For months now we've been chasing down a rumour that Microsoft plans to release a collection of Rare games for Xbox One this summer to mark the storied company's 30th anniversary. Today, a Kotaku reader sent over a retail image that seems to corroborate this rumour.
GameStop is listing an entry for something called "RareReplay," which may be the branding for Microsoft's collection:
What we've heard is that the collection could feature up to 30 games including beloved Rare classics like Battletoads (NES), Jet Force Gemini (N64), and Banjo Kazooie (N64), according to a person who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the upcoming game. It's unlikely we'll see old Rare games whose licenses are owned by other companies — don't expect Donkey Kong Country or Goldeneye here — but other names mentioned by various sources include Kameo (360), Perfect Dark (N64/360), and Blast Corps (N64), which will come as pleasant news to anyone looking for a way to replay those old games on modern systems.
This isn't the only project Rare is working on — the iconic studio is also developing an original new game that's currently "very, very early," according to a source. That's presumably the "uniquely Rare game" that Xbox boss Phil Spencer teased on Twitter last fall.
Rare, which is based in England, spent its first decade developing NES games before it was partially purchased by Nintendo in 1994 and conscripted to make the remarkably successful (and excellent) platformer Donkey Kong Country, along with its sequels. For some time, Rare was a second-party Nintendo developer, arguably as important to the House of Mario as, say, Naughty Dog has been to Sony. But in 2002, Microsoft spent $US375 million to buy the talented studio, turning it into an Xbox developer in what at the time was a huge coup.
Since then, Rare has been in a strange place. In the first few years after the deal, Rare took some fascinating, sometimes-successful experiments for the Xbox, like the colourful animal-breeding game Viva Piñata. Then, in 2009, Microsoft restructured the studio, turning Rare into a Kinect Sports machine, much to the dismay of many hardcore gamers. Their most recent release, Kinect Sports Rivals, came out for the Xbox One last April.
Now, it appears that Microsoft wants to help restore the studio to its former glory, and execs from Team Xbox have spent the past year teasing fans about what could be next.
"Right now with Rare we're at a point where I don't want the Rare brand to mean Kinect Sports," Spencer said in an interview last year. "The Rare brand can be more valuable to them, to us and to gamers than that."
Spencer and crew have also been teasing plans to revive old Rare properties. At a Windows event earlier this year, the man in charge of Xbox showed up in a Battletoads t-shirt — and one thing we've learned about Phil Spencer is that he loves his t-shirts. Microsoft creative director Ken Lobb — a former Nintendo higher-up who was immortalised in Rare's classic GoldenEye with a gun called the Klobb — also teased Rare fans about that stable of old IP while talking on a podcast in January of this year.
"Will there ever be another Banjo, Viva, Blast Corps, Battletoads? Yeah, someday," he said.
Some might have read all this teasing to mean that remakes or reboots of old games like Battletoads are coming in the future — which still may be the case — but step #1 appears to be this compilation package. We'll find out more today at Microsoft's press conference.