Tag Archives: Rare Reply

A Toadaly Awesome Battletoads Retrospective

Back in the late eighties and early nineties, those pesky Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were everywhere. Comic books, cartoons, action figures, games and even movies. Those four deadly weapon wielding reptiles were hugely popular and still kind of are today, I guess. I lost interest in them pretty quickly to be honest. The whole TMNT phenomenon didn’t really grab me. I watched some of the cartoon, played a couple of the games and somewhat enjoyed the first film… and then got bored and moved on pretty quickly. By the time 1991 rolled around, I had pretty much forgotten all about Leo, Mikey, Don and the other one, Bob I think.

TMNT

Part of the reason why TMNT had slipped away from me in 1991 was due to something similar, but with a bit more of an edge. I mean, I was fifteen/sixteen at the time, growing up, leaving school and preparing to enter the real world. Watching kids cartoons, playing kids games and so on just didn’t interest mid-teenage me then (yes I was an idiot). It was the summer of 1991 when I was first introduced to Battletoads, a more ‘grown up’ parody of TMNT. I say ‘grown up’, using that as loosely as I can, because we all know now just how puerile Battletoads was.

The brainchild of Rare founders, Tim and Chris Stamper (read my book), Battletoads was unleashed onto the public in June, 1991. Seeing as a new game is released today, I thought I’d do a retrospective on the entire Battletoads franchise starting with that first game, up to the latest today and everything in-between, warts and all.

Battletoads

As previously mentioned, this is where it all started. It was June, 1991 when the first Battletoads game was released for the NES. Developed by Rare and published by Tradewest, Battletoads is a mix of scrolling beat ’em up/platformer and even a little vehicle action thrown in too. The plot of the game is that Professor T. Bird and the titular Battletoads, Rash, Zitz, and Pimple, are on a mission to escort Princess Angelica home on their spaceship. However, Pimple and Angelica take a detour on Pimple’s flying space-car when they are kidnapped by the Dark Queen and taken to a planet called Ragnarok. Professor T. Bird receives a call from the Dark Queen, daring Rash and Zitz to come and save their friend and Princess Angelica.

BATTLETOADS NES

And so the game kicks off proper as a one or two-player affair with you controlling either Rash or Zitz of the titular toads. Battletoads is typical scrolling beat ’em up stuff. Simple enough controls with a jump and attack, various weapons to pick up so you can beat the bad guys with and so on. If you ever played Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Final Fight, etc, then you know what to expect here. But what separated Battletoads from other titles of its ilk back then was its humour and variety. Given the name of the heroes, you can be assured this game does not take itself seriously at all. It’s silly, puerile and yet utterly charming at the same time. There’s a real cartoony feel, not just with the overall presentation but also with the fighting itself. Knocking down bad guys with a huge boot, smashing into them with ram horns and so on. But then, each level feels different and fresh, there’s typical side scrolling action, abseiling down a canyon, even vehicle based levels (just say the words ‘turbo tunnel’ to a Battletoads fan and watch them break out in a cold sweat) to platforming sections. Battletoads really throws a lot into the mix… and it works very well too in all honesty.

Often thought of as one of the finest games in the NES library, Battletoads was and still is very much loved among gamers. But as much loved and respected Battletoads is, it’s also known for it’s punishing difficulty. If you could finish the game on the NES, original, no emulation, no save states, then you could easily be considered a gaming legend. Then if you could do it in two-player… which was even harder, then you were a God. The game still holds up very well today too, if you can get past it’s difficulty, there’s a genuinely great title here. One that is easy to pick up, but very hard to play and master.

The original game eventually saw ports to all sorts of machines over the years including the Mega Drive/Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear and the Amiga and Amiga CD32. The various ports have their good and bad points, for example the Amiga CD32 version has some really great cut-scenes… but it pays terribly. Of all the versions, the NES original is still the best.

BATTLETOADS GAME BOY

1991 also saw the release of Battletoads the LCD game from Tiger. I don’t really need to go into details over this one do I? You all remember those terrible Tiger LCD games with pretty much zero gameplay. If you really, really want to see what it was like, then here’s a YouTube clip you can watch. Then just to finish, the Game Boy port was released in 1993 with a slight title change. Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World, aside from it’s obvious monochrome colour palette, single-player only mode, smaller screen and stripped down levels, it’s actually a pretty damn good port of the original.

