There seems to be plenty of proof that Rare, once a respectable game developer, has been steadily going downhill since they stopped making games for the Nintendo 64. Their games have not received scores as high as those released while they were a part of Nintendo, past Rare franchises such as Conker, Kameo, and Perfect Dark have not been given the sequels that fans really want to play, and their lack of titles save for their Xbox Live Arcade releases have made people fear the worst for the British game company. Now, Rare has at long last revealed what will be their first new game since Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, and longtime Rare fans are outraged. Instead of a sequel to a beloved Rare game, the company is releasing Kinect Sports this holiday season for the Xbox 360, for use with their Kinect (formerly Project Natal) accessory. There are plenty of reasons why fans are so upset, and I shall explain why they, and I, feel that Rare may truly be destined to never regain the qualities that made them so great.
First, a brief description about the game itself. Kinect Sports can best be described as Microsoft and Rare’s answer to Nintendo’s Wii Sports in that it is a collection of sports that can be played using motion controls. Instead of using a remote, however, players will use the Kinect to capture their movements and have the athletes on screen move exactly like the players do. Such sports as bowling and soccer will be included. This is hardly the first time that Rare has copied a formula from another game, but in the past they have done so successfully with such games as Banjo-Kazooie and Diddy Kong Racing, making them better than the games that inspired them in the process. This time, however, Rare may be setting themselves up for failure.
Yes, there is no need to use a remote or balance board to play the game…all you need is to use the Kinect to capture your movements. However, that is pretty much all that sets Kinect Sports apart from similar games on the Wii given the information revealed so far. In essence, Microsoft has decided that in order to compete with the Wii, they should release the same types of games seen on Nintendo’s popular console. The Wii has become notorious for having games filled with mini games, though not all such compilations have been poorly received. Kinect Sports, on the other hand, may be overlooked as just another mini game collection, albeit for a different system, and thus it may fail to stand out of the crowd, especially if Rare does little to add more of its own little charms to make it truly worthwhile.
As if this was not bad enough, Rare fans are greatly upset because they have been waiting for months to learn what Rare’s latest game will be, only to be let down tremendously by what they feel will be Rare’s weakest game in a long time. They have wanted to see a new game based on one of Rare’s existing franchises. They were hoping for a new Conker game, or a follow up to Perfect Dark, or perhaps even a revival of a Rare series that has not seen a new entry in many years. As such, they were appalled when they realized that Rare canceled all of those other games in favor of a sports mini game collection. They feel that Microsoft is to blame because they believe that the company will not allow them to make the games like those mentioned that fans really want to play. Instead, they wanted Rare to make games geared more towards a family friendly audience, perhaps to better compete with the Wii.
I would say that I agree with the fans regarding what Microsoft seems to be doing with Rare. It seems that ever since Rare moved to Microsoft, their downfall has become apparent. Few games were released for Microsoft’s systems, and those that were have not been received quite as favorably as the games that Rare made years earlier for Nintendo’s systems. Also, the games that Rare wanted to make, but Microsoft ended up turning down, robs us of some potentially great titles, further signifying that Rare as we know it is as good as dead. Perhaps it is not all that surprising that some of Rare’s most well-known talents, including founders Tim and Chris Stamper and musicians David Wise and Grant Kirkhope, have departed from the company, as they felt that Rare was straying too far from their former glory. I am not sure who among them would have wanted to make a sports game, but in case they did not, they would surely be shocked to learn that with Kinect Sports, Rare has fallen to a new low.
If fans did not feel that Rare had jumped the shark before, then surely with the announcement of Kinect Sports, they now think that the company is finished. It may not be in danger of closing its doors, but they may now have fallen from grace completely, and could find it hard, if not impossible, to find their way back to the way that they used to be. If they had not moved to Microsoft, perhaps they would have made far better games…those that are more unique and less games like Kinect Sports that are derivative from other games without having a lot of their own charm. Perhaps Rare could move to Sony, return to Nintendo, or even become a third party developer for multiple consoles. Then they could get around to releasing the games that they wanted for whichever console they wanted. Sony could get a Perfect Dark sequel, while the Wii could see a new Banjo-Kazooie game. One thing is for sure…unless either Microsoft allows Rare to do what it wants or Rare leaves Microsoft in favor of another company or to develop games for multiple companies, we will continue to see games like Kinect Sports which will be received poorly upon being announced, and which may get a similarly poor reaction once it has been released.
Will Rare end up surprising people with Kinect Sports? At the moment, I do not see anything like that happening. There is little to make it stand out with the information that is currently available, and having it be released instead of games that Rare fans have been waiting for only goes to show how it was a mistake for the company to move to Microsoft. They have just about fallen from grace completely now, and their struggle to find their way back may be a hard one. Hopefully, fans will be proven wrong, and the game will be a critical success in some respects, but if this is the type of game that we can expect from Rare from now on, then the company as we once knew it is history.