Go Bananas for the Sea of Thieves Launch

Sea of Thieves for the Xbox One and Windows 10 PC launches on March 20th, but starting today, you can embark on a journey to win some real treasure in the form of a bunch of UK Hallmarked 18-carat golden bananas, valued at £20,000 per banana.

Beginning today at 12:00am PT, a series of 15 riddles will be released, and on Wednesday, March 21st at 13:00 PT (1:00pm PT), participants will have seven hours to visit xbox.com/thebananaquest and input their answers for a chance at solving the final riddle on March 22nd. This Quest is worldwide, however, and the riddles will be scattered about both online and across several real-life locations, including Key West, Florida; London, United Kingdom; Berlin, Germany; Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; and Victoria, Canada.

For more details and to register your crew, visit xbox.com/thebananaquest. They also say that this is the best place for viewing riddles as they’re released, but that you’ll want to keep your good eye on Xbox on Facebook, Rare, and local social channels (whatever that means — stuff like Xbox Canada on Facebook, perhaps?) as well.

As noted, Sea of Thieves comes to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs tomorrow, and will also be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch, too. And if you like, there’s still time to pre-order to get the exclusive Black Dog Pack (which contains clothing a salty dog such as yourself might find stylish, and items featuring “unique, spectacular designs”).

Written by Darrel Scott; edited by David Oxford

Many gamers would say that Nintendo has fallen behind Sony and Microsoft when it comes to major console gaming in the past decade or so. While there are legions of hardcore Nintendo loyalists out there, the Wii and Wii U simply weren’t as powerful as the latest Xbox and PlayStation devices. But if there’s one clear advantage that remains with Nintendo, it’s the company’s ability to tap into nostalgia and build on games that people grew up with.

So far, the new Nintendo Switch is looking like an interesting play. Sales for the new console are reportedly off to a phenomenal start, and it seems that the experiment is paying off. Gamers appreciate the idea of a console that essentially doubles as a mobile gaming device, and Nintendo appears to have executed the concept pretty well.

Another reason the Switch seems to be performing well is related to the aforementioned ability to tap into nostalgia. Among the console’s best launch titles, players can find new games for the likes of The Legend of Zelda and Bomberman, two beloved franchises that have been off the shelves for quite some time. These aren’t the only good games you can play on the Switch, but it stands to reason they’re helping to drive sales.

With that said, here are a few more games Nintendo might be wise to explore for the Switch, both from its own past and to get at gamers’ nostalgia in general.

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Super Mario RPG

There will be plenty of Mario-related games that come out on the Switch, but Nintendo would still do well to reboot this underrated classic. Those who played Super Mario RPG (on Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Wii Virtual Console) know that it still stands as one of the most entertaining role playing games of all time. In fact, just last year an article emerged expressing that in 20 years, few Nintendo games have lived up to this one. Throw in the fact that an RPG is one of the easier genres or formats to flip seamlessly between mobile and console gaming, and this seems like a no-brainer.

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GoldenEye 007

Shooters are tricky on a device like the mobile component of the Switch. This iconic first person shooter was actually rebooted to somewhat mediocre effect for the Wii a few years ago, but a new flagship Nintendo device without a fresh attempt at resurrecting GoldenEye’s glory just seems like a shame! Plus, it could pave the way for a new generation of James Bond games, which have always been fun.

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X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse

In a way, it feels like the year of Wolverine (thanks to Hugh Jackman’s final film as the legendary Canadian hero). Still, despite the recent surge in popularity we haven’t seen a major Wolverine game in quite some time. Some of the most recent games starring the fearsome mutant are online slot reels that are more fun than you might think. These casual web games are actually considered to be among the most popular and entertaining around, and frequently adopt characters and series from popular entertainment, with the result that there are currently multiple Wolverine– and X-Men-related games in circulation. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse was a classic platformer for the SNES back in 1994, and could be a great candidate for an update to the hybrid mobile and home console.

