort of, more on that later). Star Fox Adventures was the last game Rare developed for a Nintendo home console before being bought out by Microsoft. Originally, the game was to be called Dinosaur Planet, and it was to be released on the Nintendo 64. Development was long, and filled with delays. Eventually, the standalone franchise nature of the game was scrapped and replaced with parts from the Star Fox series, shoehorning the game into the franchise. This makes the game somewhat of a black sheep in the Star Fox games, since nothing quite like it has come out in the series since SFA, and it is highly unlikely that anything like it will ever come out, since SFA was decimated by critics. It’s easier to pretend that this isn’t a Star Fox game, though you can’t really do that since elements from this game have shown up in other games in the franchise.
It would be interesting to see if Rare Replay contains some concept art for Dinosaur Planet, as a lot of the plot and characters from that were not included with Star Fox Adventures. I’m sure that other games will get a similar treatment (like Kameo: Elements of Power, which was originally planned to be on the N64, then the Gamecube, and then the original Xbox before finally releasing as an Xbox 360 launch title).
I guess this is just another one for the vault.
7.5: Conker: Live & Reloaded
Conker’s Bad Fur Day is getting a release on Rare Replay, thankfully. However, this updated re-release of BFD on the original Xbox might be left in the dust in the collection.
Conker: Live & Reloaded was a complete re-make of Bad Fur Day, with better visuals than the original Nintendo 64 ones, as well as some changes to level design to include things like expanded dialogue. It’s not quite the same as Bad Fur Day, so you’ll get a bit of a different experience, though basically they are the same game. The multiplayer was also completely overhauled, adding in more modes, more players, and, as the name suggests, online multiplayer via the original Xbox Live. This version of the game isn’t perfect, however, as the game’s dialogue was censored in the game’s master audio files, which meant that there was no way to un-censor them in-game. The N64 version had a bit of an edge on that front as less swearing was censored, which is a little interesting, given Nintendo’s history with rather draconian censorship practices.
It’s not the end of the world to have Live & Reloaded omitted since the original game is still one of the games included in Rare Replay, but keep in mind that, as far as I know, Rare hasn’t divulged whether or not the Bad Fur Day included in Rare Replay is based on the original or on the Live & Reloaded version. You may be surprised…
8. A few obscure Game Boy Advance games
Rare’s buyout by Microsoft didn’t completely disintegrate its relationship with Nintendo, as many would be led to think. Quite the opposite, in fact: Rare simply switched its focus from Nintendo home consoles to handheld consoles, aided by having THQ as a publisher. Microsoft didn’t see an issue with Rare continuing to make handheld games for its competition, most likely due to the fact that Microsoft doesn’t make a handheld console of its own.
Of course, you had ports of the Donkey Kong Country games available for the GBA, albeit with some major changes: The color schemes of each game were brightened considerably, changing the mood and atmosphere of many game levels. They did include some new levels, however, and you could save your progress at any time. They aren’t bad ports, just different, which may be a good or bad thing depending on how much you love the SNES originals.
The real interesting bits come with the games that are based on franchises that Nintendo doesn’t directly own. For instance, do you know there was a sequel to Banjo-Kazooie on the GBA, titled Grunty’s Revenge? It served as a sequel to BK and a prequel to Banjo-Tooie, and, amazingly, it kept a lot of the same gameplay from the console versions, though it was done with Mode 7 visuals and sprite scaling, of course. Rare also took a stab at making a handheld racing game, partially inspired by Diddy Kong Racing (and originally meant to star characters from the Donkey Kong games). The game was dubbed Banjo-Pilot, and as the title suggests, it focuses on plane-based racing. It’s no Mario Kart, but the game is actually quite fun, including scenes from both console Banjo games and some fun items to destroy opponents with.
Or perhaps you yearned for a sequel to Sabre Wulf, one of Ultimate Play The Game’s ZX Spectrum games? Well, Rare updated Sabreman and his lycanthropy for the modern day. Neat stuff. Rare also released a ridiculously-obscure puzzle game on the GBA, called It’s Mr. Pants. Mr. Pants is a bit of a running joke in some Rare titles, originally appearing on Rare’s old website, where he was a survey supervisor. The game was originally supposed to be based around Donkey Kong, titled Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers, but during development Rare decided to change the design to include their loveable little inside joke. Honestly, I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen more of Mr. Pants, since he’s just the right type of silly mascot that needs his own game every few years. Then again, I’m just a writer, not a game developer.
There are a ton of reasons why the majority of Rare’s releases are not included on Rare Replay. Most boil down to licensing agreements or trademark issues, but the company may very well be saving some games as unlockable extras, or potentially for a sequel in the future. I don’t think the latter will happen, since most of Rare’s heavy hitters are in the collection already.
I’m certainly not complaining about the games included in the Rare Replay set. Hell, I’m going to buy an Xbox One specifically for this game. Seriously. I can’t wait to play Blast Corps again, and I definitely can’t wait to break out the arcade version of Battletoads.
It’s just interesting to take a look at what Rare overlooked for the collection for one reason or another.