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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.


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.


Rare Replay Part VI

We hare finally here, at the last 5 games in the Rare Replay collection…and my fingers are tired.
So what does Rare have install for us in the final stretch, well how about a return to one of their very best games?


Perfect Dark Zero: Not a sequel, but a prequel to Perfect Dark relased in 2005 by Rare for the Xbox 360. Can it live up to or even better the original?

With you, once again playing as Joanna Dark. Set in 2020 where a large percentage of the world is controlled by corporations. You embark on Joanna’s first ever encounter with dataDyne from the first game.
While working with her father Jack Dark and computer hacker Chandra Sekhar, Joanna’s team is searching for Nathan Zeigler, a researcher who has disappeared in Hong Kong, suspected of being kidnapped by a triad gang led by a man named Killian.
Joanna and her father also discover information about a dangerous weapon and corporate betrayal.

Perfect Dark Zero uses the same FPS style from the previous games, but also adds a much more in-depth stealth system. Joanna is much more agile with an evasive dodge roll and even a fully implemented cover system. While Joanna can not jump in the game, she has the ability to automatically climb obstacles and traverse higher areas as long as they are reasonably reachable.

The game features a campaign that is divided into 14 missions, with each mission having its own and various objectives. The campaign could be played in single-player or even Co-Op. Returning too is the much loved multi-player where a maximum of 32 players may compete in numerous types of deathmatch and objective-based games via split-screen, system link, or even Xbox Live.

Opinions for Perfect Dark Zero were quite divided, but mostly positive. GameSpot awarded the game a rating of 9.0/10 stating that the game “champions the Xbox 360 with its excellent assortment of single and multi-player game types, as well as its incredible good looks and dynamic, intense action.” IGN praised the game’s replay value, but also criticised single-player aspects such as the weak artificial intelligence of enemies.


Rare next bring us something very “different” with an all new IP.


Viva Piñata: Released by Rare in 2006 for the Xbox 360. An unusual game based on an idea from Ultimate/Rare founder Tim Stamper and intended to appeal to a more casual gamer audience.

So, what’s it all about then?
Well I suppose one could call Viva Piñata a “life sim” game, in the same vein as something like The Sims or Animal Crossing.
The player is tasked with turning a neglected plot of land on Piñata Island into a beautiful and lively garden. The game is open-ended with no strict winning or losing requirements. Players are guided in a very general way towards tan objective of increasing your garden’s value and attracting other piñata residents.
Developing and maintaining a successful garden requires setting up the land and foliage appropriately to attract specific piñatas, as well as purchasing various items to place within the garden like homes for the piñatas to live in. When certain requirements are fulfilled, the garden will attract a simple black-and-white version of any given piñata species. After fulfilling additional requirements, the piñata will become a full resident of your garden, changing into a full-colour version.
Once two piñatas of the same species are residents and with their mating & romance requirements met, they can perform a romance dance, resulting in a baby piñata egg. The egg with eventually hatch into an all new piñata.

That’s pretty much the game, attract, breed and grow colourful and charming piñata, all while maintaining the needs and the environment of your garden.
There is no “end”, just a completely open-ended garden for you to create and build.

There was also the inclusion of the “bad guys” called Ruffians who would do their best to sabotage your garden and piñata.

Viva Piñata received mostly positive reviews. IGN said that “it is the best Rare game since Microsoft acquired the company in 2002.” Despite the initially discouraging sales figures, the game quickly gained a loyal cult following.
Viva Piñata was nominated for 6 awards by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences for its 10th annual awards covering 2006, the most nominations a Rare title has had since GoldenEye 007.

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Rare may have created and all new IP with Viva Piñata, but it never forgot it’s roots either…


Jetpac Refuelled: Jetman is back! Released for the Xbox Live service on the Xbox 360 in 2007. Rare brought back it’s very first game Jetpack for a new generation.

An update/remake of the original Jetpack, rare brought back the original game in style with all new features as well as improved HD graphics and sound.
While still the same basic game as the original, Jetpac Refuelled still brings with it some niffy new ideas including; a multi-player mode that can be played with a friend on a single Xbox 360 or online via Xbox Live. Two players compete on one screen to build, fuel, and launch their rocket first. Items can be stolen from your opponent by shooting it out of their hand or by using an EMP at close range.
There were also new weapons with 3-way fire, beam lasers and even a weapon that will fire upwards as well as directly in-front.

Also included was the original version of Jetpack as well as a brief and interesting history of Ultimate and the Jetman series as a whole.