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Pokémon Red Version and Pokémon Blue Version

Pokémon is more relevant than ever thanks to the explosive popularity of Pokémon GO, and Nintendo ought to go ahead and capitalize. Brand new versions of the original games, with better graphics and perhaps slightly more complex gameplay, would be a wonderful surprise. These games could work well on both mobile and console modes, and it’s hard to imagine this being anything but a major seller for the Nintendo Switch. It’s hard that there’s never been a proper Pokémon game for consoles (outside of titles like Pokkén Tournament and Pokémon Snap), but there are rumors that Game Freak might be looking to develop a new Pokémon game for the Switch, although it’s still far too early to know any details.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The Turtles are also riding a wave of popularity with a younger generation but older fans probably still have fond memories of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games from the ’90s. These arcade brawlers recall a time when Nintendo dominated the console market and arcades were filled with the sounds of clinking quarters and the smell of stale pizza. While not exclusive to Nintendo, the Switch is perfectly suited to make the most of the iconic arcade gameplay and help acquaint a new audience with the older games starring the heroes in a half shell.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Mario’s Hat or any of Nyteworks’ staff.

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The big day for Xbox fans across Toronto is here! While the public part of the event is just getting underway as of this writing, the doors were open earlier in the day for members of the press to get in and check some things out. As such, Nadia and I donned our best black t-shirts for the occasion and headed out to the Sound Academy down by the lakeshore. And what things there were to see!

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More than 100 consoles and over 30 developers were on hand to talk about the latest and upcoming titles that are headed to the Xbox One and PC. There was some other fun as well, including a bar (not paid, unfortunately) and various snacks ranging from bite-sized grilled cheese sandwiches (with optional ketchup), pretzels, and kettle cooked potato chips. And in case anyone was worried about their calorie count, there were ways to work it off:

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We’re going to assume Ms. Croft foot the bill for that one.

In addition to Rise of the Tomb Raider, there was a massive Halo 5 stage set up with a giant screen. Just in case any shenanigans were afoot, these two gents (or possibly ladies — I’ve seen the anime and Dead or Alive 4) were on hand to keep the peace:

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Among the many, many games on hand were several sports titles which had their own special “sports bar” section:

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I can’t say I gave that one too close a look; the order of the day included NBA 2K16, NHL 16, FIFA 16, and Madden NFL 16. Me, I’m more of a WWE and NBA Jam kind of guy.

For those eager to put the pedal to the metal (and many were), there was another section for them to get in gear:

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Moto GP 2015, Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, and of course, Microsoft Game Studios’ own Turn 10-developed Forza Motorsport 6 were on hand here.

Other titles without any specific affiliation were all around as well. Skylanders SuperChargers was one, but I passed on that for others since we’re checking a separate showing out tomorrow. Mad Max, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Fable Legends, Quantum Break, Gigantic, Dark Souls III, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2, and more were all around — some more subtle than others. I wish I’d gotten to sit down with many more, but to do so would be more to nibble when I wanted to nosh, so I ended up focusing more on a smaller selection of titles which held my interest.

For what it’s worth, not everything I had hoped to see was there — Killer Instinct‘s third season (featuring Battletoad Rash) and Scalebound most prominently. Still, most of what I did get to see sent me away happy and still hoping I’ll be able to invest in an Xbox One sooner rather than later. (On an unrelated note: have I mentioned that I have a Patreon? Contributing to that could help me expand my coverage here…)

With that said, here’s where I directed my focus:

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Some years ago when I was working for Examiner, I had the opportunity to visit Eidos Montreal and check out what was the then-unreleased Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and I absolutely loved what I saw. I had hoped to be able to follow up that series of coverage with a review upon its release, but things happened and that didn’t. When the game was brought to the Wii U, complete with some issues addressed from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 version, I still wanted in, but it just never happened.

That love for what I saw still hasn’t gone away, though, so once I had the opportunity to view its follow-up in action, I leaped at the chance. Just as before, though, it was a hands-off demo as something of a vertical slice was shown. For his part, Adam Jensen looks more badass than ever with his suite of different abilities.

Following the trailer and demonstration, I got to speak briefly to one of the developers (whose name I regrettably did not get among all the bustling crowds) about a cause for concern from the previous game. The aforementioned issues related to the game’s structure, which allows you to play and build up skills for sneaking, hacking, and combat. Generally, the game is supposed to allow you to choose the method that fits your preference and you can go through from there, but there were instances such as bosses where people who focused on hacking and stealth were at a disadvantage due to not dumping points into their combat stats.

