Tag Archives: Knight Lore

Rare Replay Part VII

Well there you go, that was yer’ actual Rare Replay collection. What a long read (and write) that was, but I enjoyed playing and writing.

So here in part VII, I’d like to do a round-up and look at each game and give my view on how they play today. As well as talk about the Rare Replay as a whole product and ask: “is it worth it?”

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First off, I’s like to address a few problems the collection has.

1)Missing games.
Now I know some games are missing due to licencing issues, no Goldeneye as Rare no longer have the rights to James Bond, no Donkey Kong Country as Donkey Kong belongs to Nintendo, etc.
But what about the missing Sabreman games? Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde and Knight Lore are here…but no Pentagram or Mire Mare? Now I know Mire Mare was never released, but Rare (then Ultimate) have said the game was 100% completed and an employee at Rare has even said they had played it. There’s not even a mention of it in the featurette that covers scraped/unrealised games.
What about Killer Instinct? Only Killer Instinct Gold is included in this collection, No Killer Instinct (the original) or Killer Instinct 2?
Plus only Battletoads (NES) and Battletoads (Arcade) are present, Battletoads (Gamyboy) is not here, nor is Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, or any of the other Battletoads games.
Now I know Ultimate/Rare have around 150 games to their name, so yeah obviously they were never going to include all 150…even without licence problems. But it seems strange they only include a few games from a series instead of all of them.
Still, Rare Replay 2 I guess…

2) No remastering/originals/tweaking.
I know that Perfect Dark is the 360 version and not the original N64 one. But Conker’s Bad Fur Day is the original N64 version and not the remastered one. Pretty much all of the N64 era games seem to have at least been up-scaled or are the 360 remasters, but not all of them and it just seems a bit “uneven” overall.
Plus it would have been nice to have also included the original versions of the remasters for “purists” too.
But then there is the exact opposite problem with some of the older games, Knight Lore, for example suffers from some terrible slow down and it ruins the game. I can’t believe I’m playing on a cutting edge Xbox One and Knight Lore (a 30 year old game) suffers slowdown. Surely they could have tweaked and improved the performance of some of the older games to help them run smoother too.

3) Locked content.
I don’t mind unlockables in games…as long as they are done right. One of the reasons I really wanted this collection (other than the games) is for the behind the scenes stuff, the documentaries, the unreleased concept art, the cancelled game coverage, etc. There is loads of this kind of stuff on the Rare Reply disc…but it’s all locked and you have to earn stamps by playing the games to unlock them.
It’s just annoying, I want to watch some of this stuff but can’t until I earn stamps by killing 1500 aliens in Jetpack? Personally I don’t mind having to kill 1500 enemies in Jetpack as I enjoyed playing the game and will most probably do that anyway. But what about people that want to watch the documentaries, but do not want to grind through the games unlocking stamps?
Even more so, you can’t choose what you want to unlock. Content just unlocks automatically in a pre-set order. So you want to watch the making of Conker’s Bad Fur Day video? Well you can’t unless you unlock every other video before it first by grinding for stamps.
The video content, documentaries, etc should have been unlocked from the start for everyone to watch.

Those are my main niggles and they are only niggles onto what the collection does right.

1) Presentation.
The overall presentation is really well done. The idea of having everything happen in a theatre giving you the impression you are going to watch a show is pulled off convincingly. The transitions from menu to game to sub-menus is seamless thanks to the inclusion of vaudeville style posters of the games and characters.
Navigating the menus is also smooth and effortless, with 30 games, info on each game, a menu for each individual game too, a separate challenge sub-menu, a video section for the documentaries, etc. It would be easy to get lost in everything this collection has to offer, but the navigation has been implemented so well you wouldn’t believe how much content is on this disc.
You can go to a game, press A and be taken to another sub-menu for a particular game with all sorts of information, history of the game and so on. Then from this sub-menu you can explore screenshots and handy game hints, look at and adjust various in-game options, go to a help screen with tons of info that will pop up in a sidebar while you play, etc. Or you can just press Y from the main game screen to just go straight into the game. Tap the shoulder button to switch the the next game and so on. Its all just so well designed you never get lost in the huge amount of content the disc has to offer.
You can even press the right stick on the older games to change the screen to a classic CRT display and remember the good old days of low quality visuals, a nice little touch.