Battletoads

So, things get a little complicated here as in 1991 there was another game called Battletoads for the Game Boy… only it wasn’t a port of the previous NES version, this was a whole new game. This is why the Game Boy port of the NES version from 1993 had a different title, because this completely different and exclusive game for the Game Boy was released first in 1991. See, it all makes perfect sense… I think? So the plot is that Rash, Zitz, and Pimple are taking a break from their adventures. An exotic dancer entertains them, but the dancer is actually the Dark Queen, she and her henchmen ambush the toads and a fight ensues. Both Rash and Pimple are taken away, leaving only Zitz to rescue his toady partners.

BATTLETOADS GAME BOY 2

Again, this is Battletoads and very much like the original game, but with an all new story and levels. It’s still that mix of scrolling beat ’em up/platformer and vehicle action. It plays just like the original too and yes, it’s still bloody hard as nails difficult. The limitations of the Game Boy do show here though as the game is very short and can be completed in less than twenty minutes, plus each level is restrictive and can be finished in a minute or two. What is here is a good Battletoads game, but compared to the latter and previously mentioned Battletoads in Ragnarok’s World, the port of the NES original, it just feels like it’s lacking somewhat.

Battletoads

No, the titles are not changing very much so far are they? But the medium is, as this is not a game. In 1992 and after the success of the game(s), the idea was to try and TMNT the franchise with a cartoon. So production company DiC (Inspector Gadget, M.A.S.K., The Real Ghostbusters, to name a few) secured the rights to make an all new Battletoads animated TV show. The story of the show was to be a prequel to the game(s) and followed three high-school students who are given the power to transform into anthropomorphic toads with superhuman strength and abilities by Professor T. Bird. The trio of toads are tasked with protecting Princess Angelica from the Dark Queen.

BATTLETOADS CARTOON

Unlike the TMNT attempt of breaking into animation, Battletoads failed. Only one episode was ever made, a pilot. The pilot was aired on Thanksgiving weekend, 1992, but the show was never picked up to make a full series. You can actually watch the pilot on YouTube as it was officially released. You can see it’s a bit rough, the animation isn’t great, even for the time and it just feels very flat. DiC made some great animated shows back in the eighties and nineties, Battletoads wasn’t one of them. It just felt too ‘kiddy’, I know Battletoads was silly and puerile, but it still had a bit more of an edge to it. The animated show completely missed that and tried to market itself to ten and twelve year-olds, when it should’ve been aimed towards mid-teens. It just wasn’t Battletoads, it was a poor quality Saturday morning cartoon that really miss the style and tone of its source material.

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs

1993 saw the latest title in the franchise hit the shelves. Originally released on the SNES before seeing a port to the Master System. So this time, the toads are invited to the Gyachung-La fortress in northern Tibet. Professor T. Bird shows them T.R.I.P.S (Total Reality Integrated Playing System), a new virtual reality game system made by the Psicone Corporation. While demonstrating the system’s digital world, a dragon riding pig leaps out kidnaps the daughter of the Psicone Corporation’s CEO, Michiko Tashoku. Zitz steps forward to defend her, but is knocked out and taken into the virtual world, along with Michiko. Of course, the Dark Queen appears and has teamed up with new villain, Silas Volkmire in a plan to turn the real word into the virtual world in the VR system. So it’s up to Rash and Pimple to enter the game to stop the Dark Queen and Silas Volkmire, as well as save Michiko Tashoku and their friend, Zitz.

BATTLETOADS BATLLEMANIACS

Battletoads in Battlemaniacs is pretty much more of the same as the previous titles… which isn’t a bad thing. The obvious graphic upgrade form the NES to the SNES is really quite impressive. The Battletoads themselves are far better animated and bring a lot of humour to the game. The levels are bigger, more colourful and varied than ever before. As with the previous games, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs offers a lot of variation for each level, yes there is the classic scrolling beat ’em up stuff, more vehicle action and platforming too. It really is typical Battletoads, in many ways, this feels more like a remake or reworking of the original game over an all new title. Many of the levels are the same, just with slight variations on the NES game. And yes, in typical Rare style, the game is harder than a male porn star on Viagra. It also featured two different endings.

Interesting little tit-bit to finish up on. The Master System version was heavily advertised and even reviewed in gaming magazines at the time here in Europe… but ultimately, it was never officially released. For some unknown reason, the European version was scrapped at the last minute. The Master System port did eventually see a release in 1996… in Brazil. It was released unfinished too with several glitches and other notable issues. You can watch a play through of the Master System version right here.

Battletoads/Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team

I really was a bit of a Battletoads fan in that early-mid nineties era. You know what else I loved? Double Dragon, in fact Double Dragon was the first arcade game I ever finished in the eighties, and I became obsessed with the game since. So when this crossover was released in 1993, seventeen year-old me was beyond excited. You got to chose from five playable characters, any of the three Battletoads and Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon. The story this time has the Dark Queen team up with the Shadow Warriors gang from Double Dragon to take over the universe. So, of course, the toads step up to stop them along with help from the Lee twins.