I asked about this, and was assured that they were developing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided so that players would not have to worry about being “bottlenecked” into such situations. If you come across such a boss, for instance, you’ll be able to find other ways around them.

Another thing I asked about with the customization of the first game in mind was if there might be some way to use data from Human Revolution in Mankind Divided. While that is not in the cards, they did mention a New Game + feature that will allow you to replay the game after beating it with your enhancements and stats from the end of the last playthrough. Perhaps with enough time and effort, one can even craft an “ultimate” Jensen?

He didn’t ask for this, but I certainly am.

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Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege

Some poor, unfortunate souls ended up coercing me into playing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was a multiplayer demonstration.

They couldn’t have known. I told them, but even then, they couldn’t have known.

I am not good at first-person shooters, so the events transpired thus: other players got irritated with me as I tried selecting a character that had already been chosen (my past experiences allowed more for choosing “types”; I didn’t realize it was character-driven), and I followed my squad mates up a building, then we went back down the building. Fire started being opened on us, I tried to shoot back, and I died.

I don’t think I lasted more than a minute, and while there’s apparently a time limit to revive a fallen comrade, no one bothered. I can’t say I blame them. Then my view went over to a camera perspective of someone else for the rest of the match. I think out of a 15 minute match (give or take), I was in it for maybe two.

I sincerely apologize to everyone whose time I ruined in that match, though I guess I didn’t likely affect much of it.

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Cuphead

Oh man, Cuphead. As someone who grew up watching vintage Looney Tunes and other classic cartoons on Nickelodeon and TNT every weeknight, the visuals here really resonate like nothing else. Part of me wonders why no one ever bothered to do this sooner.

Fascinatingly enough, it’s not just the visuals that are oldschool, but the gameplay as well. It’s a shoot ’em up not unlike Contra, and it is surprisingly tough. The fact that the demo only pits you against bosses and you have only one life only escalate matters. I don’t know if those matters — the single life in particular — were because it was a demo, but as someone who is a die-hard Contra fan, this was a bit tough for even me.

On the other hand, Nadia — who is kind of intimidated (?) by Contra — managed to beat one of those bosses. She thinks the difficulty was increased with two players on hand, though.

Suffice to say, this one warrants further study.

LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

I’m really not too sure what to say here. It’s LEGO. So it’s good, it’s solid, but not especially surprising. If you’ve kept up with LEGO games, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. Not a bad thing, just a very safe thing.

This one is based on the movies, and the demo took place during the Battle of New York from the first movie. You’re playing as the squad of ground-based heroes — Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Thor — as the Chitari swoop in all around, police officers are trying to take them down, and Iron Man is providing support from above (this is presumably before Hulk arrives). You use their different talents to proceed, though sometimes things seem a little obtuse — a LEGO staple of sorts.

Also, you get to rescue Stan Lee from a car trapped under a bridge.

The demo lacked much in the way of the humor the series is known for (aside from seeing Thor’s godly hair roll across the ground after he was taken down), but with audio straight from the film, the overall quality seems to be there on this one.

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Rare Replay

Saved this one for last, since I got to play more of this than anything. Even so, that’s three games’ worth, so that’s something.

Battletoads Arcade – At long last.

When Rare and Tradewest brought Battletoads to the Nintendo Entertainment System (also included) in 1991, ostensibly to compete with the red-hot Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I — and I think a lot of others — were expecting a beat ’em up in a similar vein to the TMNT’s greatest hits. And for the first stage, that’s what we got. The second stage involved descending down a long shaft, but still involved plenty of smacking enemies around — you were just moving more vertically than horizontally. The third stage had some more, and… that’s about as far as any of us got. The stage shifted to the notorious Turbo Tunnel, and the game was essentially changed from then on. This carried over into Battletoads in Battlemaniacs for the Super NES (not included) and the Game Boy titles (ditto) as well.

But Battletoads Arcade, which I only discovered just a handful of years ago? This is what I’ve been wanting from them this entire time, and what I played here delivered. It’s a bit edgier than most iterations of the Turtles, with blood splatters coming from enemies on the receiving end of particularly powerful attacks and their skeletons appearing and crumbling when defeated.

