Sunday, September 24, 2017

Top Five Rare-Developed Games Since Being Purchased by Microsoft

It was exactly fifteen years ago today when the studio of Rare, known for its close partnership with Nintendo, officially was bought by Microsoft, thus making Rare a 100% Microsoft-owned studio to help a budding new Xbox brand build, grow, and gain momentum right out of the starting gate.

Throughout Rare's continued and close relationship with Nintendo, the Stamper brothers, the founders and then-primary owners of Rare, sold more and more of their stake in the company to Nintendo. By 2002, the Stampers wanted to sell Rare and turned to Nintendo first to fully hand over their stakes and ownership of their company. Nintendo did not agree to purchase the Stampers' stake, so the bidding war for ownership eventually came down to Activision and Microsoft with the latter becoming the purchaser of Rare for $375 million.

Now, an argument regarding whether or not Microsoft got its money's worth from Rare happens to this day, but that's really not the focus of this special article. Instead, SuperPhillip Central turns to Rare's output post-Nintendo and in the Microsoft era. Which five games from the new Rare shine as brightly as a Jiggy from Banjo-Kazooie or are as sensational as a strike in Kinect Sports' bowling? Let's find some answers (well, SuperPhillip Central's answers at least!). Note: As Rare Replay is a compilation title, it is not eligible for this list.

5) Perfect Dark Zero (360)

We begin with one of Rare's two launch titles for the Xbox 360. Perfect Dark Zero might not have lived up to its predecessor as many would have liked. After all, Rare went from cool and sophisticated British secret agent in the original PD's version of Joanna to American brat Joanna with Perfect Dark Zero. Regardless, the solo campaign remained similar to the N64 game in that missions contained plenty of objectives to complete before being able to finish the mission, albeit many levels were much more linear in design. The multiplayer remains to this day a fantastic experience with massive maps, an amazing amount of players (whether real or bot), enjoyable modes, and kill streaks that will have the announcer screaming "Killharmonic Orchestra!" It's by no means the Perfect Dark sequel that fans and gamers wanted, but all to its own self, Perfect Dark Zero didn't really miss the mark all that badly.

4) Kameo: Elements of Power (360)

If there is one game from this list that I really want to see a sequel for, it's the other Xbox 360 launch game from Rare, Kameo: Elements of Power. This action-filled adventure packed a memorable punch when it debuted alongside the Xbox 360. Looking at the impressive depth of field, textures, and other amazing visuals was one of my first HD generation moments, and it's one that sticks with me to this day. There was so much going on visually, but more importantly, the gameplay and design involving a fairy named Kameo, who can transform into various creatures (with the amount rising throughout the journey), was exceptional whether if it was the astonishing set pieces, the incredible boss battles, the clever puzzles inside the intricate dungeons, or the excellently crafted controls. Kameo: Elements of Power was Rare's original character in Rare's Zelda-like epic.

3) Conker: Live & Reloaded (XBX)

Continuing on from Rare's first offerings on the Xbox 360, we turn to one of Rare's first offerings while being under Microsoft and the Xbox brand entirely. Conker: Live & Reloaded began development at the drop of a hat -- just as soon as Microsoft purchased Rare. The single player campaign is a remake of the Nintendo 64 game, Conker's Bad Fur Day, although a more censored version curiously enough. While the single player pretty much remained untouched, the multiplayer received a serious upgrade thanks to Xbox Live functionality, allowing up to 16 players to blast one another in to bloody blobs of fur across a range of well made maps. There's a good argument over whether the Nintendo 64 game's original multiplayer or the Xbox game's multiplayer is superior, but forget that! Conker was back and was in beautiful, excruciatingly good detail. So good that the game is visually impressive to this day.

2) Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (360)

Ah, another franchise of Rare's that debuted on the Nintendo 64! Just to clear up any possible confusion, if you recall just over a week ago, I mentioned that Banjo-Kazooie's most recent entry, Nuts & Bolts, was one of the most disappointing video game sequels of all time in SuperPhillip Central's third edition of the recurring segment of articles. That was merely due to the game not being a traditional Banjo game which at the time of release, the 3D collect-a-thon platformer was a rarity. However, as I further explained in the article, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts otherwise is a fur-frickin'-tastic game. The primary game had Banjo and Kazooie creating contraptions out of various customizable parts to assist them in completing goals in the game's five major worlds to earn Jiggies. While many of the goals within the missions were a bit samey and repetitive, the different tactics you could go about accomplishing them was really terrific. Not just a great game, but Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is certainly an underrated one in the Xbox 360 library.

1) Viva Pinata (360)

Of all of the new franchises Rare created under ownership from Microsoft, Viva Pinata is the one with the highest quality under the Xbox branding. Viva Pinata is not just the best new franchise from Rare during the company's Microsoft era, but I argue that it's the best Rare game period post-Nintendo. The main goal of Viva Pinata was to raise and grow a garden to lure new pinata animals in to. For example, a firefly pinata would be attracted to a torch placed in the player's garden. Through satisfying the second condition, the firefly pinata would then make its home in the garden. However, the happiness of each pinata was necessary, and one would have to be careful upon which pinata are in the same garden at the same time, lest fights break out and cold, cold death was the end result for one pinata. With so much to do, so much to accomplish, so many pinata to befriend, and just that Rare calling card of having an incredible presentation, Viva Pinata is SuperPhillip Central's pick as Rare's best game as a first party of Microsoft.

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