Almost any conversation about the golden days of gaming will bring you on an extensive trip back to the 90s. It’s an era that introduced gamers to Sonic The Hedgehog, dropped us in the middle of DOOM’s demon-infested world, saw the term “survival horror” get coined by Resident Evil, played host to the masterpiece that is Metal Gear Solid, gave Mario a 3D makeover and so, so much more. It also marks the era when Naughty Dog had the wacky idea to create a bandicoot-led platformer that places the camera behind the player as they seek to rescue their Pamela Anderson-esque girlfriend from the evil grasp of Dr. Neo Cortex.
Crash Bandicoot had officially earned a spot in the gaming history books and in the hearts of avid gamers across the globe. More than 20 years after the release of the original game, Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy proves to be a beautifully remastered nod to Crash’s glory days.
The Vicarious Visions team has Crash and the gang looking better than ever. A visual upgrade is expected of any respectable remaster, but the sheer amount of work that had to go into this makeover is something truly worth gawking at. Quite frankly, even just a slight improvement to the original visuals from the 90s would have been welcomed with open arms but seeing Crash transformed into a character worthy of a full 4K gaming experience is truly special. Vicarious Visions surely had this in mind when they decided to create a title screen that drops classic Crash into a machine that then spits out the new polished version of the crate-smashing marsupial. The only thing that looks even more vastly improved than Crash himself is the variety of landscapes he navigates throughout all three games. Elements like ice, water, and fire look absolutely incredible and make many of the levels have a freshness to them again.
In addition to giving the visuals a makeover, the game’s audio also received some welcomed improvements. The soundtrack doesn’t seem to be exactly the same music from the original game but it captures that very same energy, triggers the happiest part of your Crash Bandicoot memories, and delivers a crisp sound that is wonderfully fulfilling. Even simple sounds within the game will hit your ear like an absolute joy. This seems like the first time the sound of Crash’s steps actually change based on the terrain and even falling off of ledges just sounds pretty amazing when Crash smacks into the ground with a heavy thud. Sure, this also means you’ve lost some of the progress you just gained but at least it sounds good, right?
The visual and audio upgrades to all three of the games included in the trilogy definitely sells the nostalgia well, while also making you feel like there is truly a reason to experience all three of these games in their entirety all over again. The remaster of these classics now serves as a great entry point for any new gamers while also allowing longtime fans of the series to enjoy the upgrades and bask in the joy of nostalgia. It’s important to note, however, that the N.Sane Trilogy isn’t just banking on making an old game look and sound better than it did years ago. There are solid efforts to make the gameplay better while also allowing the title to be true to its retro roots. Of course, striking this balance between the old and new means there are some classic frustrations that have reared their ugly heads yet again in the remastered game.
With that being said, you still can’t ignore the fact that gameplay overall feels much smoother than it did in the past. This is the first time Crash’s movements are this fluid and seamless. Once you really find your rhythm and get better at judging depth within the game, you will essentially start to feel like you are gliding through some levels. The challenge of slippery slopes, wide gaps to clear, tricky bad guys, and Indiana Jones-style boulders are all still there to keep things from getting too easy but the impeccable flow of every movement adds a certain ease of play element that is nice to have.
But don’t let your new smoother-than-ever Crash Bandicoot experience fool you. It’s no secret that gameplay mechanics from two decades ago might not feel so great today. Many of the archaic gameplay elements that made Crash Bandicoot feel like a frustrating experience back then are still present in the N. Sane Trilogy. This is not a suggestion that the game is void of any improvements to gameplay mechanics though. Slight alterations to some of the enemies make their patterns far more apparent. Enemies that require you to time your actions based on theirs are now easier to deal with since you can actually see when they are going alter behavior.
Perhaps the most appreciated example comes in the form of the workers patching up the sewers in Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. It’s now very clear when they are going to resume their roof patching work and when they are going to attempt to turn their welders on Crash instead. This remains true for villains throughout the entire remastered trilogy. From bandicoot-eating plants and rapidly sinking hippos to the sword wielding henchmen disguised as knights, reading the many foes you rush by is now a much easier task. That is something to be appreciated. It does not, however, compensate for that fact that controlling any sort of vehicle or mounting a furry pal is just as irritating now as it was back then. Anyone who prides themselves on smashing through every crate in each level will find themselves incredibly frustrated when dealing with these loose controls. There is no such thing as a clean, tight turn and trying to make a simple adjustment will easily have you soaring into explosives and expending valuable extra lives.
That’s the tricky part about a genuine trip down memory lane. While it reminds you of the sheer adoration and love you had for the original game, it can also snatch the rose colored glasses off your face. It’s easy to remember Crash’s moments of glory—the kooky cast of characters, the challenging yet equally entertaining levels, the consistent improvements from one title to the next. It’s harder to realize that years ago you may have simply been overlooking some of Crash’s biggest missteps and disappointments… or perhaps you were just more willing to forgive them. The N. Sane Trilogy has actually stayed true to some of the original franchise’s more infamous elements. Perhaps even more frustrating than the loose controls when using certain vehicles is the demand for perfection when executing jumps to certain platforms. There will be no shortage of times when you see Crash magically fall through the edge of a platform or sink into the water despite the fact that he was just standing on the edge of a large leaf. This is also paired with some tricky camera angles that cleverly hide some of the pits you’ll be trying to clear, especially in the first game. The good news is that these moments are easily the most frustrating part of the game, which isn’t too terrible all things considered. In fact, there is even a small sense of nostalgia nestled in those frustrating moments.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy adamantly stays true to the original game. It brings the colorful cast of characters back to life in a way that makes their personalities more prominent than ever and has turned Crash’s world into a stunning new version of itself. In almost every way, this is one remastered title that truly captures the magic of the original while also making meaningful improvements. Sure, it comes with its irritations and downfalls, but a few archaic mechanics are hardly enough to overshadow everything else the N. Sane Trilogy does so well. Small additions to the game give fresh content without straying too far away from a formula that is already tried and true. The balance between the old and new is delightfully skewed in the favor of longtime fans while still giving newcomers a reason to become enamored with Crash the way millions of seasoned gamers always have been.
Score: 4/5 – Great