Crash Bandicoot is an icon of nostalgia, you can’t deny that. When this game was coming out, everyone I knew was talking about it. Whether it was someone who was actively into games, or someone like my mum or making small talk with people at reception counters. They’d all talk about how much fun they or their kids had with Crash, and how they found it amazing the games they were so fond of in the past were coming back looking better than ever. But this raises the question, does the game live up to the hype?
Vicarious Visions (with Activision working as the publisher) has certainly been through a labor of love in making the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy. And it was a hell of a labor, considering they had to build this game from the ground up, given that the original source code for the Crash Bandicoot trilogy was lost. This means that all they had to go on was the level design of previous games and an intense love for the series that clearly comes across when you play all three games, which includes Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.
The environments are vibrant and lush, from the Australian jungles (yes, the first game was set in Australia. Kind of) through to the arctic deserts and right up to space itself. It makes the game look as vivid as your young mind may have imagined it through those jagged polygons of the Playstation 1. The music has also been completely remastered into an upbeat and atmospheric soundtrack that really reminds you how much thought was put into the levels and creating a fun platforming world for this slightly unhinged bandicoot to play in.
Though looking back on the game now, I do sort of see how the level design was a product of its time. It was in the awkward middle stage between early cartridge console design and modern CD design. That is to say, older games had to be hard because you could only fit so much on a cartridge so developers wanted you to get bang for your buck and not blow through it in an afternoon. CD’s could fit more, but level design was still a concept that had yet to be perfected. And that leaves us with Crash Bandicoot, a game that has a fine enough learning curve but will not hesitate to punish you if you don’t get the platforming perfect.
It’s certainly not as difficult as some people claim it to be, though. Well. Mostly. I’m looking at you, Road To Nowhere and The High Road. Which reminds me how punishing the first Crash Bandicoot was as a whole. But for every level I completed and didn’t completely destroy my controller, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Though, moving onto the second and third Crash Bandicoot games, you can learn how Naughty Dog had developed more of a sense for how levels should be and fun, innovative ways to play around with them. And Vicarious Visions has certainly done it justice, given that Naughty Dog had no involvement with the remaster/remake.
And in saying that, the gameplay is also just as faithful. This is an (almost) exact remake. The only real differences are cosmetic ones, such as being able to play as Coco, Crash’s spunky and adorable little sister, in the first two games. Along with some modifications to cutscenes, voice acting being more vivid, a unified save system across all the games and time trials being added to every game.
Though, being built from the ground up means a new engine. And this means new physics. Which means veteran players with an ingrained Crash Bandicoot muscle memory may feel a little betrayed. Enemies have more exact hit boxes, meaning your attacks need to land in exactly the right way. Momentum is a much bigger deal, jumps that could once be made from a standing position now require a bit of a running jump. Platforming needs to be more pixel perfect than ever as you may find yourself sliding off platforms or missing by the smallest amount. Though I don’t think this is a bad thing, it just means you’ll need to spend some time getting more familiar with our bandicoot friend and his many, many death animations.
The only actual problem the game has is the load times. After coming from so many other modern games with little to no load time between areas, waiting on a load screen between every area certainly brought me back to the past in a way I would really prefer not to revisit.
But that’s a small price to pay to be reminded of why I love video games. Quirky level design, luscious environments, loveable characters all mashed together in a package that really defined my younger years. And playing it again, still defines my love for gaming overall. The N.Sane Trilogy serves as a reminder why we loved Crash so much then, and will introduce the marvelous marsupial to an entirely new generation.