Though hindsight suggests we were all idiots, back then it felt like the company's games were nothing short of interactive cartoons; Atic Atac, Jetpac, Knight Lore, Underwurlde, Sabrewulf... the names alone still render us dangerously swollen and clammy.
As the home computer market farted into its own face, and atrophied, the Ultimate brand got sold off to the doomed jackanapes at US Gold. Those left behind rebranded as Rare, clambered astride Nintendo, and somehow more or less lost us with titles such as the needlessly tough Battletoads.
But hold! The story doesn't end there. Rare remerged on the N64 with the peerless and groundbreaking Goldeneye, the less groundbreaking, but utterly likeable, Banjo-Kazooie, and the puerile whimsy of Conker's Bad Fur Day. Thus ensued a sort of second heyday for the company, before things went a bit wrong again, when it started producing games for Microsoft. Perfect Dark Zero failed to recapture the earlier heights of that two-game series, and it has - barring a few curious diversions with Kinect Sports - been thus ever since.
Nevertheless, the early goodwill banked by Ultimate and Rare has seen it through. We live in hope that the company will recapture past glories (the upcoming Sea of Thieves looks like its best chance for some time), and it's why this anthology of old games has been warmly embraced by so many thighs.
Notably, all the games mentioned above - barring Goldeneye - are included on this anthology. It's a selective history of the company, the missing games a result - we assume - of Nintendo licensing issues. So, no Goldeneye, and nothing from the Donkey Kong series. Also, there are a few jarring absences from the early history of Ultimate. Those hoping to play Pssst or Cookie on their big HDTV will be gravely disappointed.
What remains is a mixed bag in terms of quality. Many of the games aren't as good as we remember - specifically, most of the Spectrum titles (barring, perhaps, Jetpac) are crippled by age, Jet Force Gemini is lumbered with an insane control scheme (UPDATE: Rare have issued a patch offering a less mental control system - more here), and Viva Piñata is just too darn hard. Others are better than we recall... specifically the first Perfect Dark (which we somehow never connected at the time) and Xbox 360 launch title Kameo. Others still are exactly as good as we recall; we defy anyone not to enjoy the three Banjo-Kazooie games, Blast Corps or Jetpac.
There are 30 games here in total, mostly untouched from their original incarnations, via the esoteric miracle of emulation.
Bonus content bleeds through in the form of NES Remix-type mini games - which make those early Spectrum titles somewhat more palatable - and a pick n' mix tub of archive footage and interviews. The latter are, frustratingly, locked away behind a wall of achievements. It's a bit of a weird choice, and - frankly - so difficult are most of the achievements to complete that it's unlikely that anybody but the most obsessive and dogged is going to watch all of the footage.
Still. However you look at it, here's 30 games for £20 quid, by one of the intermittently greatest game studios of all time. Rare may not always hit a homerun, it might not be the company it once was, but here's a solid reminder of why the brand still endures.
SUMMARY: No Goldeneye or Donkey Kong, and they're not all classics... but great value for money nonetheless.
SCORE: 1,983 out of 2,015