The spirit of classic Rare may be manifesting itself with Playtonic Games. They consist of all former Rare developers from the "Golden Age of Rare." and their first game, Yooka-Laylee, looks quite promising.
Resurrecting The 3D Platformer
When Yooka-Laylee was first announced and met its Kickstarter goals, I was skeptical. It looked like a Banjo-Kazooie game, but with a chameleon and a bat in place of a bear and a bird. However, as more footage of the game has come out over the last six months, it has won me over.
Yes, the Banjo-Kazooie influence is very apparent, especially in the art direction and sound design, but #BanjoKazooie is not the only platformer Playtonic seems to be drawing on with Yooka-Laylee. You can see influences from Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the Donkey Kong Country games, Jak & Daxter, and Sly Cooper among others.
Much like the 2D platformer ten years ago, the #3Dplatformer is all but dead. Playtonic wants to change that and resurrect the 3D platformer genre, and Yooka-Laylee is not subtle about where it’s drawing its influences from.
A 'Rare' Pedigree
To see where Yooka-Laylee’s pedigree comes from, let’s go back a bit.
During the mid/late ‘90s, there was arguably no developer more on their game than Rare. From 1994-2001, they were unstoppable, and responsible for some of the most memorable games of that time period:
- Donkey Kong Country,
- Killer Instinct,
- Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest,
- Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble,
- Goldeneye 007,
- Blast Corps,
- Killer Instinct Gold,
- Diddy Kong Racing,
- Jet Force Gemini,
- Donkey Kong 64,
- Perfect Dark,
- Conker’s Bad Fur Day,
- and more
That is an incredible eight-year run. And all on Nintendo consoles.
Rare was so prolific and successful during this time period that the Nintendo 64 would probably have failed as a platform if not for them. At times, they were single-handedly keeping the system afloat as millions of gamers and third-party developers defected to Sony’s PlayStation.
And then it just stopped. Rare released only one game for Nintendo’s GameCube, and then were bought by #Microsoft in 2002.
If you were a Nintendo fan back then, it felt like the end of an era. Many wondered how Nintendo could let #Rare go like that after all they had contributed to the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 platforms. But like someone who’s found a new romance, Nintendo seemed utterly unconcerned with Rare’s departure.
They seemed much more interested in a new developer, who called themselves Retro Studios--a new, unproven team working on a Nintendo series that hadn’t seen an entry in seven years at that point: Metroid. Nintendo went so far as to buy them out completely, which was something they never did with Rare, even though they did own a lot of stock in them.
Playtonic Games: The Next Great Studio?
All told, Rare leaving #Nintendo game development was a sad thing for Nintendo fans. For better or worse, despite their massive success over the last twelve years, Nintendo hasn’t been quite the same since, and Rare definitely hasn’t been the same.
But if you’ve played the old Banjo games, you know what the potential is with Yooka-Laylee. The last Banjo platformer came out in 2000 on the Nintendo 64. #BillClinton was still president of the United States when #BanjoTooie came out. That’s how long it’s been.
Rare’s output with Microsoft has been a hollow shadow of what it was with Nintendo, but #Playtonic has plans beyond Yooka-Laylee to expand and recapture the creative magic (and hopefully output) they had during their time at Rare when they were the envy of the entire industry.
Playtonic may be a new a developer, but their pedigree goes back decades. We may be looking at the beginnings of one of the premiere developers in the industry ten years from now.
They have a combined experience of over 100 years of game development from their time at Rare. That is nothing to shrug at, and I know every fan of the classic Rare days of the '90s is hoping and praying they succeed.
Are you a fan of classic, Rare platformers? Would you like to see the 3D platformer make a return? What are your thoughts on Yooka-Laylee? Leave your comments below!