Jetpac Refuelled met with positive reviews. IGN gave it 8/10 and praised the visuals and multi-player features. Eurogamer awarded the game 7/10 and said “it’s a sympathetic reworking that stands out as one of the better examples of retro grave-robbing we’ve seen.”

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Well that was a welcome blast from the past, but back to those darn cute piñata.


Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise: For the Xbox 360, relased in 2008 from Rare. Is the sequel/follow up to the previous gardening/piñata “life sim”.

Pretty much more of the same, with a few bells & whistles thrown in…which is not a bad thing at all.
This time, there is a plot…of sorts.
You are invited to return to Piñata Island and continue your job as a gardener and to maintain yet another garden for the island. This time, not all is well on the island, as Professor Pester and his gang of Ruffians have wiped out Piñata Central’s computer records while attempting to steal the information contained within to overrule the entire island. As a result, all knowledge about piñata species and which piñatas are needed for which parties has been lost, leading to chaos and the slow stop of the island’s way of manner.
You are tasked with assisting Piñata Central in rebuilding the database, achieved by enticing specific piñatas to inhabit the garden, filling them with candy, and sending them off to parties around the world, fulfilling party-goers piñata needs.

The core mechanics of the original Viva Piñata remain in tact here. But also gives players more choices about how to play the game:
Standard Mode: The primary game mode, which includes challenges from sour piñatas, Ruffians, and other forces.
Just For Fun Mode: A mode where players can hop in and immediately begin working on a garden without worrying about running out of money or having to unlock various items. However, certain more exotic piñatas are not available in this mode.
Contests: You can enter your piñata in beauty contests and races, the latter of which requires piñatas to race along a course collecting sweets and avoiding red bombs.

Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise adds 28 new animals to the pre-existing 60 from the last game. There are also two new areas: the cool, icy Piñarctic and the warm, arid Dessert Desert. These two areas are not part of your main garden, but can be visited for the purpose of capturing new piñata.
This sequel also adds full drop-in/drop-out offline game-play for two players and online co-operative game-play for up to four players. This allows additional gardeners to join the game at any time to assist the primary player with any gardening tasks.

Viva Piñata Trouble in Paradise received high marks and several “Editor’s Choice” awards from various reviewers. GameSpot scored the title 8.5/10, praising the greater variety of game-play over the original. IGN also rated the game an 8.5/10 and they did note that the game hasn’t radically changed from its predecessor, primarily providing more of the same.


Well, it’s now the final game in this Rare Replay collection, and look who’s back…


Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts: The third game in the Banjo-Kazooie franchise was relased in 2008 by Rare for the Xbox 360. It was a radical change from the previous two games, but was it a good change?

Eight years have passed since Gruntilda’s defeat at the end of Banjo-Tooie. While Banjo & Kazooie have gotten lazy and overweight by eating pizza, playing video games and listening to the radio and since become unfit for adventures. They discover that Gruntilda’s detached head is returning to Spiral Mountain and are about to fight when they are stopped by the Lord of Games (L.O.G.), the creator of all video games. L.O.G decides to finally settle the conflict between Banjo, Kazooie and Gruntilda by devising a series of challenges. L.O.G uses his powers to give Gruntilda an artificial body and to restore the duo’s physical fitness, but not their moves from previous games, claiming that they won’t need them.
L.O.G. transports the characters to his headquarters: Showdown Town and starts the contest. The winner would be set to own Spiral Mountain; the loser must endure eternal hardship at L.O.G.’s video game factory. While Banjo & Kazooie seek to win by completing the challenges, Gruntilda uses her powers and abilities to try to stop the duo, with a cat named Piddles an army of mechanical Gruntbots assisting the witch in her goal.

The game-play mechanic has been changed somewhat over the previous game with vehicles now playing a prominent role in the game and replacing the moves from the other games.
The vehicles can be built freely by the player from over 1,600 different and varying components available, such as body panels, engines, wheels, wings, propellers, fuel and weapons. The physics engine allows the vehicles to behave in relation to how they are built.

The received generally favourable reviews but a few negative points too. GameSpot praised the variety of tools for customization and their mission application. IGN gave the game a score of 8.3/10, calling it “well designed and full of replay value.” Wired was more negative, calling the game “pretty but boring” and “only barely fun, sometimes.” GameTrailers enjoyed the vehicle creation system, yet commenting on the “lack of conventional platforming” in the game, while also criticizing the lack of mission variety. GameTrailers put it at #9 on their top 10 list of the worst sequels due to the differences compared to the original games.


Well that’s it then. All 30 games covered in the Rare Replay collection, but wait…there’s more. Part VII where I talk about the collection as a whole and offer quick opinions on the games today and how they play.


