Let’s take a moment and join in a collective slow clap for the announcement of Rare Replay on the Xbox One. This collection doesn’t just mean the return of 30 classic titles on a new-generation console. It also means that old-timers like us get to trip down memory lane and relive the wonder days of after-school game sessions and having to fight overbearing siblings for use of the controller.
Of all Rare’s great titles, these six stand out most in our personal memories – some for being addictive, some for being revolutionary, and one for being an unending source of childhood trauma. (We’re looking at you, Battletoads.) We’re looking forward to playing all 30 games in the package, but these are the six we’re looking forward to the most.
We can still hear that bear’s dopey “Huh-huh!” in our heads, his jovial cheer whenever he and his best bird pal Kazooie found a golden jigsaw piece. One of the quintessential 3D platformers of the ‘90s, Banjo-Kazooie built upon the still-new genre, and added iconic elements to it. Two friends on a quest to fight an evil witch, Banjo the bear and snarky bird Kazooie traveled across colorful lands and met even more colorful characters, like a friendly witch doctor, a race enthusiast polar bear, and a giant mechanical shark. Finding a great balance between exploration and collection (something other games tried and failed to emulate), and filled with a ton of charisma, Banjo-Kazooie double-jump-flapped its way into our hearts. Its sequel, Banjo-Tooie, is also in the collection, and guess what? It’s also really amazing.
Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
Essentially an upgraded version of the awesome Killer Instinct 2, KI Gold is an over-the-top, combo-centric fighting game that focuses on team combat. With as many as 11 characters on a single team (in 1996, folks!), this game was absolutely insane back in the day. Grabbing a friend after school, unleashing your most insane combos and most brutal finishers, was the best stress-reliever possible. One of the coolest things about this game was the easy-to-learn, rock-paper-scissors-style move-priority system. Certain move types trump others, even in mid-combo, so it’s up to players to learn, react, and try to anticipate what’s coming next from their foes. It’s a system that’s easy to learn and hard to master, but the best part about KI Gold is the Training Mode – which we highly recommend purchasers of Rare Replay spend ample time getting into. It will learn all you whippersnappers the ways of the combo, but good. Heck, you can take your skills into the new Killer Instinct game, too, if you want.
Perfect Dark (2000)
Featuring a dynamic female protagonist and a co-operative multiplayer mode (in addition to a fast-paced, highly competitive deathmatch mode), Perfect Dark is way above and beyond the shooters of its era. Even more amazing is the level of customization available to its multiplayer modes, with AI bots called “Simulants” able to play the role of antagonists or allies in both the multiplayer, and the campaign. Split-screen co-op in the campaign also means that you can play Perfect Dark with a bud while sitting together on the couch – something in rare supply in this day and age of online multiplayer. Did we mention the game has an awesome storyline and great voice acting? Yeah, this one is not to be missed.
Blast Corps (1997)
Blast Corps is an insane game. Even as kids we were endlessly amused by its awesome absurdity. The game focuses around two defective nuclear missiles that have to be transported to a safe detonation zone, like RIGHT NOW. Because they have to be taken the shortest distance possible, and any jostle can set them off, it’s up to you to jump into bulldozers, construction equipment, and giant robots and destroy everything in the path of the missile convoy. Featuring arcade-style gameplay at some of its best, Blast Corps combines the pure fun of blowing up everything in your way with the satisfaction of knowing that your wanton destruction is preventing the total annihilation of humanity. We particularly loved how the game rewarded you for destroying extra buildings, because hey, why not? In for a penny, in for a pound, right? Level it all.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
Now, despite Perfect Dark dishing out a hefty amount of violence the year before, Rare still had a reputation as a family-friendly developer, known for cute characters (see our love letter to Banjo-Kazooie above). Then along came Conker and threw up all over that in the best way. Combining gross-out humor with hilarious pop culture references, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a nightmarish twist, a look into the Bizarro World of Rare. It featured all the tight controls and colorful graphics of a Rare platformer, with a decidedly mature story about a hungover squirrel who will kill every teddy bear, evil panther king, or talking giant pile of feces in his way to get back to his girlfriend. It even featured a multiplayer mode where you could compete against friends to do things like feed a baby dinosaur. Yeah, this was a weird game.
When this game came out in the arcades, we thought it was the coolest darn thing since sliced pizza. A popular cartoon series, turned into an action-packed beat-‘em-up, with local co-op? Oh yeah! And when it was released for home consoles, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. But when we finally did get it, we simply weren’t prepared for just how hard it was going to be. But then, that’s part of the allure of classic games: spending hour after hour mastering the timing of the platforming segments, working with friends to get through punishing fighting sequences, and then, of course, surviving the freakin’ racing sequences. This is still regarded as one of the most difficult videogames of all time, so if you can conquer Battletoads in Rare Replay, you deserve a special Achievement – and a personal pat on the back.
You can play all six of these amazing old-school games – and 24 more! – when Rare Replay hits Xbox One on August 4 for $29.99.