Recently teasing followers on Twitter, Rare Games head of music, Robin Beanland caused a stir with his post that read: “This is a HUGE year for Rare…and these notes :-).” Along with this mysterious tweet, Beanland attached a photo of a small piece of handwritten sheet music. What could this mean? Is it possible that Rare Games, the developer we all know and love, could be making its way back into relevance?
As sole property of Microsoft, Rare Games has produced a multitude of popular titles for the Xbox platform since 2002. Starting off as just a small developer for Nintendo in the late eighties, Rare Games climbed the ladder of success and reached notoriety with titles such as Wizards & Warriors, Battletoads, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo Kazooie and my personal underrated favorite, Viva Piñata.
Recently, Rare Games has become a company that is no longer identifiable with their artistic legacy. In the last five years, the company has made strange decisions which quite obviously were made for one reason: to make money. By developing all of the flat, lackluster Kinect gaming series (Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sport) and the underwhelming Killer Instinct for the Xbox One, one can’t help but wonder… just what exactly happened to Rare Games? Hopefully this means a revival of past titles or perhaps some new ones. Either way, Rare Games is certainly a developer with a reputation for producing games completely out of the ordinary. In their honor, let’s reflect on some of them!
Where to even start with this title? Growing up, the Banjo Kazooie games were as addicting to me as a bowl full of candy. Singing along to the theme song with my imaginary banjo and solving all of the game’s quirky puzzles, this game completely made my childhood. When compared to adventure games of the late 90s and early 2000s, Banjo Kazooie falls within the same genre as Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64, with imaginative open levels which can only be unlocked by gathering coins, bananas and in Banjo’s case, musical notes.
The colorful world that both Banjo and his bird Kazooie lived in is filled with hilarious dialogue, strange foes (that were hardly frightening) and witty level design. Whether it be breaking all of the evil glass lightbulbs in the Christmas tree or giving the treasure chest his gold back, Banjo Kazooie never failed to keep every minute hilarious. Is it okay to admit that as a child, I would purposefully lose so I could watch Gruntilda’s sexy transformation into youth and beauty? Although she was sucking the life essence out of Banjo’s little sister, I still loved watching her.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
This game was bad, and when I say bad, I mean it a good way. I have no idea how children were allowed to even play this game, which makes it that much more amazing. Playing as a hungover squirrel, Conker is tasked with finding his way home and sees some weird things along the way, not knowing he’s trapped in another dimension.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that parts of the game completely freaked me out, especially when I had to feed corn to the giant Mighty Poo monster. And who can forget the big breasted sunflower who needed the sad King Bee to “pollinate” her? Although people expected Conker’s Bad Fur Day to be nothing significant before its release, its low brow humor and enjoyable gameplay proved that it was anything but.
There are games out there that deserve recognition and certainly do not receive enough of it, and Viva Piñata is one of them. Although the idea of managing a garden and breeding piñatas (animals) may sound simple and boring, it is actually far more complex.
For those who have never played, here is the rundown:
At the game’s beginning, you are given a small patch of land that is primarily composed of dirt and grass, with one small flower. Attracted to whatever is present in the garden, the piñatas visit and become residents. Resembling common animals and insects, piñatas require the strangest things in order to live in your player’s garden. For instance, Whirlims (which are worms) will become residents if you have enough soil in your garden. Whirlims are the easiest piñata to acquire. Once you have enough Whirlim residents, a Sparrowmint (sparrow) will fly into the garden, eat them and become a resident. Soon after that a Syrupent (snake) will eat your sparrowmint and become a resident, and it goes on and on from there.
As you move further up the food chain you acquire all sorts of exotic animals, such as Roario piñata (lions), Chewnicorns (unicorns) and even Horstachios (horse). On top of that, you are able to romance piñatas while still mining and gardening. Once you explore and obtain everything within your garden, you become Master Gardener and earn a spot on the “Coolest People on Planet Earth List”. If you have never played the game, do so now, especially if you enjoy titles like Sims, Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing!
What makes Rare Games such a fantastic developer is the wild approach the studio takes towards gaming norms. With games that almost appear as satire of its predecessors, you can’t help but acknowledge each game’s fresh, unique spirit. The industry needs more games like those produced by Rare Games; titles that aren’t afraid to think outside the box, push the limits and give their fans the sequels they deserve—and who knows, perhaps we’ll see some rare-greatness soon. Fingers crossed!