2) It’s strong collection of games.
There are plenty of game collections out there and sadly most of them contain 2/3 good games and the reset is pretty bad filler. Rare Replay is definitely not one of those, as a Ultimate fan back in the 80s and a Rare fan in the 90s, this collection really gave me a lot of enjoyment and still has a ton of enjoyment to go yet. I was even surprised at how playable even the very early stuff like Jetpack and Sabre Wulf still were today…aside form some of the afore mentioned slowdown.

3) The Price.
I managed to get my copy for just £15, that works out at 50p a game. For me, this is amazing value for money as there is so much content here. Even discounting the games themselves, there are the videos and documentaries, the history of each game, the individual snapshot challenges, etc. Really one of the most packed and worthy classic game collections out there by far.

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So, about the games themselves then and did I find them playable today?

Jetpac: Its a simple game from a simpler time. Yet I still found myself just wanting to play “one more game” to try and beat my high score. The game-play maybe simple, but it’s still very playable.

Lunar Jetman: Took the basics of Jetpac and added so much more to it. Has very similar game mechanics as the arcade classic Defender, but with a few interesting tweaks and additions.

Atic Attack: You know, I really thought when I got hold of this collection that I’d see my childhood memories distorted and clouded. I honestly thought I’d play these games and realise they are crap. Well this game right here proved me wrong. One of the all time Spectrum classics that is still playable and fun today.

Sabre Wulf: I popped this one on thinking I’d give it 10 minutes and be bored…3 hours later and I was still exploring the jungle trying to avoid that sneaky wulf. I never finished it as a kid, but I intend on finishing it now.

Underwurlde: This was a game I used to play a lot back in the day and while I found it really frustrating today with the way the enemies bump you around, I have to admit to still finding this one’s has a lot of charm and gets you interested in exploring the castle.

Knight Lore: Great little puzzle/adventure game with plenty to do…just a shame about that damn slowdown that really spoils the game.

Gunfright: I didn’t really play this one back in the day and only glossed over it for this retrospective. But I have to admit to liking what I did see on the small amount of time I played it for. This is one I’m looking forward to playing more of soon.

Slalom: Didn’t really enjoy this one. It was too “simple” and just lacked that quality acotioated with the Rare name. It just seemed like a lazy game with not much to it at all.

R.C. Pro-Am: This was a tough one as it really didn’t do anything wrong, but it also does not excel at anything either. Its a fairly middle of the road racing game that just does what it does.

Cobra Triangle: Action packed and plenty of variety. This was a great little game and a return to form for Rare. Definitely one I’ll be playing more of later.

Snake Rattle ‘n’Roll: A classic then and still holds up very well today. A great little two player games with plenty of fun even if you are playing alone.

Solar Jetman: Tough game indeed, but tough does not mean bad. This was a poor seller when originally realised, but I think that was because it was ahead if its time and people were just not ready for it. This is another game I can see myself playing more of.

Digger T. Rock: I’m not sure what to make of his one yet. It seemed a little too “simple” and not really much meat to the game at all. But I’ll spend a little more time with it and see if it gets any better.

Battletoads: Often said to be one of the hardest games ever for the NES. Yes it is hard, but it’s also damn good fun with a great sense of humor and plenty of variety along the way. Yup, I’ll be getting some game play our of this one.

R.C. Pro-Am II: For me, a vast improvement over the first game. Smoother controls with more added to the game overall. I’d chose this one over the original.

Battletoads Arcade: Mindless button bashing fun. Much more bloody and violent than its NES counterpart. Its not a deep or meaningful game, its just fun. But with it being an arcade game, it is designed with a high difficulty curve as to eating all your spare change. Still at least with this version you are not paying to play.

Killer Instinct Gold: Never was a fan of the Killer Instinct franchise to be honest. This game plays well enough and seems like a perfect version if the game…but its just not for me at all.