Rare Replay Part V

Its now the year 2000 and the Rare/Nintendo partnership is coming to an end. But before all of that, the first game on the list is one of Rare’s best ever games, delayed several times…but ultimately well wroth the wait.


Perfect Dark: This spiritual successor to Goldeneye made it to shops (eventually) in 2000. Developed by Rare for the N64 and often cited as one of the very best games ever made for the N64 console.

With you playing as Carrington Institute agent; Joanna Dark. Set in the year 2023 against the backdrop of an interstellar war between two races: the Maians, who resemble the archetypal grey alien, and the reptile-like Skedar extraterrestrials who use a holographic disguise to appear as humans.
Meanwhile, on Earth, there is an ongoing rivalry between two factions: The Carrington Institute, a research and development centre founded by Daniel Carrington that secretly operates an espionage group in league with the Maians. While dataDyne, a defence contractor corporation headed by Cassandra De Vries that secretly maintains a deal with the Skedar.
Joanna Dark is given the codename “Perfect Dark” due to above excellent scores in training, has been sent to rescue a scientist named Dr. Caroll from the dataDyne headquarters, where she uncovers an alien conspiracy.

Perfect Dark is a FPS styled game using the same basics implemented by Rare with their 007: Goldeneye from 1997, Perfect Dark adds a lot more depth and variety throughout the game.
With a single-player campaign, a co-op mode and plenty of multi-player modes too, Perfect Dark packed in a lot of game.

The game met with very strong and positives reviews as well as critical acclaim. GameSpot awarded the game a rating of 9.9 out of 10, making it the highest-reviewed first-person shooter of the site. They said: “As a single-player or multi-player experience, Perfect Dark is unparalleled on the console systems”. IGN remarked that “the levels are much more detailed than the ones from Goldeneye and that the polygon character models and weapons are “wonderfully animated”. GameCritics stated that “Perfect Dark is easily the most advanced, elaborate, and entertaining multi-player gaming experience on any home console.”

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Perfect Dark was an amazing game from Rare, but I think it’s about time we caught up with another one of their previous IPs in this Rare Replay collection.

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Banjo-Tooie: Developed by Rare for the N64 and relased in 2000. Banjo-Tooie sees the return of Banjo & Kazooie as well as antagonist Gruntilda.

Taking place two years after the events of the previous game, Banjo-Kazooie. After the defeat of Gruntilda by Banjo & Kazooie, the two are playing poker with their friends Mumbo Jumbo and Bottles in Banjo’s house.
Elsewhere, Gruntilda’s two sisters; Mingella & Blobbelda arrive in a digging machine, the Hag 1 and they free Gruntilda with a magical spell. Gruntilda’s time spent underground from the end events of the last game have rotted her flesh away and reduced her to a skeleton. So seeking revenge, Gruntilda destroys Banjo’s house before fleeing with her sisters.
Banjo, Kazooie, and Mumbo exit the house before it is destroyed. However, Bottles stays behind believing it is all just to be a joke and he gets caught in the blast and is killed. The three remaining friends decide to put an end to Gruntilda’s plans, and swear to track her down.

The basics of what made the last game so good are back, but this game brings a few new ideas and tweaks to the original. With all new playable characters, a more open and explorable world as well as a multi-player mode.

Banjo-Tooie (as with it’s predecessor) met with critical acclaim. Game Revolution considered Banjo-Tooie to be a worthy successor to Banjo-Kazooie and highlighted the scale of its worlds. GamesRadar described Banjo-Tooie as a game that requires a massive time-investment on the player’s part, saying that “Keeping track of what you can do next, or where you can re-visit to get something new, requires either a photographic memory or copious note-taking”. GameSpot, praised the game’s level design and progression, stating that the constant collecting of Jiggies “keeps the controller glued to your hand and your eyes in a fixed gaze”.

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Up next is the last of the Rare/Nintendo games in this collection before Microsoft brought out Rare…but what an hilariously crude game it is.


Conker’s Bad Fur Day: A game infamous for it’s jokes, references and humour, Released in 2001 for the N64 by rare…this one of for adults only.

With you playing as the titular Conker the squirrel. After promising to be home soon to his girlfriend, Berri. Conker instead gets lost in a strange world and finds a local bar, where he stays for several hours and enjoys many, many, many alcoholic beverages instead. The still drunk and hungover Conker decides its time to head home…except he has no idea where he is or where home is.
Conker must traverse this strange land he finds himself in just to get one simple task completed, to go home. Along the way, you’ll met a wide array of weird and wonderful characters as you drunkingly stumble home.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day became infamous for it’s adult humour, often disgustingly rude & crude…but always funny. Loaded with in-jokes, film/TV references and some of the most adult content you’ll ever see in a Nintendo game.
The game was/is a classic action 3D platformer similar to Rare’s previous Banjo-Kazooie, only not as “kid friendly”.