I got through several stages before pulling myself away to focus on other work. I can imagine it only being even better with all three characters running at once with three players, and in such a scenario, possibly being worth the entire price of the game for that alone.

Then there are the 29 other games included.

Blast Corps – Another game I’ve never gotten to play before, I toyed around with this one for a little bit, having heard its legend sung by those who had experienced it during its heyday. For the little bit I played — about two levels’ worth — it seems to live up to the legend.

I like games where you can just destroy stuff with reckless abandon, and between the bulldozer and jetpack-guided robot who smashes down into skyscrapers from above, this one delivers. I can see myself playing this one over and over just for fun.

Killer Instinct Gold – This is where things got a little bit awkward.

I own both this and the Super NES version of the first Killer Instinct. In this and most fighting games, particularly where only four face buttons are involved, I usually configure the controls to put the strong attacks on the front of the controller — my coordination isn’t so good as to allow me to work the shoulders/triggers with the directional inputs as I can with the face buttons, which takes a lot of punch out of my offense. Unfortunately, you can’t adjust the buttons here — at least, not through Rare Replay. It didn’t occur to me to check for in-game options until after I’d left, though having brought it up to the developers who were on hand, they didn’t mention such an option, either.

Another point that hurt this one was the visuals. There’s nothing to smooth the graphics out here, so it’s very pixelated; I find that’s usually okay for games with a more pixel-based appearance, but rendered and pre-rendered models, not so much. I noted the same thing when reviewing Rare’s Super NES Donkey Kong Country trilogy in Nintendo Force magazine — the games looked better on the lower-resolution Wii U GamePad, and as noted on this very site in my review of New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii U Virtual Console, I used blurring there as well.

I’d have gone to the CRT television-styled filter, but that was only available for pre-Nintendo 64 titles, leaving Killer Instinct Gold in a bit of an awkward place. They said they wanted to present the games as they originally were, “warts and all,” except I have to say my old standard-definition television was a lot better at making said warts more presentable.

Considering you can get the original arcade Killer Instinct and Killer Instinct II when you purchase seasons of the awesome new Killer Instinct, KI Gold isn’t a terrible loss in the face of the greater package.

That said, I never got to see the arcade Killer Instinct in my heyday — it was never in any arcades around me. And when I did find one years later, I was pretty lousy at it. I bought and played the Super NES version of Killer Instinct when it came out, and it very much has its own unique feel and quality to it.

I asked the developers on hand about the prospect of completing the set with a release of that version somehow… and they told me that was what was on Rare Replay. I was pretty sure it was the Nintendo 64 sequel, but when one of them asked another and he agreed that Killer Instinct Gold was the Super NES game, I figured I might as well drop the line of questioning. I could have pulled it up on my phone right there, but thinking about it, what would that have accomplished?

Oh well. At least I still have my Super NES and my original copy (complete with Killer Cuts CD, which I’m listening to as I write this), convenient as having it released on Xbox One in some way would be.

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This was the one Nadia was immediately attracted to, an old favorite from her childhood. Her takeaway from it was that it would take some getting used to, particularly as it featured a control scheme that she was less comfortable with (utilizing the A and B buttons, rather than the more natural X and B buttons).

Despite a few hiccups, Rare Replay was a hit, and it’s something I’d gladly drop $30 on for the wealth of gaming history included within. One disappointment I’ve been none too shy about mentioning is the absence of my first Rare game and a favorite, Wizards & Warriors. We took the opportunity to ask about its absence, and were informed it simply didn’t make the cut.

Fortunately, people have been vocal about wanting to see it and its follow-ups, so maybe some downloadable content is possible? The developers there would commit to nothing, but said to make our voices heard on social media, and maybe something will happen there. I wonder if it’s possible to get a #Wizards&Warriors hashtag going on Twitter? (I just tried — the “&” kills it. Any suggestions? #WizardsAndWarriors, maybe?)

So there we have it: the X15 Media Showcase was a good time, and I hope those of you who might have attended the evening portion had as great a time as I did. With each passing year, the Xbox One library keeps getting better, and even without Scalebound or Season 3 of Killer Instinct on the show floor, there was still a lot to see and a lot to look forward to. Hopefully I’ll have one of my own soon enough!