Blast Corps: One of the overlooked classics from the N64. A simple enough game where all you have to do is clear a path for a constantly moving and runaway explosive device. Simple yes, but also hugely addictive and inventive. Of all the games on the collection, this was the main one I was looking forward to.

Banjo-Kazooie: After the release of the seminal Mario 64 for the N64 that showed the world how great a 3D platformer could be. Many, many developers tried to follow suit and most of them failed. Rare was one of the few that could put together a great 3D platformer and this was one of their best.

Jet Force Gemini: Another one I never really played back then. But I had heard this was a great game. I only played for about an hour to write this article and found the game rather slow. But I plan on going back and spending more time with this one.

Perfect Dark: its Perfect Dark…nuff said.

Banjo-Tooie: More of the same, only improved in every way. One of the best 3D platformer games around and age has not done it any harm either.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day: Probably the most infamous game in the collection. A classic Rare 3D platformer for an more adult audience, a great game and holds up very well.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies: This is one I also originally missed and only quickly glossed over it for this article. But it looked pretty interesting and I can see myself playing through this one.

Kameo: I did play this one on the Xbox 360 a while back but never did finish it. Glad it’s been included here as its a good action/adventure game and I definitely want to play through to the end this time.

Perfect Dark Zero: A downgrade to the original if you ask me, but still a pretty decent FPS with plenty of variety. I can see myself playing this one again.

Viva Piñata: Never played this one originally, but I like the look of it. I’m not sure I have the time to invest to see everything the game has to offer. But I think it’ll be great to dip into it for a little more play time.

Jetpac Refuelled: I really like the original Jetpack and this one improved on it in every possible way. A quick arcade style game with a simple concept, but a great game none the less.

Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise: See my Viva Piñata comment above.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts: This one passed me by originally to. I enjoyed the first two games and I’ll definitely be giving this one more of a play in the future.

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So there you go, 30 Ultimate/Rare games from over a 30 year career.
But is the whole package any good?

Yes, a thousand times yes.
This really is an amazing collection of great (and a few not so great) games from one of the best and fan favourite games developers of all time.

Even with the games aside, this is still an interesting and in depth history lesson. The video content, documentaries, behind the scenes stuff is worth the £15 price tag alone for me.
The games are an added bonus.

But this collection is really worth getting as there are some simply amazing games included. Many people have been saying the price is with it for Conker’s Bad Fur Day alone…yup, it pretty much is.
If you are an old school gamer like myself and we’re also a fan of Ultimate and Rare, then this is a must buy, go and get it now.

The collection works as a great reminder of “the good old days”,it also works as a nice history lesson and insight to one of the gaming world’s best developers.

Best thing I’ve brought for my Xbox One…wait, I pre-ordered Fallout 4 yesterday.
Best thing I’ve brought for my Xbox One…until November 11th.

Thanks for joining me on this look at the entire Rare Replay collection.
Feel free to read my look at Ultimate/Rare as a developer while you are here.

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Rare Replay Part II

So here we are in part II of my Rare Replay/Ultimate/Rare retrospective.
We left off with Sabreman in his second adventure, Underwurlde and we rejoin Sabreman again for his next adventure.

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Knight Lore: Released by Ultimate Play The Game in 1984. The game is the third in the Sabreman series. Knight Lore was regarded as a revolutionary game at the time as it was among the first of the “isometric adventure” genre and displayed a detailed 3D world using an isometric perspective. This style was extensively copied by other publishers for years.

Sabreman is back, this time tasked to find the wizard Melkhior and search Knight Lore castle to retrieve the objects successively requested by his cauldron. Which objects are at which locations in the castle varies each time you play the game.
Sabreman can carry up to three objects at a time and once collected, the objects must be returned to Melkhior and dropped into his waiting cauldron. Successfully following all of the cauldron’s requests within a forty (in game) day period frees Sabreman from the curse of lycanthropy cast upon him by the Wulf encountered in Sabre Wulf.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Sabreman is a werewolf…or werewulf.
The curse even plays an important role in game-play. Sabreman will periodically be transformed into a werewulf as day turns into night. Certain enemies will only attack if you are Sabreman or the werewulf. Plus some of the rooms and puzzles can only be solved depending on whether you are Sabreman or the werewulf.
There is plenty of platform hoping, hazards and enemies to avoid along the way as you gather the items needed to break the lycanthropic curse.