Receiving high critical acclaim, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is often lauded as one of the most important N64 games to ever be made. Critics noted that the game featured a number of technical effects that were uncommon at the time, especially for an N64 game, such as dynamic shadowing, coloured lighting, large areas with a long draw distance, no distance fog, detailed facial animations, lip syncing, and individually rendered fingers on the characters. IGN praised the detailed 3D worlds, fantastic texture work, and cute character designs. They also remarked that “Conker himself is equipped with an in-game facial animation system that realistically portrays his different moods as he travels the lands. When he’s scared, he looks it, and when he’s pissed off players will actually be able to see his teeth showing in a frown.”
Conker’s Bad Fur Day was awarded the 2001 BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Award for sound, IGN’s Game of the Month for March 2001, and GameSpot’s Best Platform Game for 2001.


Well, that is it for the Nintendo years on this collection. We now get into the Microsoft and Xbox years and a time where mist fan think Rare started to fade.


Grabbed by the Ghoulies: Funny title, but is it a good game? Released for the Xbox in 2003 and developed by Rare. Originally planned as a Gamecube game before Microsoft brought Rare out. This game was the first Rare game relased for the Xbox console.

You play as a young boy named; Cooper. While lost during a storm and trying to find their way via a map, Copper and his girlfriend Amber find a dark and dreary house, Ghoulhaven House, which can not be found on their map. As they approach the house, Baron von Ghoul looks down from his window and orders his two gargoyles to retrieve the two humans. They only manage to grab Amber and take her into the house. Cooper has no choice but to attempt a rescue mission. However there is much more to Ghoulhaven House than meets the eye.
With assistance form Crivens, the mansion’s butler. Cooper explores the house in an attempt to save Amber from Baron von Ghoul and his minions.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies is an action, 3D adventure game with a little platforming thrown in too. Each room of the house has it’s own challenge to complete before you can move on. Challenges include eliminating all Ghoulies in a room, beating only a specified kind of Ghoulie while avoiding eliminating the rest or defeating a boss.
The controls use a twin stick method, with one stick moving the Cooper while the other sick attacks in the direction pushed.
Hidden around the house are Rare books (as in the developer Rare not they are “rare books”) and if Cooper collects five Rare books, a Bonus Challenge will be unlocked. The main objective of the bonus challenges is to revisit one of the rooms and perform a different task within it, such as defeating a number of enemies in a certain amount or time or surviving a duel with the Grim Reaper. Each challenge completed give you a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on how well you did. You can also earn a platinum medal if you complete a challenge on a higher difficulty. With every platinum medal obtained, a piece of the game’s concept art is unlocked. If you can earn all 20 platinum medals, an option is given to reset the game with Amber unlocked as a playable character.

The game was met with mixed reviews from critics upon release. Eurogamer stated that the game “never blew them away” but always kept a high standard of creativity. However,they praise the animation and overall character designs of the game. 1UP stated that the game’s “biggest problem” was its unchallenging game-play, stating that it was “repetitive” and often compared it to game-play of that from the 16-bit era. GameRevolution admitted that the game-play appeared “interesting” at first, but grew tiresome the longer the game is played, despite its short length.
Yet despite the mixed reviews and criticism, Grabbed by the Ghoulies was nominated for the awards of ‘Console Family Game of the Year’ and ‘Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition’ by the Academy of Interactive
Arts & Sciences in 2004.


With the about average Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Rare hardly showed the high standards they had previously with Nintendo. Maybe their first Xbox 360 game would change all of that?


Kameo: Elements of Power: Was a launch title for the Xbox 360 from Rare relased in 2005. Was set to be the start of an new franchise, but the sequel was cancelled.

You play as Kameo, an elf princess with the ability to transform into 10 elemental warriors and use their unique abilities.
The Elf Queen passes down a mystical Wotnot Book and the ability to become all of the Elemental Warriors to her youngest daughter Kameo, but this causes Kalus, the elder daughter, to grow jealous. So in an act of revenge and jealousy, Kalus releases an ancient curse which previously held Torn the evil Troll King captive in stone. This allows Thorn to unleash his troll army upon the world.
Working alongside Thorn and his army, Kalus kidnaps her mother, her two uncles and her aunt, then proceeds to torture them. Kameo dashes to their rescue, only to be knocked unconscious by Thorn and left on The Mystic’s doorstep. The Mystic informs Kameo that the Elemental Warriors are now Elemental Sprites who have been captured by the Shadow Trolls. She now has to rescue and absorb the Elemental Sprites, save her family and defeat Kalus and Thorn.