BATTLETOADS DOUBLE DRAGON

This one is a brilliant mixing of the two franchises. Both series are represented fairly with in-jokes and references a-plenty. Plus from a gameplay perspective, both Battletoads and Double Dragon get treated with respect. There is the variety of levels from the toad’s games, vehicle stuff and abseiling, etc, but there’s a bigger focus on the beat ’em up action too that feels more Double Dragon. Battletoads/Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team is one of the best titles in both of the respective franchises and still well worth playing today too. It’s worth noting that this was the first time all three Battletoads could be selected in a game. If you hadn’t noticed, all the previous games, one (or more) of the toads was always knocked out/kidnapped and needed saving within the story.

Battletoads Arcade

For me personally, Battletoads didn’t get any better then this. Released in 1994, Battletoads Arcade was… wait for it… and arcade game. The first time the toads had seen a game not released on consoles (not counting the Rare Replay version). I’m not even sure of there’s a story this time around. I know the Dark Queen is back and you have to stop her… but I’m not exactly sure what you are stopping her from doing to be honest. It’s an arcade game and they rarely had stories, they were about eating up as many coins from punters as they could and Battletoads Arcade was no different.

BATTLETOADS ARCADE

Being an arcade game over a console one meant that developers, Rare, were able to push the boundaries a bit more. Battletoads Arcade is far more bombastic and visceral than any of the other games. The graphics are bigger and bolder than ever before, there’s blood and gore, the humour is pushed further and so on. There’s even some cleverly hidden in plain sight swearing using puns. Then from a gameplay perspective, this is balls to the wall action. There’s still a hint of the trademark Battletoads variety with the levels, but the emphasis here is most definitely on the fisticuffs more so than ever before. Battletoads Arcade is stupidly ridiculous, loud and brash, fabulously over the top… and I adore it. It also features some really great graphics and ideas using sprite-scaling and perspective. Even now, Battletoads Arcade is a very attractive, good looking game. If there is one negative, then it is that you never fight the Dark Queen, the toads main adversary, nor does she make an appearance (aside from a small cameo on the third level). She’s mentioned in the game, she’s even said to have been defeated in the ending… but you never see or directly fight her. Why was there no Dark Queen? Still, this is Battletoads as its finest. If they ever want to try and make another Battletoads cartoon (I can dream), then this game is where they should draw their influence from. 

And that was it for the Battletoads, they had no more games for twenty-six years… until…

Battletoads

All of which brings up right up to date with this latest game in the franchise. After two and a half decades, Rash, Zitz, Pimple and the Dark Queen are back! Now, before I get into this one, I just want to address something. There’s been some harsh fan-backlash over the art style of this new game. Just to be perfectly  clear… I really don’t like it either. It just doesn’t feel or look like a Battletoads game. You know what it looks like? A bad Saturday morning kids cartoon… and we know how that turned out for Battletoads (see above). Nope, I really, really do not like the art style of this game. But, there is more to a game than how it looks, and its gameplay is what’s important here. So, the game it quite literally just a few hours old. I stayed up late to give it a play at midnight this morning and I put in a few more hours while finishing this article and did manage to complete the game.

Well, I guess the big question is, was it worth the twenty-six year wait? One of those years being a delay as the game was originally planned for a 2019 release. It’s also worth noting that this is the first Battletoads game not developed by series creator, Rare. Instead, the IP was outsourced to Dlala Studios

BATTLETOADS 2020

Was it worth the wait? No. This game is terrible. It’s not even a proper Battletoads game. One of the things I’ve always praised the series for is its variety, but at heart, the franchise is still a scrolling beat ’em up. Here, the main action and draw of the franchise takes a back seat, don’t let the carefully edited trailers fool you as there is very little beat ’em up action here. What Battletoads is, is a collection of very poor mini-games. In fact, most of the game is everything except beat ’em up action that the franchise is famed for.

Yes the game starts out with classic Battletoads action, but it soon just becomes the kind of shallow flash games you used to find on Newgrounds.com. You’ll be playing a dull twin-stick shooter, a platformer with a hippy-like character, then there’s even a mini-game that has several mini-games within one mini-game… the part when your ship breaks down and it needs to be rebooted. Trust me, when you play it, you’ll know just how tedious it is. Oh and there’s even a bit where you take photos with a phone. There’s annoying button pressing/QTE games, press switches to make a circuit connections and more mediocrity. This is not Battletoads! Rock, paper, scissors… there’s a rock, paper, scissors mini-game… more than once. Even Alex Kid is shaking his head in disbelief at that.