Amstrad Action described Knight Lore as a “stunningly original concept” and praised its addictive game-play. Your Sinclair magazine called it “one of the most important (and best) games ever written for the Speccy”.
Knight Lore still has a favourable and strong reputation even today, Edge described it as representing “the greatest single advance in the history of computer games”.

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So far, every Ultimate game has been pure fired gold. But can their next game live up to the standards as we leave Sabreman behind.

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Gunfright: Developed for the ZX Spectrum by Ultimate Play The Game in 1986. Gunfright uses the same isometric used style used in Knight Lore, only this time instead of screen switching, the view now scrolls.

With you playing as Sheriff Quickdraw, who has been asked to track down and capture a band of outlaws who are terrorising the town of Black Rock.
The game starts with a short mini-game, in which bags of money drop down the screen where you use your cross-hairs to target and shoot to bags to gain cash. The cash can then be used buy ammunition for the main part of the game.

The main action mostly takes place within a scrolling 3D/isometric environment. Streets and buildings are rendered isometrically and the walls of the buildings disappear to outlines when the player enters a building or walks behind a wall so you can see what you are doing.

You, as Sheriff Quickdraw must explore the map to find the wanted outlaws one by one. Once you find the wanted outlaw, you enter a duel mode where the action again shifts to the targeting mini-game from before. This time however, the player must try to shoot the rapidly moving outlaw as quickly as possible. If you successfully shoot and stop the outlaw, a bounty is paid and a new outlaw enters the game world.

During game-play, you’ll often encounter helpful townsfolk who will often point the way to outlaws and where they are hiding. But the player will have to pay a fine if any are shot by the bandits or even the player themselves. Some outlaws will use a horse and you’ll may have to saddle up to pursue them…using a fake horse shell with your feet sticking out the bottom.

There are 20 levels (or outlaws) to complete and feature well known names such as; Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid, Sundance Kid, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, Ma Barker and others.

Once again, Gunfright met with positive reviews with CRASH giving the game a 97% score. Not was well received as previous Ultimate games though.

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As we let the sunset on the Wild West, time to move onto a chiller climate as Ultimate become Rare Ltd and release their frost game for the NES, which marks the start of one of the moist successful team-ups in gaming history.

Slalom

Slalom: Developed by Rare for the NES in 1987, Slalom was a simple racing game that featured…wait for it…skiing, well slalom to be precise. This was first game released under the Rare label after Tim and Chris Stamper sold the rights to Ultimate: Play The Game to U.S. Gold.

An easy to follow game (unlike most of their previous work) as the game only really involved you skiing down a mountainside against the clock, while you had to avoid obstacles and other skiers.
There was a light slalom element added by skiing through the flag markers would give you a speed boost and going around them would slow you down.
You could also jump off moguls and perform tricks while airborne for extra points, but doing this would slow you down and make you lose valuable time.

There really is not too much to this game at all, it was a simple racer involving skiing.
The game has become somewhat infamous on the interwebs community for the main character’s rather impressive rear end.

The game met with mediocre reviews and reception (for the first time in this retrospective) with many reviewers calling the game a “rush job” and noting the overtly repetitive and uninspired game-play.

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Rare would continue to work with Nintendo for their next game too, but would it be any good?

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R.C. Pro-Am: Released in 1987 for the NES by Rare Ltd. Using an isometric viewpoint with you controlling radio controlled (RC) cars around a series of various tracks. This game spawned sequels and remakes over the years.

You control an RC car around a total of 24 tracks against 3 CPU controlled opponents. For every race you complete, you receive a trophy. With larger “High Score Trophies” and even a “Super Trophy” to collect along the way.
Throughout the various tracks you’ll find several bonuses, pick-ups and tune-up items to collect by driving over them; such as turbo acceleration, “hotter engines” for higher top speed, and even “super sticky tires” to improve traction. You can also collect weapons that can temporarily disable other vehicles; missiles will take out the opposing vehicles from the front, while bombs take them out from behind. Roll cages protect cars from crash damage, “bonus letters” give players large point bonuses and the ability to drive an upgraded car if they can spell “NINTENDO”.
There are also various hazards to be avoided; oil slicks which cause cars to spin out, water puddles will slow you down and pop-up barriers which crash cars.
You can even upgrade from a standard RC truck to a faster 4-Wheeler and then to the fastest Off-Roader.

