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Monday, June 26, 2006

A Rare Survival

Where do you stand on the Rare issue? Make a comment at the end of this article and make your voice heard! No Registration required.

Nintendo and Rare. They were an inseparable pairing for many years. Then, one day, almost mysteriously Nintendo decided to give them the boot.

There has always been the constant bickering and multitude of mud slinging back and forth between Nintendo and Rare. After investing a great deal of money into new rendering tools for the upcoming Donkey Kong Country, Rare managed to make the risk justifiable, selling DKC briskly, and even earning a spot as a packaged game with the Super Nintendo console. However, there was much critiquing at the time.

Shigeru Miyamoto once commented about Donkey Kong Country saying: "Donkey Kong Country proves that players will put up with mediocre gameplay as long as the art is good." Later retracting his comment, stating that he was under a lot of pressure to make Super Mario World 2 'more like Donkey Kong Country'. Of course, we all know how that turned out. A charming crayon scribbled world that met just as much acclaim and praise.

Perhaps this was only the start of things to come between Rare and Nintendo.

During the 64 era, Rare managed to keep Nintendo afloat by providing their own games between the long development periods for Nintendo's own franchises such as Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Perhaps the most well known game that Rare produced during this era was the smash hit, GoldenEye. Based on the James Bond movie of the same name, GoldenEye was acknowledged as reinventing First Person Shooters with context sensitive hit points.

GoldenEye had a rough start. First it was going to appear on the SNES, but with limits in technology at the time, and the near end of the lifecycle of the Super Nintendo meant withdrawal from that medium, and bumping it up to the Nintendo 64. A few other titles from that era were also scrapped, most notably Nintendo/Argonaut's Star Fox 2, though the original Star Fox would be remade for the Nintendo 64. Along with the now N64 game, Rare had also been developing GoldenEye for the Virtual Boy.

"GoldenEye If you thought rush-hour traffic was a nightmare, wait 'til you get
behind the wheel of 007's car. Avoid obstacles and blow the other cars away.
Buckle up for safety because, in this game, you never know what's gonna happen."

However, the Virtual Boy had minimal success, and the game was scrapped.

Rare went on to produce even more critically acclaimed games, the Banjo Series, Jet Force Gemini, the quasi-sequel to GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, and Conker's Bad Fur day. This is when the next scuffle amongst the two began.

Nintendo had its eyes on Rare, as they made drastic changes to Conkers Quest then Twelve Tales: Conker 64. Its design took a more mature, comical route akin to an animated sitcom of today. This change made Nintendo weary of the title, afraid that it might damage their image.

Once finished and in its final form, Nintendo chose to shove the game into the back corner. Fearing that the game would be bought by parents for children, Nintendo demanded a larger than normal 'M' rating logo on the front of the game packaging, as well as "Warning: This game is not for anyone under 17". Nintendo even refused to promote Conker in their own Nintendo Power publication. Any and all advertisements were limited to late night ads and adult magazines. As a final coup de grace, Nintendo removed information about the games from their website.

The final game made by Rare that was to be released for the Nintendo 64 was entitled Dinosaur Planet. It would be the largest game that Rare had ever assembled. Trend setting aside, the game was due just as the GameCube would be launching. At the time, Nintendo was pushing for a Star Fox game to be launched alongside the GameCube's slim pickings. Comparing Dinosaur Planet's character of Sabre to Fox, soon the plan was made to convert Dinosaur Planet into the game known as Star Fox Adventures.

It has been suggested that internal pressure began to build up inside of Rare. Nintendo was nearly forcing a near completed game to undergo multiple changes, switch platforms and abandon the majority of their story ideas. This caused a delay in the game, and subsequently, it was pushed back and could no longer be available at the launch of the GameCube.

This, combined with the Conker incident, is what many attribute to increased friction between Nintendo and Rare. It was not very long after the release of Star Fox that Nintendo announced the sale of Rare to Microsoft.

Nintendo owned franchises became the property of Nintendo, along with every character featured in Star Fox Adventures. Rare took all of their property, including Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker, Jet Force Gemini, and yet to be published Kameo (though this title would later appear on the Xbox 360 as a launch title). Due to contractual restraints, Rare has not released a single game for a Nintendo console. However since Microsoft does not compete with Nintendo on the handheld front, Rare has published a few of their franchises to the GBA, through THQ. Along with that, Diddy Kong Racing and another unnamed title are stated to appear on the DS. It is likely that this other title is Jet Force Gemini or Banjo-Kazooie.

Selling for nearly $400 Million US Dollars, Microsoft acquired Rare from Nintendo. Having lost their big player, Nintendo cited that they had made the decision to support other potential developers, such as SquareEnix, and used funds to found several development studios such as Brownie Brown, which consists of former SquareEnix employees.

After Perfect Dark was underway, the company was divided, and spilt into 3 factions. Rare, Free Radical and Zoonami. It is currently rumored that some of the GoldenEye staff members at Zoonami are busy working on a spy themed game for Wii, whilst the Free Radical works on their new game, Haze for Xobx 360 and Playstation 3. Free Radical is also responsible for the Time Splitters series.

Although no longer the same company, Rare still holds on to it's property quite firmly. Beyond a doubt, they helped Nintendo greatly during the 64 era and were sadly absent for the GameCube. It begs the question, how much better would Nintendo have done, relying on Rare, instead of trying to rebuild bridges with SquareEnix and others? We may never know.

One thing is for sure, the DS sales will show how hungry Nintendo fans are for Rare games. That is, assuming they have not picked up a XBox 360.

Leave a comment, have your voice be heard! No registration required.


At 4:01 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

I'm curious to why you would not include Perfect Dark as a title for DS.

At 4:03 AM, Blogger Invisible said...

Like Conker, I beleive that now that it is published on the Microsoft platform, it is less likely to appear on DS. Just personal opinion more than anything.

At 4:06 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

Well that explains that. From what has been seen with Metroid Prime Hunters however, I think that Perfect Dark could work well on the DS interface.

At 4:08 AM, Blogger Invisible said...

I can agree to that. What do you think of the whole issue though?

At 4:11 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

Rare is missed by many, but I never found their games to be all that appealing, minus GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie

At 4:22 AM, Anonymous nintendofan said...

rare hasnt made any good games in a long time

At 4:24 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

Perhaps that is because of the three-way spilt up of Rare?

At 4:31 AM, Anonymous nintendofan said...

maybe, i just dont like their games now

At 4:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha Rare! Microsoft pwns you now. get back to ninty where you belong!!!

At 4:33 AM, Blogger Invisible said...

Well, it seems that this Rare buisness is a touchy subject. Lots of different opinions.

At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

Most definately. I thought that this would stir up the fanboys.

At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its soo true though! microsoft probably has them doing slave labor and their games aren't selling on the xbox

At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

I don't think that is the case.

At 5:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i want goldeneye for the ds

At 5:11 AM, Blogger Invisible said...

Unfortunately there are a lot of legal issues with GoldenEye. Although Rare made the game, Activision currently holds all Bond rights. For GoldenEye to come out on the DS, or the Wii virtual console for that matter, both Rare, and Activision would need to allow it.

At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Nate said...

Complicated things those licences.

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Nate said...

After some thought, I think Nintendo would have been better off keeping Rare.

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

man, nintendo should have kept rare

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