Kameo: Elements of Power is an open world action/adventure game akin to the Zelda series. Giving the player the freedom to explore the world however they wish, but some areas being locked until you progress in the story.

The game met with generally positive reception overall. IGN gave the game an 8.4/10 rating, GameSpot an 8.7/10 and Metacritic rounded out the scores to a 79 based on 76 critic reviews and also said “Elements of Power is an epic adventure, full of exploration and intense combat.”

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Well that is for this part. As we approach the final 5 games in this 30 game collection, we see the return of not one, not two, but three Rare classics as well an all new IP. See you in part VI.


Rare Replay Part IV

We are now entering the most famous and successful era of Rare/Nintendo’s partnership, but also the end of this amazing and influential team up as well as the end of the century.

But before we get back into Nintendo territory, Rare released an arcade game featuring one of their more successful series.


Battletoads-Arcade: AKA Super Battletoads, relased in 1994 for the arcade. The only Battletoads game where all three toads can fight on screen at the same time, also this one is much more violent, darker and bloody than any other in the series. The game was never relased for any home console, though a SNES version was planned, it was ultimately cancelled.

The toads are back, bigger, bloodier, badder and even cruder than ever before.
Our heroes; Zitz, Pimple and Rash are aboard their ship, The Vulture on a quest to hunt down The Dark Queen’s most villainous henchmen. As they search the galaxy hunting down these henchmen, they discover cyborg Robo-Manus has a new body and a new scheme to end the Battletoads once and for all.

This one is simple enough, its another button smashing, scrolling beat em’ up. But without the restraints of the home consoles and the added power of the arcade. The Battle toads are more violent than ever before.
Each one of the toads is unique in some ways; for example, Zitz’s attacks are wider in range and can take out more enemies at once, Pimple’s attacks are slower deal more damage while Rash attacks are faster, but his attacks do less damage.

The game is split into six varying stages that cover all sorts of terrain from space ships, ice worlds a mansion along with others. Plus there is plenty of variety along the way with bonus stages, a jetpack inspired stage and the last stage takes on more of a shoot em’ up style.

The game was very well received by critics at the time. With many commenting on the more adult and harder content along with the crude humour. In 2013, it was ranked as the 11th top beat ’em up video game of all time by Heavy.com. Retro Gamer said “its bombastic, colourful, well-designed and unmistakably Rare” and “easily as good as anything coming from the stables of Konami and Sega at the time” that it “had personality, great combat, and plenty of funny moments and incredibly” gory” They also said “in our opinion, the best game in the series.”


So we leave the world of the arcade and Battletoads to see what Rare have been up to with Nintendo on the N64.


Killer Instinct Gold: Released in 1996 for the N64 console by Rare. This is the 3rd game in the series after Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct 2. Killer Instinct Gold is essentially a port of the arcade version of Killer Instinct 2 but with a few tweaks and improvements.

A classic one on one tournament fighter in the same vein as Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. With the player controlling one of several various characters on a 2D plane, though the graphics of the character are also in 2D the backgrounds are in 3D and are even interactive.
Killer Instinct became infamous for it’s brutal combos and finisher moves. The game offers several game-play modes including, Arcade, Team, Team Elimination, Tournament, Practise, Training and Focused Training.

There were only a handful of character and many missing form the original and arcade version; Orchid, Fulgore, Gargo, Glacius, Jago, Kim Wu, Maya, Riptor, Spinal, T.J. Combo, Tusk…oh and Sabrewulf…yes that Sabrewulf.

Killer Instinct Gold met with varying reviews. GameSpot wrote that “Gold was decent, the best entry in the series thus far”, and a “good offering”. GamePro readers voted the game the second best of 1996 after Tekken 2. CVG ultimately thought the game had little “flow”. IGN complained about the game’s “shallow emphasis on archaic” combo sequence memorization rather than creative extempore.” They also said “there were too few characters and that the game’s closeness to its arcade version made it appear dated.”
IGN reported in 2010 that Killer Instinct Gold had upset series fans by changing the combo move sets and omitting “fan favourite” characters from the original.
After the 1996 Killer Instinct Gold did not sell as well as the Super Nintendo original, the series went dormant. However, Microsoft and Rare revived the series for the Xbox One in 2013.