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I was this close to calling this one “X15 Media Showcase Gonna Give It To Ya’,” but I was afraid the message might get lost somewhere.

In any case, Xbox has had a busy week over in Germany for gamescom 2015. So before getting to the big news (at least, big if you’re going to be in Toronto later this month), here are a few highlights.

First up, there is the announcement of a third season of content for the Xbox One-exclusive combo-driven fighting game, Killer Instinct. And as part of that third season is a most unexpected — yet all-too fitting — new addition to the roster:

Hot on the heels of the recently-released Rare Replay that brought the brand back into the spotlight comes one mad, bad, and crazy toad — Battletoad, that is, as Rash makes the leap from Ragnarok World to take on whatever the evil corporation UltraTech has to throw at him. At the end of the trailer, Rash notes that “these cameos are killer.” Simple wordplay on the game’s title, or a hint that the toad-ally tubular trio are ready to take on a starring role again? You be the judge.

The third season doesn’t hit until March 2016, but if you’ve bought either Rare Replay or any prior Killer Instinct content, you can get mad, bad, and crazy yourself until September 8th with a sneak preview.

Next up: Things have been quiet with the focus of my #2 moment from the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference… that is, until now.

Scalebound, or what I called a cross between Mega Man and How to Train Your Dragon, is on its way towards a 2016 release from PlatinumGames and director Hideki Kamiya.

In Scalebound, you will experience the journey of a young loner named Drew, who is pulled into the strange, beautiful, and dangerous world of Draconis – where he is bonded to a fearsome and noble dragon, Thuban, the last of his kind. These two lone-wolf heroes, thrown together by fate, must learn to fight as one to defeat the powerful enemies that threaten Draconis, Earth, and a vast universe of parallel worlds.

It is in this Xbox One-exclusive title that you’ll work with your ferocious companion to take down monsters and armies alike as you explore the world of Draconis. What’s more, you can customize your dragon, starting with such shapes as winged serpents, four legged tanks, and more and evolving their appearance, as well as unique attacks and abilities.

On top of all that, there’s also a four-player co-op mode that Platinum is keeping details under wraps on for now. Maybe you can even form your own “Riders of Berk Draconis”?

Last on my list of gamescom highlights is that Xbox One backwards compatibility is coming in November. Over 100 Xbox 360 titles from such companies as 2K, Bandai Namco Games, Bethesda, Capcom, Codemasters, Deep Silver, Disney Interactive, Electronic Arts, Koei Tecmo Games, Majesco, SEGA, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. will be available to play from the comfort of your current-generation console, complete with all the new features it provides.

For more details on these announcements and more (including Mafia III, Crackdown 3, and Halo Wars 2) from Xbox at gamescom 2015, just click here.

Now for the headline news…

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From 6 to 11pm local time on Wednesday, August 19th, Xbox fans will have the opportunity to converge and gather at the Sound Academy at 11 Polson St. for the X15 Media Showcase. Those who can’t make it all the way there will find a shuttle service available starting at 5:45pm to and from Union Station.

And in case you weren’t sure? Yes, this is for the general public.

With the promise of more than 100 consoles and over 30 developers, there will unquestionably be a lot to see there. There are no exact specifics on the lineup, but I’m told that “all our big upcoming titles like Halo, Forza, Tomb Raider, and Fable” will be there, as well as some “great” third party and [email protected] titles. Among the developers there will be some for Rare Replay, so it seems likely that will be on hand for anyone to try out as well.

And who knows? Maybe some cool stuff announced at gamescom 2015 will be there; if not some dragon-riding, maybe there will at least be a chance to get mad, bad, and crazy?

That last bit is pretty much conjecture on my part, but either way, it isn’t to be missed.

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After years and years of players saying that they want to see more Rare games from Microsoft, the company announced that they’re giving us just that (perhaps a little literally) in Rare Replay.

