Welcome to the new irregular series Dev Diaries, where I have a look at specific dev studios and reminisce about my experiences with their games. I would love to hear all about your own experiences, so please feel free to share them!
As someone who was too young to know the brutality of battletoads as well as not really being into physically moving around enough for the kinect sports series of games, my experiences with Rare as a developer are funneled through rose-tinted glasses of the Nintendo 64 era. I never realized it at the time, but Rare turned out to be one of the most important developers to influence my love of gaming.
The first console I ever owned was a Nintendo 64 – and boy am I glad it was. I still see the N64 as my favourite console of all time. It had a massive catalog of brilliant, genre defining games, supported by characters that are still loved and cherished to this day (Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong). Developer Rare, being a "second-party" dev for Nintendo at the time, played a large role in the success of the console.
Rare has made a whole slew of games throughout their nearly 30 year lifespan, several of which have defined me as a gamer as I've grown old(er).
Lauded as one of the most important games in the maturation of the FPS, GoldenEye is still a fantastic game to sit down and play. Being the first game I actually tried to play on hard mode (00 Agent), I spent hours upon hours playing through each level, learning the games objectives off by heart, memorizing the enemy patterns to exploit the best possible way to push through each level in the quickest time to unlock those brilliant cheats. All of this complimented with hilarious and/or nail bitingly competitive multiplayer sessions, whether it be with the golden gun, throwing knives or proximity mines. Of course, I’d always pick Oddjob.
To this day I still have not completed every mission on 00 Agent, still have not unlocked the final level Aztec. One day I will. One day.
The famous bird & bear combo had just the right amounts of fun, cute, giggles and rhymes to make this game one for my personal history books. With the absurd mixture of enemies (vegetables with eyes?), friends (a blind mole and the witchdoctor mumbo-jumbo) and an extremely ugly witch who wants to be the prettiest in the land, this winning formula had me going for years on end (literally, it took me that long to actually get through it – As a kid, I was always too scared of dying underwater in games, meaning I never could get past treasure trove cove until I was much older). Come to think of it, this game seems to resemble a weird acid trip the more I think about it.
In any case, when I was older, I decided to hunker down and play this game through to completion. I wasn’t disappointed. In what turned out to be one of the very first games I actually did manage to finish, I had a blast of a time. The trivia game level turned out to be a fantastic twist on the final level formula, and then the "real" ending with the jinjo's was perfect fan service to the true fans of the game.
Some of my fondest memories involve running around as an ant, spending half an hour pounding out cheats in the sandcastle of treasure trove cove, spending a whole afternoon hunting down those special Easter eggs (actual eggs) that were involved in the controversial and ultimately removed mechanic known as “stop and swop” and wasting away hours in Freezeezy Peak trying desperately to figure out how to get to that ice key hidden away in the walrus’ lair.
What I would still happily call the pinnacle of FPS gaming, Perfect Dark had me hooked the very first time I played it. I can still recall the first time vividly in my mind – hiring it with a friend on a Friday night at my Dad’s for the weekend, sitting down that night and getting lost in the multiplayer, playing with the bots running around, figuring out the weapons and gadgets, making up imaginary scenarios as to why these bots were opposing us and what they were after. We didn’t have an expansion pack for my N64, so what we could actually do was limited – but it was more than enough for an amazing weekend of play.
Years later, it would end up being the reason I signed up for eBay & PayPal accounts, which lead to me sitting in my room in the shack late at night, laid back on my special beanbag, playing through the amazing single player campaign.
The fact that this game had co-op campaign mode was also something fantastic that must be mentioned. Playing through the missions with a friend was a brilliant addition to an already brilliant game.
There are several other games that are fantastic which were also made by Rare for the N64, but these games have impacted me in different ways.
Diddy Kong Racing – A game I only ever got to play at friends’ houses, I enjoyed this just as much as (if not more than) Mario Kart 64. The Ability to use planes and hovercrafts, the difference in the weapons, the amazing character roster all came together to make a great game. Years later I have purchased and partially played through this game – up to a point where I got stuck on some races, which I haven’t gone back to since. I find kart racing games not as enjoyable when you’re on your own – they really need to be played with friends (if anyone is good at this and wants to help me push through it to the end, I’m all ears).
Conkers Bad Fur Day – this game only ended up coming into my possession due to an unfortunate series of events for my sister, who was robbed of her N64. While I haven’t played through the story yet (it’s on my pile) the myriad multiplayer modes in this game put an adult spin on what appears to be a cute game – making for some hilarious times. The multiplayer tank minigame especially was one I spent many hours in with the niece and nephew, and peeing on each other in the bathroom section of a warzone level – priceless.
Banjo Tooie – I am told this is just as great as the original, I do own it, but again – haven’t had a chance to actually sit down and play it. I will get to this one day.
Donkey Kong 64 – a once off go at a friends’ house, playing as Tiny Kong, gliding around using her spinning hair trick – I was sold. All 5 playable characters are great in this game, and the puzzles are brilliant. Apart from playing through some of the game when a friend lent it to me, I didn’t get a chance to play this until I was 21, and again, still haven’t finished it. When the mood strikes me again, I will pick up where I left off and get all the bananas.
As you might imagine, one of my favourite announcements of Microsoft's E3 2015 conference was Rare Replay, a bundle of 30 games created by Rare over the years. While I don't currently have an Xbox One... This might just tip me over the edge into purchasing one. I might finally get a chance to try out the allegedly horrible Perfect Dark Zero.
Just as exciting is the new IP title from Rare, Sea of Thieves. I'm not overly into online multiplayer games, but this looks like an interesting idea in that classic Rare style - something I'm definitely keen to try out.
Rare’s impact on my gaming life has played a significant part on where I am today, the type of games I enjoy playing and part of the reason why gaming is a passion of mine. While some of Rare’s characters such as Banjo and Joanna Dark may not be around in a similar vein as its comparative equivalents in Mario and Masterchief, they will always hold a special place in my heart and personal gaming hall of fame.
Have your own Rare memories you'd love to share? Maybe a different developer that has captured your heart? Share away in the comments below!