The mixed bag that was Killer Instinct Gold is brushed aside for one of the most overlooked Rare/N64 games.


Blast Corps: Exploding onto the N64 in 1997 from Rare. Is this often forgotten about classic and was Rare’s first original IP for the N64 console.

A simple, enough game with a simple enough goal. All you had to do was destroy buildings and clear a path for a runaway nuclear missile carrier. Using a variety of vehicles such as; a basic bulldozer rams, a dump truck that would drift, a super lightweight buggy which crashes from higher ground, a tricycle which can shoots missiles, a truck which pushed outwards from its sides, and robot-mechs that tumble and stomp from the land and the air. As well as a few secret and hidden vehicles.

The game was made up of 57 levels, all with the same basic goal of clearing a path. But each level offered different challenges and puzzles to solve, dependent on which of the vehicles you were using. You may need to move explosive crates or fills gaps and creates bridges, along with many other simple but tricky puzzle solving. You could even transfer between vehicles mid-level to operate other machinery.

Once a level had been completed, you could return to explore without having to worry about the runaway nuclear missile carrier and explore the level. then you may find secrets and hidden extras throughout the levels. There are also secret levels and bonus rounds hidden throughout the game.

The game had very positive reviews when it was originally relased. Blast Corps was selected as Electronic Gaming Monthly‍‍ ’​‍s May 1997 Game of the Month and an IGN Editors’ Choice. Electronic Gaming Monthly was struck by the intense premise of Blast Corps. Its best feature, they wrote was “the palpable sense of suspense as the carrier advanced on resistant buildings.”

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The destructive, and addictive world of Blast Corps is left behind for a more “Mario-esque” game.


Banjo-Kazooie: 1998 saw the release of this game from Rare, an entry into the 3D platformer genre made popular by Mario 64. The first in the Banjo-Kazooie series.

Set in the Spiral Mountain and tells the story of Banjo, a brown honey bear as well as his friend, Kazooie, a red bird that is kept in Banjo’s backpack. When a foul-tempered witch named Gruntilda learns from that Tooty, Banjo’s sister, is a beautiful young girl. The jealous Gruntilda creates a machine which can transfer a person’s level of beauty to another. Gruntilda abducts Tooty from Banjo’s house while he is sleeping with the intention to use her beauty stealing machine on Tooty. Kazooie wakes Banjo up and the two set out to rescue her.

It’s basic “rescue the princess” stuff, but done with that Rare charm and style.
The game is split into nine open levels where the player must gather musical notes and jigsaw pieces (Jiggies) to progress. With you controlling our heroes Banjo and Kazooie as they set out to save Tooty from Gruntilda.
The levels are composed of a several challenges that involve solving puzzles, basic platforming, gathering specific objects, and defeating enemies. Also featured are some light elements of action-adventure games, where You’ll often have to speak with NPCs and then figure out a way to help them.
A world full of characters, fun and exploration.

Banjo-Kazooie was a big hit and met with critical and commercial success. GamePro described Banjo-Kazooie as a “more complex, more fluid, and more attractive game than its plumber predecessor, Mario 64.” IGN, awarded the game a rating of 9.6 out of 10, stating that the game “is the best 3D platformer [the reviewer] ever played, and a more than worthy successor to Mario 64.” GameSpot wrote: “graphically, Banjo-Kazooie takes it to another level. The game maintains the look and feel of Mario 64, but instead of flat, shaded polygons, BK uses a lot of textures”.
In 1999, Banjo-Kazooie received two awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences: Console Action Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics. Similarly, IGN awarded the game Overall Best Graphics of 1998, Best Texture Design of 1998, and Best Music of 1998.
In 2000, the game was ranked number seven on IGN’s list of The Top 25 N64 Games of All Time.

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We leave Banjo & Kazooie, if only for a while. While we see out the end of the century that is the space year of 1999.


Jet Force Gemini: Relased just as the year 1999 was coming to an end, this Sci-Fi inspired game from Rare for the N64 became a frim fan favourite.

Jet Force Gemini is composed of three main characters: Juno, a taciturn human male whose parents were killed by space pirates that invaded his home station; Vela, Juno’s feisty twin sister; and Lupus, Jet Force Gemini’s War-dog mascot.
As the game begins the three characters are in orbit around the planet Goldwood after just barely escaping the destruction of the entire Jet Force fleet at the hands of Mizar. Their cruiser has been badly damaged, leaving them completely defenceless and unable to escape the system. It is not too long before the team witnesses Mizar’s attack on Goldwood and their ship is attacked by a large craft of Mizar’s. Boarded by drones, the three decide to abandon the ship and go off on their own separate paths to stop the invasion.

