When Rare Replay comes out next week, it will join heralded company alongside the likes of Activision Anthology, Namco Museum, Capcom Classics, along with many others. That of the video game compilation.
Game compilations are nothing new, and, classically speaking, they’ve been a primary way that publishers have pushed out or re-introduced old content to new generations. But collections of older games by single (or a conglomeration of merged) publishers, like Rare Replay, aren’t the only types of compilations out there. Some are simply collections of games that are available for certain media (maybe, like me, you spent your early childhood years riffling through “101 Great PC Games!” instead of doing your homework), while others are collections of specific game series, such as Super Mario All-Stars or the Mega Man Anniversary Collection.
When Rare Replay was first announced, I was super duper excited, primarily because it contains some of my most favorite N64 games: Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, and Killer Instinct Gold. Plus, the thought of getting those along with twenty-six other games for the low, low price of a mere thirty dollars made my twitchy thumbs extremely happy. Only then I looked at the full list (below in alphabetical order, with original release dates), and it reminded me of my love-hate relationship with compilations.
Atic Atac (1983)
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008)
Battletoads Arcade (1994)
Blast Corps (1997)
Cobra Triangle (1989)
Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
Digger T. Rock: Legend of the Lost City (1990)
Grabbed by the Ghoulies (2003)
Jet Force Gemini (1999)
Jetpac Refuelled (2006)
Kameo: Elements of Power (2005)
Killer Instinct Gold (1996)
Knight Lore (1984)
Lunar Jetman (1983)
Perfect Dark (2000)
Perfect Dark Zero (2005)
R.C. Pro-Am (1987)
R.C. Pro-Am 2 (1989)
Sabre Wulf (1984)
Snake Rattle n Roll (1990)
Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship (1990)
Viva Pinata (2006)
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (2008)
As much as I might like to *think* that I know games, the truth is that what I know equates to a dinghy in the Pacific Ocean. In a word – miniscule. As demonstrated on the list itself, when I perused it that first time, I noted the games I have actually played (bold, underline) and the games I had heard of but never played (underline only), which, all told, accounted for less than half the list. If (or more likely, when) I get Rare Replay, I know that I’ll try all the games available, as I would with any compilation. But also, as with me and compilations, I know that the majority of the unfamiliar games will be ignored if they don’t make good first impressions. Is it worth paying thirty dollars for thirteen or worse, four dollars worth of games?
Now, much of the joy in collecting games compilations comes in two forms: (1) getting access to games that were “out of print,” rare, or otherwise difficult to access, and (2) taking nostalgic trips back to when certain games became true loves, hate-filled challenges, and/or a bit of both. Rare Replay contains games that span from the early 1980s to the late 2000s and that range from the ZX Spectrum to the Xbox 360. On paper, those stats look great. I never had a ZX Spectrum or an Amstrad or an Amiga or a Sega Genesis (though many of the games were available in Nintendo platforms), so playing those games that were made for those systems sounds like fun. And playing the games that I’ve already played or heard of will serve my nostalgic leanings quite well.
But I take nominal issue (and I’ll explain the “nominal” shortly) that most of the games don’t meet that first criteria of joy of game collections, being “out of print,” rare, or otherwise difficult to access. Some basic Googling revealed that most of these games can be played for free through emulators. And the fact of the matter is that, these days, games are much easier to access than ever. And I get that neither rarity nor access has much to do with Rare Replay in general as it’s more a showcase of Rare’s unmatched talent for making memorable and enjoyable games (as well, I presume, that of its predecessor Ultimate Play More Games.) But is interesting to consider what a “video game compilation” means these days when anyone can “create” their own compilations for free thanks to the overwhelming availability of old games online.
This brings me back to the use of the word “nominal” earlier. Because for me the question paying for Rare Replay vs. downloading all the games for free is moot. I want to pay for it because Rare’s games have a special place in my gaming history, and I’m will to shell out some cash to demonstrate that, as well as, hopefully, show support for games that capture Rare’s spirit, such as Yooka-Laylee. But I will say that it’s likely I’ll try out some of these games for free before perhaps settling in to play them on the Xbox One. I remain a fan of “try before you buy” even when the “buy” is a given.
What’s your take on video game compilations in the modern age? Are there any compilations that you hope will someday be made? If you could create any compilation, what games would be on it?