So here we are in part III of this Rare Reply retrospective and we pick up with the Rare/Nintendo partnership going strong from the last few titles. But can they maintain that momentum and bring us another NES classic?
Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll: Released for the NES in 1990 by Rare. An action/platformer game using that tired and tested isometric view…again. The game was later ported to the Mega Drive in 1993.
A single or two player game featuring two snakes named; Rattle and Roll. The object of each level is to eat enough “Nibbley Pibbleys” as the game calls them, small round creatures found throughout each level. As you eat, you snake grows (titter) with the idea being that you gain enough weight to jump on and ring a bell at the end of the level that will open the door you need to progress.
Your snakes length increases more (who came up with the idea for this game, was it one of the Carry On team?) when they eat “Nibbley Pibbleys” of their own colour, and they grow even more when they eat the rarer yellow ones.
Each level have one or more dispenser which will randomly spew out the “Nibbley Pibbleys”. However, they can also randomly spew out bombs which can damage the snakes, so you can’t go around eating everything.
You snake growing works as a kind of health bar as each segment on your snake equates to one hit from an enemy, too many hits and you’ll lose all your segments and eventually lose a life.
You can also lose a life if your snakes fall too far of a distance from a platform, if the timer runs out, if you touch a sharp object, or even if you get squashed by an object from above.
Also of note, if you stay in water for too long, a shark will attack and a parody of the Jaws theme will play.
Enemies can be defeated by hitting them with your snake tongue or by jumping on them Mario style.
Throughout the levels are various items; to extend the length of your snakes tongue, give extra lives, extend the time limit and even items that will speed up or reverse the direction of your snake.
Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll received positive reviews and praise. American video gaming magazine Game Players awarded Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll the “Game Player’s NES Excellence Award” for 1990 as one of the best games released for the NES that year.
Nintendo Power praised the game for its precise controls and for its blend of puzzle and action elements.
Next up sees the return of Ultimate/Rare’s original gaming hero.
Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship Returning for the third outing in the Jetman series, developed by Rare for the NES and relased in 1990. Interesting note: early covers misspell the title: Hunt for the Golden Warship instead of the correct Warpship.
A game similar in style to the arcade classic Thrust or Atari’s Lunar Lander. With the player’s ship is subject to inertia, so to stop moving in one direction it needs to thrust in the opposite way and also deal with the constant pull of gravity at the same time.
Solar Jetman has twelve planets and one hidden planet as its levels. Each planet has its own system of winding and maze like caverns full of various enemy types.
The goal of the game is to navigate these maze like caverns via the use of a small jetpod, which is launched from an immobile mothership. On each world, you must bring a piece of the warpship to the mothership and also enough fuel to journey to the next planet. Items are collected with a tow cable which makes the flight control even more difficult as you are now dealing with extra weight on top of the inertia and gravity.
Points are earned by retrieving valuables and items as well as destroying the various enemies you’ll encounter. Those points can then be spent after every other level to buy power-ups. If a jetpod is destroyed, then Jetman ejects in an agile but feeble and poorly armoured spacesuit. But you can return to the mothership for another jetpod.
Solar Jetman met with average reviews and as a result, average sales too. So much so that other planned ports were pulled.
The original Ultimate gaming hero, Jetman is left behind as we are introduced to a new kid on the “block”.
Digger T. Rock: Legend of the Lost City: Developed by Rare in 1990 for the NES and relased by Milton Bradley Company. Digger T. Rock was a change of pace and a new idea from Rare.
With you controlling the titular character of Digger T. Rock exploring caverns for hidden treasure an ultimately The Lost City using a similar game-play mechanic to Boulderdash.
The game is divided into 8 separate caverns all of which must be explored while avoiding enemies, cave-in’s, and fatal plunges. Digger can use multiple tools, such as his standard shovel to dig tunnels and explore more of the cavern as well as climb rocks and even some walls. Other equipment such as; ladders and explosives can be found and then be used to explore and uncover new areas within the caverns. Monsters such as moles and mosquitoes need to be avoided or hit with your shovel.
The goal of each cavern is to locate both the end of level door and a special pillar which unlocks the door. When the pillar is found and stepped on, this activates a countdown timer during which, the door is open. You then must must race past obstacles and enemies to the door before the timer ends and the door re-closes.
Later levels include caveman villages where the player can purchase helpful tools with your collected treasure.
Digger T. Rock was another game that met with average reviews, many reviewers noted the games strict difficulty but praised the game for its exploration.
With the last two Rare games being average at best, they needed something to revive the faith in their fans…maybe a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip off would work?
Battletoads: Released in 1991 for the NES, created by Tim and Chris Stamper. This was the first instalment to the Battletoads series and the game was later ported to several other machines.
As single or two player game with each player controlling either Rash or Zitz (yes, that is their names) on a mission to save their friend and fellow Battletoad, Pimple and Princess Angelica who have both been kidnapped by The Dark Queen.
Battletoads is a beat em’ up/platformer with a great sense of humour. The levels offer plenty of variety from simple beat em’ up sections to abseiling and even vehicle and underwater based levels.
A nice touch is how you could defeat enemies with your morphing body parts; punching/kicking with an enlarged fist or boot, head-butting with ram horns or even transform into a wrecking ball to smash the bad guys.
Often cited as one of the hardest games on the NES, but still Battletoads was met with positive reviews.
Nintendo Power ranked the NES version as the 89th best game on any Nintendo platform, commenting: “The graphics created by Rare were so exceptional by any standard and the game was so challenging and fun.” GamesRadar ranked it the 18th best NES game ever made, stating that it was a fun game but its most notable element was its difficulty.
It was nominated for the 1991 Nintendo Power Awards in nine categories, winning the first place in the categories: Graphics and Sound (NES), Theme and Fun (NES), Best Play Control (NES) and Best Multi-Player or Simultaneous (NES).
We leave the weird and funny world of Battletoads…for a short while, to be greeted with a sequel to one of the better Rare/Nintendo endeavours.
R.C. Pro-Am II: The sequel to the 1988 hit R.C. Pro-Am. Released in 1992 for the NES, developed by Rare. This one offered a more refined and enjoyable experience over the first game.
R.C. Pro-Am II is very much more of the same, but offers many refinements over R.C. Pro-Am.
Four vehicles compete against each other on a series of 24 different and varying tracks: eight standard racetracks, eight cityscape tracks, and eight off-road tracks. In single-player mode, the player races against three CPU controlled opponents. The game also offers a multi-player mode in which up to four human players can race against each other simultaneously.
Before each race starts, players can use money earned from previous races to buy vehicle upgrades and weapons. These can then be used against other competitors. Upgrades and weapons include: motors for increased speed, tires for better turning and traction, missiles, bombs, and freeze beams to hinder your opponents racing and buckshots which will steal opponents cash.
Also returning are the track hazards like; water, oil, bombs, mud, ice, and even bomb-dropping aircraft that will slow the players speed. The game includes two types of bonus stages that award race points and cash. Scattered around the tracks are letters that spell “PRO AM II”, if you can collect all of the letters you’ll receive a new and faster vehicle with tighter controls.
R.C. Pro-Am II was named Nintendo Powers best NES game of 1993. Official Nintendo Magazine praised the game overall and its multi-player in particular. Nintendo Power praised the game’s controls and upgrade options, which made the game strategic, but the magazine criticized the difficulty as unfair.
Well we are at the halfway mark, 15 games in and 15 games left in the Rare Replay collection. In part IV we see the return of the Battletoads and we enter the N64 era of the Rare/Nintendo double act as well as see out the end of the century.