This is a third-person shooter game with platforming/action-adventure elements and features a single-player campaign where the player must explore a galaxy and save a large number of Tribals, a group of survivors who have been enslaved and prisoned by Mizar. Along with a a multi-player deathmatch for two to four players as well as a co-op mode.

Jet Force Gemini received positive reviews from video game critics. GameSpot awarded the game a rating of 8.8 out of 10, commenting: “Nintendo 64 fans should pick up this title without delay and hope that Rareware’s team of top-notch talent will continue to churn out even more games like this one for years to come”. IGN praised Rare for exploring new mechanics and concluded his review by saying that “this is still one of Nintendo 64’s most original games and it has much more good going for it than it does bad”.
The multi-player mode received a mixed reaction. IGN called it “slow and clunky”, while Gaming Age observed that the third-person view “takes up far too much of the “already tiny split screen and the complex control system does not help make it a game to pick-up-and-play”.

In 2000, Jet Force Gemini was ranked by IGN at number 20 in their list of The Top 25 N64 Games of All Time. In 2009, Official Nintendo Magazine ranked it the 93rd best game available on Nintendo platforms.


Here endith part IV, we’ll pick up in part V as the year 2000 rolls around and one of the very best and most “perfect” N64 games is finally unleashed after several delays.


Rare Replay Part III

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.

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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).

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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 Power‍‍​‍s 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.


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.


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”.


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.


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.


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: 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?


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?


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.


Rare Replay Part I

Well it’s finally here, landed on the carpet via my letterbox this morning.


So following on from my Ultimate/Rare retrospective a few weeks back, where I said I’d cover all 30 games in this collection, and yes, I will be playing all 30 games too.

I guess I’d better get started…
30 games, 5 games per page. So a 6 part look at the Rare Reply game collection with a 7th part where I’ll cover the collection as a whole and offer my personal views and ask is it worth it?
You can read through all 6 parts as I look at all the games on the collection, or just “skip to the end” to the 7th and final part where I do a brief round up.

Well lets begin with Ultimate’s first ever game…


Jetpack: Released in 1983 by Ultimate: Play The Game for the ZX Spectrum and VIC-20. It was later ported to the BBC Micro. Written by Chris Stamper and designed by Tim Stamper.
This was the first game in what would later be known as the Jetman series.

With you playing as a test pilot only known as “Jetman” who works for The Acme Interstellar Transport Company, delivering spaceship kits to various planets.

You are tasked into collecting and assembling parts of a spaceship and it’s fuel via the use of your trusty Jetpack in order to move onto the next location.
Each level filled with alien enemies to blast and loot to collect from jewels to gold, all to help bump up your high-score.

Jetpack was/is a simple game…but they all were back then, with all the action taking place on a single screen. However, it still offers a fun and fair challenge that’ll leave you wanting to beat your high-score.
The game was very well received upon original release and even won “Game of the Year” at the Golden Joystick Awards in 1983.


Next from Ultimate was Jetpack’s first sequel.


Lunar Jetman: Released for the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro in 1983 by Ultimate: Play The Game and again written by Chris Stamper and designed by Tim Stamper.

Jetman returns as the playable character. With Jetman’s poorly constructed rocket (from the last game) falling apart, he crash lands on a previously undiscovered world, which is inhabited by aliens that intend to destroy Earth.
Jetman must destroy the alien instillation signals to prevent the destruction of Earth.
This time Jetman is equipped with his trusty Jetpack once more but also with a Hyperglide Moon Rover which he can use to gather equipment and supplies to help him in his mission.

Using the same basic game-play mechanics from Jetpack, but now being able to scroll left and right. You can move around on the ground via foot, or take to the air (or space) with your jetpack. However, unlike the previous game, your jetpack now has a fuel gauge. You can also hop into the Hyperglide Moon Rover to traverse the terrain. Yet the rover can only navigate smooth surfaces, so any craters you encounter (which the aliens can create themselves) will need to be fixed by Jetman. The rover can also be used to refuel your jetpack.

The rover can also carry other items such as bombs which you use to destroy the alien bases, a cannon used to shoot down those annoying aliens and finally there is also the teleporter, which can be used for rapid transport around the planet.

Lunar Jetman took the basis concept of Jetpack and added a lot more variety and even a level of strategy. Where as the previous game was just about getting a high-score, Lunar Jetman added objectives and other tweaks to give the game an overall deeper concept.

