In 2017, it’s hard to imagine a more potent currency in entertainment than nostalgia. Reboots and sequels saturate Hollywood. Sony recently announced their production of vinyl records again, 28 years after declaring them dead. In gaming specifically, remasters and remakes have never been more proliferous.
With Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Vicarious Visions have brought together Crash Bandicoot’s three original Naughty Dog classics: the 1996 original, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped, into one rip-roaring collection. Amidst the industry’s (and its audience’s) growing penchant for products of the past, it’s hard to think of a better time for gaming’s favourite box-bashing bandicoot to come bucketing back to Playstation owners.
Like any remake or –master, your experience with the game, or lack thereof, will heavily influence your time with the N. Sane Trilogy. Fortunately, whether you’re a Relic-collecting master or a new player coming to see what all the fuss is about, there are tons of reasons to pick up the collection.
The trilogy’s most immediately noticeable change comes in the form of its completely overhauled visuals, boasting perhaps the best graphical reinvigoration a Playstation 1-generation game has yet received. Lighting and textures pop with newfound detail, animations and assets have been entirely remade with notable additions – such as new death animations – and characters are fit-to-burst with more personality than ever, recalling a semi-photorealistic style of modern animation in film, Pixar-esque in both its unspoken charisma and attention to detail.
In the visual department, even a player new to Crash Bandicoot will find the upgrades hard to fault, and fantastically enough, for all its stark visual revamps, the changes never feel like a transgression against Crash Bandicoot’s identity.
Vicarious’ fidelity towards the original games is perhaps N. Sane’s most notable feature, and it echoes through every part of the collection: The soundtracks, while re-mixed with added instruments, share the presentation’s faithful echoes of the past. The narrative in all three remain relatively simple and equally demented in their childlike delivery of concepts like brain-damaged scientists with a taste for mutation and bandicoots getting squashed like tin-cans. Even the gameplay, though rebuilt in a new engine, remains relatively unchanged.
It is a small shame that after a while, the unskippable opening cutscene you’re treated to every time you load up the game goes from exciting to obnoxious fast, and the trilogy features no way of jumping between games once you’ve entered into one without closing the application. But these are minor gripes when it comes down to the core experience this trilogy offers.
A rootin’, scootin’, bandicootin’ good time.
The visuals are by and large N. Sane’s most generally crowd-pleasing achievement, but as mentioned before, when it comes to stuff outside the aesthetics, what you get out of the trilogy will completely depend on your experience as a gamer, both generally, and with past products of the Bandicoot franchise.
For long-timers, the graphical upgrade and collation of the three games alone may warrant your purchase. As a huge fan of the first game myself, heady shots of nostalgia, the same welcome secrets and collectibles, and an extremely faithful reproduction kept me playing right through to the platinum trophy. The notable creative jumps and innovations between the original, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped also made it a pleasure to chronologically experience how the games set themselves apart:
Crash Bandicoot is still a simple pleasure, providing the most stripped-back gameplay of the three, but arguably the rawest challenge, with a lack of plan-B abilities such as Warped’s double-jump. Cortex Strikes Back offers a slew of new features Crash 1 lacked, including slide-jumping, body-slamming, running boots and the temperamental Nitro box. Warped represents Bandicoot at its most diverse; settings like medieval times and Ancient China offer a great change of pace from the first two games, and the new arsenal of abilities and ample bonus stages make Warped the trilogy’s most feature-packed and mechanically-diverse entry.
Acting your age.
But peering over rose-tinted glasses, in its gameplay, Crash Bandicoot and its descendants still show their age, and to newcomers, this may be a more glaring issue without the past to keep them going. It may feel like stating the obvious, but these games are relatively old, and only so much can be changed, especially for a franchise so iconic and close to people’s hearts.
While a tad more noticeable in Bandicoot 1, like most 3-D platformers of the time, you may find yourself struggling with depth-perception. For the most part, enemies follow set paths, often feeling like personified obstacles.
Sometimes, the precision asked of you in later levels and challenges can be quite demanding, to the point where you may find yourself rolling off platforms, or colliding with enemies in a way not expected, or deserved. With this kind of difficulty, at times, levels can impose a trial-and-error method of repetitively throwing yourself at the same mistake, hoping it might just work THIS time. Simply put, you may stumble across more “that wasn’t my fault” moments than your average quality platformer of today.
But these are Playstation 1 games we’re taking about. If you’re going into a purchase of N. Sane expecting the games to hold true to modern standards of current-gen platforming, with the same enforceable ease of precision in games like Super Meat Boy and Ori and the Blind Forest, then you’re buying the wrong game. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has a lot to love, but you should do it within a pretty obvious mindset: These games did not have the 20 years of platforming traditions we do behind it.
For newcomers, it’s a fascinating collection of Naughty Dog and Sony’s 20th Century answer to brand mascots like Mario and Sonic, and a great way to appreciate 3 re-vamped relics (intended) for the very first time. For nostalgia-philes like myself, memories of childhood, 100+ awesome, deceptively large levels, and the old-school challenge of an early 3-D platformer are still just a sliver of the reasons for grabbing a copy.
These games operate first and foremost on a propulsive hardline of nostalgia, but it in no way means that those without a history with Crash Bandicoot can’t start making one.