R.C. Pro-Am met with positive reviews with many commenting on the varied game-play and upgrades. Computer Gaming World called it “a compelling, innovating approach to car racing video games”. It’s often fondly remembered as one of the better NES titles, even today.
Game Informer put the game at number 84 on its “Top 100 Games of All Time” list in August 2001. IGN listed the game as the 13th-best NES game of all time.

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After the disappointing start to the Rare/Nintendo team up that was Slalom, R.C. Pro-Am proved there was a possible future, so what’s next?

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Cobra Triangle: 1988 saw the release of Cobra Triangle from Rare Ltd for the NES. Again using that isometric viewpoint, but this time controlling a speedboat through varying missions and tasks.

You control a cannon-equipped speedboat against other opponents through 25 stages of varying objectives; winning races, removing mines, avoiding obstacles and saving swimmers.
Races are pretty self explanatory, reach the finish line before your opponents and before the timer expires. Removing mines is as simple as picking up a mine and taking it to a designated area. Rescuing swimmers tasks you with picking up swimmers before they are abducted by the enemies.
The player can attack other competitors with the cannon, go airborne via ramps, and pick up power-ups that will improve your speed and weapons. In upstream races, you must avoid logs and whirlpools too.
Some levels even ended in boss battles…

Cobra Triangle had high praise upon release, reviewers praised the graphics and varied game-play and diversity of the levels. GamesRadar named Cobra Triangle among the top NES games of all time. Often looked back upon as one of the better and more interesting NES titles.

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Well, here ends part II with the Rare/Nintendo team up finally paying off and producing some quality and fun games.
Part III will see the Rare/Nintendo joining only get better, as well as the return of some memorable franchises.

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The Ultimate, Rare developer.

Growing up in the 80s and being a gamer, there are many games that instantly spring to mind…

Jetpac, Atic Atac, Lunar Jetman, Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde and Knight Lore are just a handful of games I fondly remember.
Great “old school” games and all made by one specific developer.
Ultimate: Play The Game.

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I adored many of these games and this was also probably my first recollection of knowing the developer through their games instead of just knowing the games.
I recall often looking for that Ultimate logo and genuinely getting excited to play their next title.

Ultimate became infamous for their fan friendly approach and would often give away merchandise for free to anyone that wanted it, all they had to do was ask.

Ultimate were unstoppable in the early 80s and would go from strength to strength. But before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s just look back on Ultimate and their influence in the 80s.

Founded in 1982 by brothers Tim and Chris Stamper who were ex-arcade game developers. Most of their games were made for the big computers of the time like the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, MSX and Commodore 64.
The Ultimate name became synonymous with quality and many of their games were quite revolutionary.

In 1985, the Stamper brothers sold the Ultimate name and back catalogue to game publisher and developer; U.S Gold. This was a darker time for Ultimate as the game’s quality was dropping and they would often overuse the same gaming concepts over and over. The high standard and quality just was not there anymore.

In some of the later Ultimate games, you would often find the name Rare Ltd. appearing in the credits. Rare Ltd. was another company Tim and Chris Stamper had set up to develop for under the Ultimate name, but not be subject to any Ultimate takeover. Meaning that even with the Ultimate name being sold to U.S Gold, the Stamper brothers had another company of their own to fall back on and using the Rare Ltd name, they started one of the most successful partnerships in gaming history…

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Rare Ltd began developing games for Nintendo’s NES system and released their first title for the NES, Slalom in 1987. Teaming up with Nintendo proved to be a great success and would span 3 generations of gaming consoles.

Rare Ltd. would continue developing for the NES and even produce Gameboy ports with games like; Wizards & Warriors, R.C. Pro-Am, Captain Skyhawk, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll and Battletoads.