$39.99 CAD gets you 30 games, including (by way of Xbox Wire‘s press release):

  • Jetpac (1983, 1-2 players) – A single-screen shooter where Jetman must reassemble and fuel his rocket while fending off alien hordes.
  • Atic Atac (1983, 1 player) – A top-down adventure with increased replayability, thanks to randomized object locations and three different character classes.
  • Lunar Jetman (1983, 1-2 players) – A return to the Jetpac sidescrolling formula, but with a scrolling, randomly generated landscape and much more to do.
  • Sabre Wulf (1984, 1-2 players) – A classic jungle maze game and the first appearance of explorer Sabreman, tackling dangers including the vicious ’Wulf itself.
  • Underwurlde (1984, 1 player) – Rare’s first true platform game. Help Sabreman survive the perils of the Underwurlde and escape through one of three exits.
  • Knight Lore (1984, 1 player) – The introduction of Ultimate’s groundbreaking isometric Filmation engine. Sabreman must scour the castle for items to cure his werewolf curse.
  • Gunfright (1986, 1-2 players) – A Wild West spin on the isometric style, with an improved engine and new first-person target-shooting sections.
  • Slalom (1987, 1-2 players) – Rare’s first console game. Make it to the bottom of each course before time runs out, while avoiding trees, sledders, snowmen, and other skiers.
  • R.C. Pro-Am (1988, 1 player) – A responsive racing game that inspired elements of Rare’s future racers, including speed boosts, upgrades, and collectible power-ups littered around the track.
  • Cobra Triangle (1989, 1 player) – Hop into a boat and power through a branching game world, completing challenges such as shooting targets, disposing of mines, and defeating leviathans.
  • Snake Rattle N Roll (1990, 1-2 players) – A fast-paced isometric adventure. Rattle and Roll must eat Nibbley-Pibbleys until they’re heavy enough to ring a bell and open the exit.
  • Digger T. Rock (1990, 1-2 players) – A 2D platformer, in which Digger must find an exit switch, stand on it, then make it to the exit in 60 seconds.
  • Solar Jetman (1990, 1 player) – A game built around exploration and physics; Jetman has to tow fuel and other items to his mothership.
  • Battletoads (1991, 1-2 players) – Skill and perseverance as required as the ’Toads take on multiple game styles to rescue Pimple and Princess Angelica from the Dark Queen.
  • R.C. Pro-Am II (1992, 1-4 players) – This sequel to R.C. Pro-Am features a wider variety of environments, more car customization options, and bonus games.
  • Battletoads Arcade (1994) – The first Battletoads game to allow all three ‘Toads to play simultaneously. It has never had a home release… until now!
  • Killer Instinct Gold (1996, 1-2 players) – The home version of Killer Instinct 2 features several multiplayer modes (including tournament mode), and a training dojo.
  • Blast Corps (1997, 1 player) – This cult classic sports a fleet of destructive vehicles (from bulldozers to robots), used to clear the path for a runaway nuclear missile carrier.
  • Banjo-Kazooie (1998, 1 player) – A 3D platformer adventure, wherein Banjo and Kazooie must take on the evil witch Gruntilda, who’s kidnapped Banjo’s sister Tooty and plans to steal her beauty.
  • Jet Force Gemini (1998, 1-4 players) – This interstellar action adventure mixes third-person exploration and alien-blasting action, as the last three JFG members go up against Mizar.
  • Perfect Dark (2000, 1-4 players) – In this stealth-based shooter set in the year 2030, players lead secret agent Joanna Dark against the DataDyne Corporation, uncovering an alien conspiracy that takes her around the world.
  • Banjo-Tooie (2000, 1-4 players) – This sequel builds on Banjo-Kazooie with larger worlds, separately controllable characters, multiplayer modes, and many more moves to learn.
  • Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001, 1-4 players) – A beloved comedy adventure that mixes up lots of genres (platformer, third-person shooting, racing) with mature humor, pop culture references, and parodies.
  • Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003, 1 player) – Rare’s first Xbox game! A comic book beat-’em-up, set in a haunted house filled with breakable scenery and Ghoulies of all kinds.
  • Perfect Dark Zero (2005, 1-4 players locally, up to 32 players online) – This Perfect Dark prequel reveals Joanna Dark’s origins, and fuses first-person shooting with third-person, cover-based combat.
  • Kameo: Elements of Power (2005, 1-2 players locally or online) – A fantasy adventure focused on combat and exploration, with Kameo able to transform into 10 different Elemental Warriors.
  • Viva Piñata (2006, 1-2 players locally) – A magical gardening/life sim, in which the player can cultivate a garden paradise, attract different Piñatas, and keep them safe from Professor Pester and his Ruffians.
  • Jetpac Refuelled (2007, 1-2 players locally or online) – A modern update to Jetpac. Assemble and fuel your rocket before blasting off to the next of 128 challenging stages.
  • Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008, 1-2 players locally, up to 4 players online) – A more open-ended, customizable approach to the Banjo series, with vehicle-based challenges set by L.O.G. (the Lord of Games).
  • Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise (2008, 1-2 players locally or online) – The sequel to Viva Piñata features new species of piñatas, as well as desert and arctic regions to capture them from.

