We have seen a large increase of ‘HD Remasters’ and simple ports in the last few years. Popular last gen and older titles have been given a new lease of life on the current gen. They continue to be as popular as ever and always feature quite highly on charts when released. We have not, however, seen many full remakes. The aforementioned HD Remasters actually don’t change a great deal in terms of the aesthetics of the game. So, how would an actual full graphical remake of a PlayStation One classic fare in 2017? And not just any PlayStation One classic, perhaps, the ultimate classic title. It has been a franchise the gaming community has been wishing for to return. Activision and developers Vicarious Visions have made that wish come true with the return of Crash Bandicoot in the N. Sane Trilogy.
Revealed at last December’s PlayStation Experience, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a ‘remaster plus’ of the three original Crash Bandicoot games. What is a remaster plus? Well, in Vicarious Visions’s own words, they did not ‘fully remake’ the games, rather they used Naughty Dog’s original level design and then rebuilt the game from the ground up. The result is both a wonderful and nostalgic trip with a modern twist. Vicarious Visions painstakingly recreated everything we all remember and love about everyone’s favorite Bandicoot. But, in their staying true to the original releases, some of the minor frustrations have also shipped over.
Let’s get the easy part out of the way first. This game looks great! Every detail has been given the remake treatment from the Wumpa Fruit to those pesky piranha plants. Explosions from the TNT boxes look like they belong in a Hollywood blockbuster. Crash himself looks incredible and jumps and spins around just like you will remember from the original 90 releases of the trilogy. The opening level of the original Crash Bandicoot just brought a huge smile to my face. It was truly like looking at my childhood through my adult eyes. The updated graphics do more than just look pleasing to your eyes, however, they also help with the gameplay itself. The numerous enemies Crash encounters are dealt with somewhat more easily now thanks to the graphics overhaul, none more so than the jumping piranha fish as you can see them in the crystal clear water before they jump out and try to tuck into some Bandicoot chow. It is easier to work out when to jump on or spin attack the various bad guys, animals, etc. that Crash will have to deal with.
Along with never looking better, Crash Bandicoot has never sounded better. This is not just in terms of the vintage soundtrack, which has also been given the modern remake love and attention the visuals have, but the sound effects in the actual game itself. The noises Crash himself makes, the ambient noise from the levels themselves, all sound fantastic. The soundtrack is the highlight for the audio upgrade. The renowned soundtrack from the originals has always been a favorite of mine, and it truly sounds better than ever. I am sure people will become sick of it as I have found myself continually humming it throughout the day.
With the new graphics and sound also come some excellent new features. For the first time in Crash Bandicoot, players can play as Crash’s sister Coco for most (around 80%) of the game. Just like her twin brother, she looks great while jumping on turtles, attacking Dr. Cortex’s minions and jumping over chasms of death, all the while carrying a pink laptop. She doesn’t have any additional moves compared to her brother, but she does have some new animations which do help in making her feel like a brand new character. It is a great little touch to change up the look of the game while playing through the familiar levels. As well as the addition of Coco, Vicarious Visions have also added some other new features. These range from having to replay a level to get a new gem. But the best new feature? Time trials. Perfectionists will be playing for months ahead to try and get gold on all the levels.
Achieving all those gold trophies or even just completing the game itself will be a difficult affair. Honestly, I don’t know if we as gamers are just used to easier platformers or if we were all much more skilled players back in the mid-90s. This Crash Bandicoot experience can be brutal. Slightly miss-time a jump? You’ll either die, or if you are playing the Dark Souls of all platformer levels, Native Fortress, you’ll end up right at the bottom over and over again. Honestly, I lost 15 lives while trying to complete Native Fortress. I really cannot remember having this much trouble with the original Crash games. They were always unforgiving if you made a mistake, but this is tough. The reason for this Souls-like level of difficulty is in part due to the controls. Vicarious Visions wanted to recapture everything from the original games, which also meant the controls from the 1990s. As much as we all fondly remember those glorious years, no one can argue that the control mechanics are vastly superior in 2017. There is an agonizing half a second delay in Crash’s movement while using the analog stick, which isn’t much at all, but it can lead to a few unnecessary deaths while trying to time those intricate jumps.
In keeping with the homage to the 90s releases, you can also use the D-pad to control Crash, but this also isn’t ideal because it just feels so unnatural now. The best method I found was to mix the two. Analog stick for most of the time controlling Crash and the D-pad for those jumps that need nothing less than perfection. Even though it is easier to read enemies thanks to the graphics overhaul, there were a few times where I mistimed a jump or spin and met a grizzly end. The camera angle is also straight from the 90s releases with animal-controlled or vehicles levels particularly tough as the camera is fixed permanently behind Crash. Thankfully, there is an auto-save feature after every level, so dying over and over again on a level will not result in you going back three or four levels previous.
However, this difficulty is never overly frustrating. I never once found myself launching my controller and walking away like I have in many other challenging games. After death, you will always feel that success is only one more attempt away. It may take another 10 or so tries, but you will try and try again until you finally get to the end. If anything, it has made me love Crash Bandicoot even more than I did before. We always look back on our favorite games with a bit of a distorted view. When I think back to my first playthroughs of, say, Resident Evil, I don’t think of how horribly blocky the graphics looked, I remember the heart-racing, fear inducing gameplay as I battled my way through the Spencer Mansion. With the N. Sane Trilogy, this distorted nostalgic view is gone. This really is the complete way to play Crash Bandicoot. It has everything you remember and love from the original releases, with the attention to detail of a 2017 released game. The N. Sane trilogy is a must have for, well, everyone, players of old and new players alike. You get three incredible titles with hours of fun to be had and unlimited replay value featuring an absolute icon of the modern age of video games.
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Platforms: Playstation 4
Release Date: 30th June 2017