The game again met with high critical praise upon release and Lunar Jetman was the only game to knock Jetpack off the top of the charts.


Ultimate’s next game is an all time classic.


Atic Attack: The 3rd game relased by Ultimate: Play The Game hit the shops in 1983 for the ZX Spectrum, with once again, Tim and Chris Stamper being the creative force behind the game.

The game is set in a haunted castle and allows you to play as one of three characters. Choose from either a Knight, Wizard or Serf. Each character not only looked different, but they also had access to a secret passage unique and different for each character. Meaning that you could explore the castle differently dependent on which character you selected.

You are tasked into collecting the “Golden Key of ACG” of which several parts are hidden within the castle and use the key to escape. Along the way you’ll also find other items such as; colour coded keys to unlock doors, food items, etc. But there were also red herring items that might look intriguing, but did nothing.
As you could only carry three items at any one time, selecting what to carry and what not to carry became a bit of a puzzle in itself.

The game had a simple premise, but offered a lot of replay value as items would randomly generate each time you played, coupled with the three different characters meant that even though the castle layout itself never changed, you still could play a “different” game each time.

Atic Attack was (again) universally praised when released. Computer and Video Games said it was “the best yet from Ultimate”, while Sinclair User said that “the depth of plot and the graphics make it a superb game.”
The game was even a major inspiration for the classic Children’s TV show Knightmare.

Atic Attack was Ultimate’s third consecutive number one in the UK Spectrum sales chart.


Their next game would go on to become fondly remembered as one of the all time greats.


Sabre Wulf: Just typing the title put a smile on my face. This one was relased in 1984 for the ZX Spectrum by Ultimate Play The Game, with the Stamper brothers yet again being the writer/developers. The game is the first in the Sabreman series.

Playing as Sabreman you must navigate a huge (for the time) jungle maze of 256 screens and recover four pieces of a lost amulet. All while using your sabre to fend off the many foes you’ll find in the jungle such as scorpions, snakes and spiders, hippos and rhinos.
Right at the very bottom of the map is the Wulf’s territory, as the Wulf is not affected by your sabre, you need to avoid it…but seeing as most of the loot and the best way traverse the jungle is via the Wulf’s territory, it’s hard to stay away.

While you go on your adventure to find the pieces of the lost amulet, you’ll stumble upon various other items to collect along the way. Treasure for bonus points, jungle orchids that when touched will affect Sabreman in various ways.

The game map was really very big at the time and offered a good amount of exploration, the graphics were bright and colourful and really did give a jungle vibe.

Sabre Wulf (as with the other games…again) met with favourable reviews and high praise. The game became a best-seller on the ZX Spectrum. The game won the awards for best maze game and best advert of the year as well as being voted the 11th best game of all time by the readers of Retro Gamer Magazine.

The game really is a great little title, it’s offers nothing complex other than exploration. But it’s very rewarding and each time you play you advance just that little bit further.


The final game in part I of this retrospective is the first sequel to Sabre Wulf.


Underwurlde: Hey, they misspelt “wolf” in the last game, so why not the same with “world” too? This game carried on with the adventures of Sabreman and was relased for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 by Ultimate Play The Game in 1984.

Once again taking on the role of Sabreman, with you now working around an even bigger maze of 597 screens that depict a castle and a system of caverns beneath it. Sabreman must escape the castle via one of three exits, each of the three exits actually being the next game(s) in the series.
Three different guardians…well, guard the three exits and each guardian is vulnerable to a different weapon. The location of the three weapons is hidden somewhere within the castle and caverns, leading to a lot of exploration.

Sabreman, no longer using is trademark sabre must navigate the maze while being attacked by various monsters. You can find various weapons to help along the way, starting with the basic slingshot. Unlike the previous game, contact with enemies does not cause damage, instead Sabreman is knocked backwards causing fatal falls by knocking you off the various platforms. Although Sabreman is tough enough to survive short drops, the maze is full of chasms deep enough for a lethal fall. You needed to down down these chasms to find items and the exit, so exploring them was a must…but getting down them could be troublesome. There were various ways to make it down a chasm without dying, one being jumping between the various platforms or even using ropes you would attach to the top so you could descend. Neither of them were “easy” due to the many enemies constantly harassing you.

Underwurlde was a welcome return for Sabreman and mixed things up enough from the last game to keep things fresh and interesting.
While not as successful as Sabre Wulf, Underwurlde still met with its own success. The ZX Spectrum version was number 18 in the Your Sinclair Top 100 Speccy Games.


Well, that about wraps up part I. But I’ll see you in Part II where we will catch up with Sabreman in his next adventure.