Emulation issues and lack of historical perspective aside, Rare Replay is worth the price of admission.
Rare Replay may just be the best valued video game anthology of all time. There's really no getting around that. And for that, even with what issues there are, it's incredibly difficult not to recommend it to anyone with an Xbox One. And even with these issues, the quality of the games included, as well as the flair and panache included in the presentation, make this collection outstanding, but a half-step away from true greatness.
It is incredibly clear that at the heart of Rare Replay is a flash of what people might call “the old Rare.” A continuing cycle of displaying a certain British irreverence, some winks and nods at the audience, and a frantic jig off stage as the next scene gets set up. The collection has a vaudevillian style, presenting itself as a theater revue of many of Rare's hits. Each menu and loading transition lay into this theme with unmitigated enthusiasm for the history of the company, and it's a joy to experience.
While there are some incredibly clear, obvious, blind spots in the history of Rare in the collection, it isn't like what games they've managed to clear for release on the Xbox One are a bad selection, although by the same token it's not exactly like every game will hit the same highs for every person. In this day and age, I can't imagine many of the ZX Spectrum titles from Rare's days as Ultimate Play the Game would be found as “particularly clear,” and Killer Instinct Gold feels like an odd choice as the one game in the collection I would truly call terrible, but people who have the childhood history with those games would probably miss them if they weren't present, and even if you personally don't find the enjoyment, it's clear the developers very much did, packing so much character into the frontend stage layouts and songs for each game.
Unfortunately, with such aplomb and clear reverence for what's been done, it's unfortunate that the cataloging of history couldn't be taken just a half step farther. There's almost no historical context for any of the games in the collection, with the only mention of even what platform something is on exists for Battletoads Arcade, what with it being in the name, and specifying that the versions of Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, and Perfect Dark are the Xbox 360 rereleases. The only place some of this context exists lies in the unlockable featurettes, where developers speak very candidly about some very specific platforms and some very specific projects that could not be included in the collection. Don't get me wrong, it's an incredibly awkward situation, what with Rare being the only developer that I can think of that went from being a subsidiary of one console manufacturer to being a subsidiary of another. However, at the same time, details about that would be fascinating to learn about, and it's disappointing that those are lacking.
Rare Replay is also one of the first chances for people not involved in the Xbox Preview Program to experience 360 backwards compatibility, with 9 of the 30 games existing as additional installs, that get launched either as separate executables (though still requiring the disc, if you have the physical copy), or via the Rare Replay wrapper. Although the initial downloads and individual patches per 360 game are slightly inconvenient, these nine games do work, for the most part. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts seems to suffer the hardest, featuring serious framerate issues in areas with denser populations like Showdown Town, as well as occasional crazy full screen lighting bugs. Perfect Dark Zero has some lighter issues, like a few small lighting bugs centered around water and one rug texture in a multiplayer map that was absolutely freaking out for me for a brief period. These things haven't prevented me from enjoying my time with these games, particularly Nuts & Bolts, which I would consider one of the standout games of the collection, technical issues be damned. It is something to keep in mind, however.
On the other hand, it's hard to get too torn up about these things given both the sheer amount of stuff included in the package, as well as sheer amount of value. Sure, not every game in this collection is a home run, and certainly a lot of them are flops. But at a $30-new asking price, it's hard not to imagine you won't find at least a core set of games that you enjoy. While I admit, the ZX Spectrum stuff is a bit too esoteric for me, and I've never exactly been a fan of the bear and the bird, Rare's first trio of NES racers (Slalom, R. C. Pro Am, and Cobra Triangle) still hold up as responsive and fun to play, Perfect Dark is always impressive, and I've discovered some new joy to be found in games like Blast Corps, Viva Piñata, and Nuts & Bolts. That experience seems to be both Rare Replay's intent, as well as its largest success, existing as both a celebration of games you may have loved in the past, and an exposure to games you may have neither played nor had the chance to play, all in one cheap package.