Rare's Legacy; Part 1

A look down at the history of one of the greatest company's in the industy.
May 11, 2011
Rare, anyone who's played a Nintendo console back in the 90's has probably play at least one of there games. While in today's gaming world Rare's talent may seem forgotten and the company has since been buried under the shroud of major gaming juggernauts. To many old school gamers Rare will always be remembered as a company that brought many great and breakthrough ideas to the industry.

Join me on my trip back in time as I take a look at Rare over the years, and some of the best remembered games of there legacy.


(Before the UK Company came to be Rare they were a small Company called Ultimate Play the Game, founded the brothers Tim and Chris Stamper in 1982, and for there first few years would create games for the ZX spectrum and Commodore 64.)

The following year saw the release of there very first game, Jetpac for the ZX Spectrum. You'd control an astronaut with a jet pac who'd have to fly around different planets to assemble your spaceship and pick up fuel containers to power your ship, while also defending yourself from fireballs, comets, bubbles, tribbles, and other such random enemy's.

While the game lacked in music, like almost all Spectrum games, it made up for with bright colors and fast passed action. Since you could be killed with one hit and enemy's moved across screen quickly you'd have to be fast in order to evade and keep yourself alive to see the next level, each level would see anew set of enemy's and your ship would also change every few levels to keep the variety fresh.

In Sabrewulf you controlled an explorer known simply as Sabreman. The objective was to travel around a huge jungle to uncover 4 pieces of a Wulf amulet. The Jungle of course was build like a maze with many screens, and full of hazardous enemy's like, Rhino's, Spiders, Scorpions, natives, and the wulf itself, and your only defense against them is of course a Sabre.

Considering the jungle consisted of over 200 screens and you only had a limited amount of lives it was a very challenging game, and the fast speed of your character, and spawning of the enemies kept the intensity high. Like Jetpac, Sabrewulf would also go down as one Rare's best known classics of the Spectrum years.

In Knight Lore you once again took control of Sabreman, who is placed under a curse that turns him into a werewolf at nighttime. You'd move around a huge dungeon with an isometric view and you had 40 days is to find the wizard Melkhior. Then find the ingredients for his magic cauldron to lift the curse or else you'd remain a werewolf forever.

There were a lot of rooms to explore in this game, and the werewolf transformation was also an interesting design choice, though you could not attack enemies as either a human or werewolf. But it sort of set the mood for an early day/night system. For one thing when transformed from werewolf to human, and back, you were left vulnerable to enemy attacks as you could not move, also certain enemies will only attack you while you're a werewolf.

The game also required some keen and careful platforming, as some rooms were filled with jumps that were out of reach without careful thought put into it, along with spiky hazards and falling traps. For what it is Knight Lore was a fun and challenging platforming adventure game for its time.



So after working with the spectrum for several years Chris and Tim expressed interest in branching into new and more powerful hardware, and with the increasing popularity of the NES they began to auction off part of the Ultimate Label to U.S. Gold, and began to form a new subdivision known as Rare. By 1988 Ultimate Play the game was abandoned all together and what we'd know to this day as Rare would take its place

While Wizards and Warriors wasn't the first NES game released by Rare, its definitely the first that's really worth mentioning. It was actually a very unique game for its time as you'd take the role of a Knight who'd have to go rescue a princess from an evil wizard.

The game play itself was also very unique as it was basically a platformer with RPG elements. As you'd have to do a lot of jumping to traverse the tricky level design, you could also defend yourself with your sword. But there were also keys to unlock doors and chests, and power up items like a shield to protect you from enemy fire, and a throwing dagger for long range attacks.

But probably the most interesting and frustrating aspect of the game was you had to collect a set number of gems in order to get to the end of the level, this might have been a bit of a turn off to some, but it also encouraged a bit of exploration since the levels weren't linear like most platformers at the time. You'd also have a boss battle at the end of each level to rescue a captured damsel.

While Wizards and Warriors might not be a game for everyone, it's a very challenging and unique platformer for its time. I recommend anyone who's a fan of challenging old school platformers to look into this one. It also would go on to have two sequels.

But probably the one NES Rare game people are familiar with the most is the cult racing classic R.C. Pro-Am. While the concept sounds kind of off putting at first (racing radio controlled cars does kind of sound like kids stuff) its actually a very addicting and fun racing game to play.

First off was the rocking soundtrack, then there was the fast paced racing action, despite being viewed from an isometric angel you had a map to help guide you along the track. You had things like speed boosts to keep the racing fast paced, and power ups you could pick up to improve your vehicle performance, as well as weapons to even out the competition. But there were also oil slicks and puddles to slow your progress, not to mention the other racers could also use weapons. You also had to get atleast 3rd place to get to the next race.

Overall R.C Pro-Am was a very good racing game for the NES, the only thing it was missing was multiplayer, though that would be resolved with the release of R.C. Pro-Am 2 several years later (where atleast 4 people could play at once) The game is also fairly cheap so it shouldn't be to much of a problem tracking down a copy for your NES collection of you haven't already.

The last game I'm gonna touch up on is one called Cobra Triangle. In a sense it was almost like a spiritual sequel to R.C. Pro-Am, largely because it used the same engine and isometric view, but also because it retained the same fast paced gameplay and racing sensation.

Like Pro-Am there was no story as you were just a boat in a river, having to perform various tasks like racing through an obstacle course, racing against other boats, rescuing stranded swimmers from enemy boats, clearing the water of mines, and every few levels there was some kind of boss you'd have to fight. Like the Sea serpent on the front cover.

While this game is often not as well remembered as Pro-Am its still tons of fun to play, and very challenging. I'd say of you liked Pro-Am give this one a shot.

in conclusion

This basically covers up my look at some of the games Rare brought out in the 80's. I know there are probably some that people noticed I might not have mentioned, but you can only cover so much in the time you're given, plus I think I mentioned alot of good ones from there early years.

(Join me in part 2 where we begin to move into the 90's and what many consider the golden age of Rare.)
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