It’s a pretty decent grab bag from Rare’s 120 or so titles, spanning pretty much every generation they’ve been put to work on prior to the current one. Sadly, there are some omissions, ranging from the obvious (GoldenEye, anything with a “Kong” in it) to the disappointing (No Wizards & Warriors? Whyyyyyyy?).

In addition to the games themselves, there are going to be bonus features such as a documentary called “Rare Revealed” with more than an hour of footage talking about the studio’s history and how several major games were developed; concept art, info on unreleased games, and “Snapshots”, which has been compared to the challenges found in NES Remix. Rare has also included filters to simulate playing on an old CRT television, activated with a click of R3.

To my understanding, the first two Banjo-Kazooie titles and Perfect Dark are actually the Xbox Live Arcade versions, while Conker’s Bad Fur Day is the uncensored Nintendo 64 version instead of the Xbox version. Also, since Killer Instinct II apparently got some sort of release with the second season of the new Killer Instinct, Killer Instinct Gold is indeed the Nintendo 64 game of the same name. Sadly, no Killer Instinct from the Super NES here (I was always better at that one).

Via Polygon, Rare says that licensing wasn’t the issue with GoldenEye, but rather that they were more interested in the “pure Rare” games:

“It wasn’t necessarily licensing. Going back to the criteria — ‘is it Rare characters, is it Rare worlds?’ — GoldenEye doesn’t really fit tightly in with that particular boundary that we put on there,” he said. “I feel that we got a great catalog to choose from.”

IGN says that Rare Replay is a different type of compilation experience, in part due to Rare handling the job themselves. “Tellingly, the project hasn’t been outsource, with a third-party porting over titles. Rare is in total control, not only selecting the games but combining them into an experience full of the character and charm associated with its original output.”

Over the last 30 years, Rare has accumulated a diverse body of work. There’s different styles, genres, and tones, which in theory could make for an awkward collection. But this problem is elegantly overcome through some witty presentation. Rare Replay is framed as an elaborate theatre production put on by Banjo, Joanna Dark, and Conker, who are eager to relive their past adventures in front of a new audience. Each game is represented by a charming title screen which resembles a piece of set design. Once you press start, the world of the theatre is left behind and you’re transported into the game. Rare hasn’t simply crammed a bunch of old assets from the attic onto a disc; it’s fashioned a Muppet Show style reality for its characters and games to exist side-by-side, and it’s quite lovely.

A Rare-styled Muppet Show? That almost sounds worth the price of admission by itself.

On a personal note, I was surprised to learn that I actually haven’t played a lot of Rare’s output — at least not as much as I thought I had, and apparently most of what I have played isn’t on this disc (Wizards & Warriors, for example) there’s a lot here I’ve been interested in, but never touched. R.C. Pro-Am and its sequel, Battletoads Arcade, the Banjo-Kazooie trilogy, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Blast Corps, and Jet Force Gemini are pretty much what have long had my curiosity piqued, though I am interested in others such as Solar Jetman (played as a kid, didn’t care for it; I’m curious if more patience with age makes it better). Meanwhile, my wife remembers Cobra Triangle very fondly.

That said, I hope with all the titles included here that they’ve left enough good stuff for a sequel — I still want my Wizards & Warriors trilogy, dangit.

Rare Replay comes out for the Xbox One on August 4th.

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