A Crash From The Past
3D platformers are back! This year alone, we've seen more and more developers returning to the basics of what 3D platforming once was. With all of these new titles appearing, an old veteran of the genre has decided to put on his jeans and do a dance to show everyone how it's done. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy brings Crash back to his roots as Vicarious Visions have remade his first three adventures from the ground up. Originally released over 20 years ago Crash is back to not only show off that he's still got what it takes but to introduce himself to a whole new generation of gamers.
Throughout these games you play as Crash Bandicoot, an experiment gone wrong by Doctor Nefarious Cortex. Whether through the Wumpa Islands, in a series of caves, or a time station, Crash's goal is to always take down Cortex and whatever evil plan he's thought up. Throughout each game, the story is quite linear and doesn't add much more than what you see beyond the opening cutscene. Don't expect any twists, turns, or major plot reveals throughout, but that's not what people are drawn to the game for.
What little cutscenes there were in the original games have been remastered, showing off a significant boost in quality. Minor changes have been made to some of these cutscenes and while none are groundbreaking, they show an update with the times. A prime example is getting to see Tawna holding her own fighting off some of Cortex's henchmen instead of just standing there shaking. In terms of each game's length on their own, they will seem short by modern standards. Each game clocks in around 25 levels, but the combination of all three titles will let you spend a lot more time perfecting your platforming or hunting down collectibles.
All three Crash Bandicoot games are platformers with some collectathon elements. You progress from level to level either in a linear fashion in the original game, or through hub worlds in the sequels. These levels will have a Power Crystal used for main progression, a Gem that you're rewarded with for breaking all of the boxes on a stage, and a Time Trial Relic. After completing a level for the first time when you return you'll be able to race against the clock for a Blue, Gold, or Platinum Relic. Some stages also have special objectives rewarding you with colored gems. In the original games, the Colored Gems could be earned by destroying all boxes while also not dying on a stage. In Cortex Strikes Back and Warped however there are other conditions such as finding secret exits, completing the level under certain criteria, or reaching a platform along the path without dying.
When the games first released these criteria were more likely to be stumbled upon than sought out but in the N. Sane Trilogy when entering a stage you'll usually be presented with a hint. Sometimes these hints can be something mundane like "Collect 3 Aku-Aku masks to become invincible" but other times you might get a message about a hidden path or something being fake. These hints, while not giving away too much information, give enough that you know what to be looking out for.
The original games released during 3D platforming rise to popularity and the peak of 2D platforming's dominance. Therefore, it makes sense that you'll find that each of the games contains a healthy mix of both styles. The way that you decide to play the game will work to create a level of difficulty. With only the Power Crystals in mind, completing Crash Bandicoot might be an easier experience. If you're working towards collecting gems and relics the game will begin to pose a greater challenge. Players of the originals might take a bit to get used to the physics behind Crash now.
Unlike in the original game's square hitbox where you were safe if you had even a toe on a platform, the upgraded character models cause players to sometimes find themselves slowly sliding off platforms when they're too close to the edge. This change does have a positive effect as well since you'll often be able to daringly slide jump while floating off of a platform. These types of new mechanics give veterans players a new challenge to master.
There are also stages where you navigate levels in a different way. These include; 2D underwater levels where you can swim up and down, auto-scroller levels where you ride small animals, riding waves on a jet ski, and even jetpacking through space. Controls have been kept the same, which is mostly great, but it does mean that any issues from the original games will carry forward.
The best example of these poor controls is riding the jetpack. Unlike other games when presented with 3D flying movement you move as you would on the ground with specific buttons to rise and fall, in Crash though it's the opposite. You'll move up and down the same way that you would underwater but moving towards and away from the camera has their own buttons. Throughout the trilogy, you can see the growth in mechanics from game to game as the developers learned what worked, and what didn't. Where steering a boar in the original game was slow to respond, moving while riding a tiger in Warped is much easier. Differences like this would normally not be noticed but with the unified physics and controls, the changes across the original titles are shown off quite well.
Unlike a port, the N. Sane Trilogy was rebuilt from the ground up. This means that almost everything from the character models and collectibles to each of the individual enemies you'll encounter has been redesigned. Enemies in the levels are relevant to the setting of each world; mechanical mice appear in sewers while wizards will be present in medieval times. This level of detail from the games makes exploring each world interesting as there are new things to see and enemy patterns to learn. The upgraded enemy models show the amount of effort that Vicarious Visions put into keeping gameplay elements faithful to the original while doing what they could to improve the overall look and appeal of the game.
While the gameplay is one of the key points of the Crash Bandicoot franchise, it would be impossible to talk about what made these games great without bringing up the upbeat and atmospheric music of the original. The full soundtrack has been rearranged and reorchestrated for the purpose of the N. Sane Trilogy. Classic tracks like each of the main themes will get stuck in your head for hours but they're the kind of songs that you won't even find yourself minding. Each track also factors in the locations of the stage to the sound design. If you're heading through The Lost City you're accompanied by a tribal beat and chanting but a lot more mechanical and synthetic effects are introduced in N. Cortex's laboratory.
Over the years since the initial release of these three Crash Bandicoot titles, we have seen Crash continue on with reduced success driving cars, taking part in party games, possessing mutants, and even appearing in the Skylanders series. This trilogy does a great job of bringing Crash forward in time while also showing off the series roots and what made that era of 3D platformers so great. While some aspects of this collection like the minimal story or the short length of each game show that they're a product of their age the remaster itself manages to remain faithful to the originals while truly bringing an improved experience to the PlayStation 4.
TechRaptor reviewed Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on PlayStation 4 with a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- Solid Platforming Mechanics
- Updated Visuals
- Catchy And Immersive Music
- Three Games In One
- Game Length
- Hit Box Changes