BATTLETOADS 2020 FIGHT

But even if you can make it through the utterly boring mini-games and do stick it out for the beat ’em up action (what little there is), even that is horrendous thanks to some really obnoxious controls. Some buttons have to do double duty… but neither of the shoulder buttons are used at all. That makes no sense, you’ve got two perfectly good buttons not doing anything, but then force multiple button presses to do something that should take only one button. That’s bad game design. The toads also control really sluggish too, the way they walk is as if they’re knee deep in treacle. There is a run button and when that is used, that’s a much more playable speed… but you have to keep the run button pressed and on top of the other buttons you need to press (as mentioned, some having to do double duty), the control scheme of the beat ’em up section is just so backward and counter-intuitive. I’ve not played a game with such a convoluted and awkward control scheme since Red Dead Redemption II.

I know I said before I didn’t like the art style, and I don’t. But here, it’s more then just not looking nice, it ruins the game when the action does kick off. The screen just becomes this blur of garish colours and it’s really hard to make out what is going on. I mean…

BATTLETOADS 2020 MESSY

… what is going on up there there? Who is doing what to who? How many enemies are there? It just looks like a three year-old has eaten too much sugar and thrown up on the screen. 

You want to know how slow the game is? Remember the infamous turbo tunnel section in the original? That fast-paced, action packed, heart-pumping level that gets the pulse racing and the sweat pouring? Well it’s back here… only it’s really, really, really slow. Now given a third person view, you can see the obstacles coming from half a mile away and it moves along at a snail pace. Don’t believe me? Let me put it this way, the target time to finish the level is over eight minutes…. eight fucking minutes to play turbo tunnel? I was falling asleep trying to get to the end.

BATTLETOADS 2020 TURBO TUNNEL

Battletoads is a sluggish, dull, convoluted, disjointed, disappointment. A confusing mess of a game where the developers clearly had no idea what kind of game to make, so just threw everything in… and it’s a mess  It’s a very average flash game, the kind of thing you’d d’load for free on your phone and delete it after ten minutes of play. How/Why this was delayed I don’t know, it could’ve been knocked up in Flash in three months.

I pushed my way though to the end and uninstalled the game, quickly loaded up Rare Reply so I could cleanse my soul with some Battletoads Arcade. The game is ‘free’ on Game Pass and if curiously really gets the better of you, I guess you can give it a go. But to pay hard earned cash for this is an insult. By far the worse Battletoads game made so far… okay, so it’s not as bad as the LCD thing, but for a ‘proper’ console game, this is terrible.

You want to know how to do a classic beat ’em up revival? Go play Streets of Rage 4. I don’t even like the Streets of Rage franchise at all and I am very much a Battletoads fan, but I have to admit that Streets of Rage 4 got right what Battletoads go so very wrong. I’d rather watch that awful animated pilot again then play this game, that’s how bad it is. 

Other Battletoads Bits

A Battletoads game was in development for the Game Boy Advance sometime in the early two-thousands, but the title was ultimately cancelled. Very little is known about the game, whether it was going to be a sequel or an remake of the original, or even an all new title is anyone’s guess. But, a ROM for the unfinished version was leaked onto the interwebs and some gameplay can bee seen right here.

The toads have made several cameos elsewhere too. The 8-bit homage action/platformer Shovel Knight features Rash, Zitz and Pimple as a boss fight, but only for the Xbox and PC versions of the game. It’s actually a great and quite lengthy fight that pays respects and offers many references to the original game. Check out a play-through of the fight right here.

Rash became a playable character in Rare’s popular fighter Killer Instinct, well in the 2013 reboot anyway. Rash also appears as a landmark in action figure form in the new survival game on the Xbox, Grounded. Of course, the original and the arcade games were both included in the amazing Rare Replay collection from 2015.

RASH GROUNED

Overall, Battletoads has been a solid franchise…. until this new game. The original NES game still holds up almost thirty years later. That Double Dragon crossover was and still is brilliant. It’s a shame that licencing issues prevent it being re-released. This new game is an atrocity to gaming. It’s a shame they messed up this badly, took what was a good franchise and screwed over the fans like that to create a flash mini-game instead. I was hoping that the new Battletoads could be a revival for the series, but it’s a nail in the coffin. We fans will never see a Battletoads Arcade 2 now.

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?”

RR banner

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.

RR

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 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?

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

JFG

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.

JFG 2

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.

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