Shaun Munro reviews Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy…
After years of fans begging Activision to bring Crash Bandicoot back, they’ve finally done it with the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a “Remaster Plus” of the original three games, which uses Naughty Dog’s original map geometry but updates the titles with gorgeous new sounds and visuals. Though its old-school sensibilities may prove more divisive with new players, the N. Sane Trilogy will meanwhile be an easy sell to long-starved fans; it’s a gleeful, often infuriatingly difficult nostalgia trip that they won’t be able to stop playing.
It cannot be understated quite how influential and popular the original three Crash games were upon release two decades ago, and with damn good reason. Though the first game in particular had relatively simplistic platforming mechanics, it was remembered by fans for its controller-throwing level of challenge, with only the most precise inputs and quickest thinking allowing players to progress past infamously difficult levels such as Native Fortress and The High Road.
A large swathe of the fanbase will no doubt enjoy getting furious at the game all over again, and to their credit developer Vicarious Visions has made little effort to nerf the difficulty in this or any of the games. A few safety nets have been added, such as the addition of extra checkpoints and Aku Aku masks if the player keeps dying on the same section, but these concessions only serve to make the games, the first in particular, feel less cheap rather than soften its edges all that much.
It’s fair to say that the first game’s brutal difficulty and wonky pacing won’t make it to all tastes, and if you’re truly struggling, it’s recommended to switch over to the second and third games for a while before returning. The sequels, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped, were received much more warmly in general upon initial release, thanks to their fairer difficulty and introduction of more diverse level types, though this arguably reaches an irritating apex with the horrendous motorcycle levels in Warped, which still handle like hot garbage.
Though all three games have been recreated with impressive faithfulness, and Vicarious should be commended for resisting the urge to add their own spin on them, long-time fans may struggle with one of the trilogy’s more subtle changes to the core gameplay.
The jumping has been given an ever-so-slight alteration which will throw off fans hoping to get by on their muscle memory above all else; as such long-time players may find themselves missing jumps far more than expected, and so a certain period of adjustment is required to get the hang of the game’s ferociously demanding jump timing.
Still, all three games are so savagely addictive even in their most aggravating moments, and it will be hard for fans to put the controller down, especially with the first game’s far more merciful save system, no longer wiping large amounts of player progress in the event of a Game Over. It’s also advisable to make yourself a backup save before attempting some of the series’ more challenging levels, so you don’t need to spend time farming extra lives in earlier, easier levels to avoid another Game Over.
If you haven’t played the original games recently, it shouldn’t be understated just how visually dated they all are, and what a fantastic job Vicarious has done giving Crash a brand new lick of paint. The world looks more vibrant and colourful than ever before, staying faithful to the original levels but adding more detail and simply making them feel much more alive. Aurally, all the dialogue has been re-recorded, and the new remixed soundtrack will surely be an easy joy to all but the most nitpicky obsessives.
For long-time fans of the Crash series, the N. Sane Trilogy is an irresistible proposition; this is easily one of the most lovingly-crafted and wholly necessary remasters in the history of video games, refusing to meddle with its more dated control elements yet updating the aesthetics and throwing in a few quality-of-life fixes to respect the player’s time a little more. The ability to play all three games as Crash’s sister Coco is also a neat addition, even if it does nothing to change the core gameplay.
The game is admittedly much trickier to recommend to the uninitiated player, simply because nostalgia is such a potent force and fans have such an advantage when it comes to re-mastering the game’s mechanics. Still, Activision smartly and admirably didn’t try to gouge players on the price; launching at $40/£30 was extremely smart and makes this an incredibly value-filled package. Just beating the three games once will take around 15 hours, but given all the gem collectathons, relic time trials and hidden levels to unlock, that number can be easily tripled for the most committed and obsessive players.
Is the N. Sane Trilogy perfect? Absolutely not. It is bound by duty to recreate most of the flaws of the original games, and also suffers from overly long loading times which can grate a little during long play sessions. However, for the majority this is an excellent attempt to bring Crash into 2017 while refusing to tinker with the formula so many fell in love with 20 years ago. If you were even the most casual fan back in the day, this is a must-buy, while new players might want to tread a little more carefully.
+ An incredibly faithful recreation of the classic games
+ Terrific sound and visuals
+ Incredible value-for-money
– Fiddly platforming may deter new players
Reviewed for PS4
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more video game rambling.