Then in 1989, Rare Ltd. bought back all the rights previously sold to U.S. Gold.
With the release of Nintendo’s SNES, Rare Ltd. cut back on their development for the machine initially and only produced a few Battletoads games. But they were not busy developing for the SNES as Rare Ltd. invested their profits made from the NES era into purchasing expensive Silicon Graphics (SGI) workstations.
Rare Ltd. impressed Nintendo with their progress of 3D graphics on the SGI systems and in 1994, Nintendo bought a 49% stake in the company which turned Rare Ltd. into a Nintendo second-party developer.
At this time, Rare Ltd. had another alteration.

Rareware

Now developing under the name Rareware.
By this time, Rareware had such a strong relationship with Nintendo that Nintendo readily offered up any of their existing IPs for Rareware to make a whole new game on. The Stamper brothers asked for Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Country is what we got. The game showcased Rare’s 3D graphics advancements thanks to those SCI workstations and went on to become a huge success, in fact Donkey Kong Country became the second best selling SNES game of all time.
Donkey Kong Country spawned two sequels and various spin offs.

But Rareware did not just stick to Nintendo’s machines and in the late 90’s they developed a CGI based beat em’ up; Killer Instinct for arcades.

Soon after the release of Killer Instinct, Nintendo relased their next home console, the N64.

Rareware would continue the successful partnership with Nintendo on this machine too with; GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Blast Corps and even build on their Donkey Kong games with Donkey Kong 64.
Rareware also made a spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007 with Perfect Dark as well as release sequel Banjo-Tooie.
Rareware and the N64 was a perfect match…but it was not to last.

As they year 2000 began, Microsoft visited Rareware and eventually paid $375 million to own 100% of the company which became a first party developer for Microsoft and another new name and logo.

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Now just called Rare and releasing their first game for Microsoft’s Xbox in 2003; Grabbed by the Ghoulies. In many fan’s eyes…this was the start of the decline of one of our favorite game developers.

Rare’s relationship with Microsoft just was not as successful as it was with Nintendo previously. Releasing remake; Conker: Live & Reloaded for the Xbox along with launch games for the Xbox 360; Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero and Viva Piñata relased a year later. These games were just not up to standard and met with fairly low sales.

By the end of 2009, Microsoft “restructured” Rare and they started to develop games for the Xbox 360’s Kinect, with their first game being; Kinect Sports and later the sequel; Kinect Sports Rivals.
Under Microsoft, Rare had been put on the back burner and have become a shadow of their former self.

Nowadays, Rare “rarely” develop games anymore, but they do have a new title called; Sea of Thieves for the Xbox One which has yet to have a release date.
Can this be the game that gets Rare back on form? We will have to wait and see.

But before then, there is something coming from Rare very soon…
August this year sees the release of this.

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Rare Replay: A celebration of Ultimate/Rare with a compilation of 30 games from their library. With the exception of obvious licensing issues (007, Nintendo IPs, etc) pretty much every Ultimate/Rare game is included here.

Jetpac (1983)
Atic Atac (1983)
Lunar Jetman (1983)
Sabre Wulf (1984)
Underwurlde (1984)
Knight Lore (1984)
Gunfright (1985)
Slalom (1986)
R.C. Pro-Am (1987)
Cobra Triangle (1989)
Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (1990)
Digger T. Rock: Legend of the Lost City (1990)
Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship (1990)
Battletoads (1991)
R.C. Pro-Am II (1992)
Battletoads Arcade (1994)
Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
Blast Corps (1997)
Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
Jet Force Gemini (1999)
Perfect Dark (2000)
Banjo-Tooie (2000)
Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003)
Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
Kameo: Elements of Power (2005)
Viva Piñata (2006)
Jetpac Refuelled (2007)
Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (2008)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)

Now you may have noticed that I didn’t go into detail on any of the games. Well that is due to the fact I have pre-ordered Rare Reply and I intend on playing each of the 30 games and doing an Ultimate/Rare retrospective, look at the Rare Reply as a whole collection and offer my views of the games to see how/if they have held up today.

This is going to be my celebration of Ultimate/Rare.

So here we go folks. 30 classic Ultimate/Rare games to work my way through in my Rare Replay retrospective.

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