Thursday, October 1, 2020

Remember When Rare Ltd Was A Developer to Watch?

August 8, 2020 by  
Filed under Ent., News, Opinion, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

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( Today, Rare Ltd is known as one of Microsoft’s many game development studios. Almost 20 years ago, it was known as one of the hottest development studios on the planet. This because of several games the studio developed for the Super Nintendo and the Nintendo 64 in the 1990s and early 2000s. What stood about Rare’s games for the SNES is that they looked years ahead of other games released on the console.

Most will agree that this was Rare Ltd’s best period as far as releasing strong, hit games that beg for a sequel. Of course, not everyone will agree with what Rare games would make a top five. Let’s look at Rare’s five best games of all time.

5. Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001, Nintendo 64)

While this wasn’t the first Mature-rated game on the Nintendo 64 nor was it the only one. It is the first and only one to be so blatantly vulgar and edgy the whole story. There was Duke Nukem 64, the South Park games, a few Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat off-shoots—Conker’s Bad Fur Day said “Let me show you how it’s done in the most after 9PM way possible.”

And you know what? Rare did it. For that period in pop culture, this was how hard animated comedy was supposed to go. This was in Beavis & Butthead, South Park, and Family Guy territory on a Nintendo console! People will rightfully role their eyes at how juvenile and degenerate Conker’s was—especially from the game’s rated Kids to Adults origins—but it earned the reverence it has in retro gaming circles.

4. Killer Instinct (1995, Super Nintendo)

Aside from being the sleekest looking 2D fighter at the time—look at it, it’s almost an optical illusion between 2D and 3D—this one gave us ridiculous combos. Before, combos could hit between ten and twenty times. As series went on, that number would get higher and sometimes more ridiculous that Killer Instinct’s. However, at that midway period of 1995, Rare Ltd was already at the combo mark with Ultra Combos past the 20 spot and towards 80!

The game even has a phrase that became a part of gaming slang: “C-C-Combo Breaker!” This phrase was shouted whenever a combo is broken by the defending player. The series would be on ice after 1996’s Killer Instinct Gold on the Nintendo 64. When Rare Ltd became studio under Microsoft, it released the reboot Killer Instinct on Xbox One in 2013.

3. GoldenEye 007 (1997, Nintendo 64)

Golden Eye 007 is one of those rare instances where a game meant to be an adaptation of a film ends up having a ton of influence on a major genre in the future. It’s also one of those rare cases where a movie video game is actually good. Like, this doesn’t happen very often.  At the best, you can expect a game based on a movie to be OK. Not exactly a ground-breaking release but also, it didn’t just totally suck.

This piece of Rareware would be the first of two titles to actually impact the First-Person Shooter genre and it is still fun years later. Mind you, this is almost as basic as it gets FPS-wise without being Doom or Wolfenstein.

2. Donkey Kong Country (1994, Super Nintendo)

After Sonic 3 and Super Mario World came out, platforming games needed some extra “umph” graphically. There were a few games such as Super Mario World 2 and the Square Enix’s RPGs released on the console that were considered the graphical peak for the Super Nintendo. What company was going to show us a glance of what the late 1990s would look like graphically for video games?

Then Rare Ltd dropped Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo. Which moved things forward visually as well as utilizing a Nintendo console to its full power. This was generally something that only Nintendo and its studios did but Rare had figured out a way to render advanced graphics for the SNES.

Nintendo was impressed, bought stake in Rare Ltd, then gave them the catalog to create a game from. The first pick for Rare was Donkey Kong and the rest is history. Rare even pushed the comedy side of Nintendo’s story writing to the point that most of Nintendo’s main character games have that comedic slant to them.

DKC is the game that really established Rare as a studio to watch in the millennium.

1. Perfect Dark (1998, Nintendo 64)

In 1998, Rare Ltd decided it would be a great idea to double tap gamers with another good First-Person Shooter. Perfect Dark improved on what it did with GoldenEye 007. Actually, Perfect Dark was more like what Rare wanted to do in the first place but couldn’t because of the James Bond license for the game.

Many of the games on this are good examples of why Rare Ltd was ahead of its contemporaries in the late 90s and early 00s. Perfect Dark is a good example of how fast Rare Ltd could build upon features and functions from previous games and turn around a new game.

The only genre Rare Ltd didn’t really get its hands on was RPGs. Given their track record with fighting games, platformers, racing, and FPS, Rare—as it was then—probably could’ve done some amazing things in the genre.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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