PlayStation’s original mascot returns
Back in the 90’s Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, and Sony kind of, sort of had Crash Bandicoot. While never officially appointed PlayStation’s mascot, Crash was undoubtedly the face of PS1 and its promise of a 3D-graphics future. Crash was also the first mega-hit for Naughty Dog, the world-class studio responsible for Uncharted and The Last of Us.
Now long-time fans of Crash can relive his wacky adventures with Activison’s Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy for PS4. If you’ve never played a Crash Bandicoot game before, this remastered compilation also serves as the ideal entry-point. It features the original three games in their entirety, all fully remastered with beautiful HD graphics and sound.
Sweetening the deal is its low price point when compared to most other new releases. Considering the quality of the games, the N. Sane Trilogy arguably represents the best value of any release this year.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4
3 games, one continuous tale
Unlike other platforming series (like Super Mario) that typically feature self-contained stories, Crash’s original three games are connected adventures. Each sequel begins where the last left off, and as a whole they tell a satisfying, complete story arc. Here’s a brief synopsis of each game:
Crash Bandicoot (1996)
Crash Bandicoot is set on the Wumpa Islands in fictional Australia and introduces us to series antagonist Doctor Neo Cortex. Cortex’s plan is to create genetically engineered animals to do his bidding, and Crash was one of his experiments. Soon thereafter, Crash is subjected to the mind-controlling Cortex Vortex but it fails and he escapes. Our orange marsupial hero then sets out to rescue Tawna, his girlfriend, who was also imprisoned within Cortex’s nefarious lab.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997)
The evil Dr. Neo Cortex is back…and this time he wants to save the world? A catastrophic solar flux capable of destroying the Earth looms, and only Cortex has the means to contain it. However, his containment machine requires 25 crystals to power it, and so Cortex enlists Crash’s help to retrieve them. Not long after, Dr. Nitrus Brio (Cortex’s former assistant) tells Crash to collect 42 gems, which he’ll use to fire a laser beam and destroy the Cortex Vortex.
Crash Bandicoot: Warped (1998)
Rounding out the trilogy is Warped, an extraordinary time-traveling adventure. In it, an evil mask named Uka Uka is unleashed and recruits Dr. Nefarious Tropy and his Time-Twisting Machine. This machine can open up portals to other eras in time, allowing Uka Uka to gather crystals and gems. Back at Crash’s home, Aku Aku, a good-hearted mask and Uka Uka’s brother, senses a disturbance in the air. Recognizing his brother’s evil plan, he instructs Crash to enter the Time-Twisting Machine retrieve the crystals and gems first.
Does Crash Bandicoot hold up over time?
With gaming technology advancing so rapidly, revisiting classics always (initially) fills me with mixed feels of excitement and trepidation. Every generation developers are improving the gaming experience, whether that’s through more intuitive controls or how games are designed themselves. Playing classics is akin to rewinding that technology clock and sometimes the experiences are jarring when compared to modern gaming. I’m also one to view memorable childhood games through rose-tinted glasses, so I was curious to see if Crash Bandicoot still holds up.
The answer, as I found out, is a resounding “yes,” especially the latter two games in the compilation. That’s not to say the original Crash Bandicoot isn’t good (it is), but its uneven difficulty feels anachronistic. Instead of smoothly increasing the challenge, the first Crash has a habit of flip-flopping between easy to maddeningly-hard platforming levels. You can tell that Naughty Dog learned a lot during the making of Crash, as the following games have better balance.
Polished and thoughtful remasters
With Naughty Dog no longer at the helm, development duties for the N. Sane Trilogy were given to Activision’s Vicarious Visions. They’re the talented team behind Skylanders, and also produced a number of Crash Bandicoot games several years ago.
Instead of taking the existing game code and art assets then upgrading them, Vicarious rebuilt all three games from scratch. That means completely refreshed high-definition graphics (including cutscenes), a remastered soundtrack, and re-recorded dialogue. All three games look and sound fantastic, a testament to the studio’s painstaking, meticulous work.
Moreover, Vicarious’ care and reverence for the source material is evident from the moment you boot up N. Sane. Every crate is exactly where it used to be, enemies still walk the same looping patterns, and yes, it’s just as hard as you remember. With that said, Crash’s movements are a little smoother and the new analog stick controls feel more natural. As a result, all three games are a (tiny) bit easier to complete.
Quality of life improvements
While the N. Sane Trilogy offers little in the way of new content, it more than makes up for it with numerous refinements. These include a unified save and menu system, and auto-save functionality after every level. As well, you can now try bonus levels as many times as you want, and the levels themselves are improved. Also, Crash Bandicoot 3‘s time trials system has been brought over to the first two games, adding even more challenges.
More subtle improvements also add to the experience. For example, Crash now has a proper shadow instead of a circular one, making jumps easier to land. Furthermore, checkpoints now keep track of the boxes you’ve broken, and you can browse your box count at any time. And finally, during loading screen revolving hints give you insights into the games’ deepest secrets, like keys and coloured gems.
New stuff, too
A new addition in the N. Sane Trilogy is the ability to play as Coco, Crash’s younger sister, in all three games. Coco has the same moveset as Crash, which is somewhat disappointing, but nonetheless it’s fun to see her altered animations. As well, the N. Sane Trilogy includes trophies for all games, including three platinum.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a must-play collection for fans of the originals. Newcomers curious about this wacky marsupial will also finding a rewarding treasure trove of classic games waiting for them. It’s great to see Crash Bandicoot back on consoles after a 9-year console hiatus, and he’s never looked better. Be warned though the games do offer a tough challenge, but if you persevere through the harder levels you’ll be amply rewarded. Overall, the N. Sane Trilogy is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had this year and offers unbeatable value.
+ Three games in one
+ Wonderfully remastered
+ Faithful to the originals
+ Total nostalgia
+ Amazing value
– Stiff challenge
– Coco is a cosmetic character swap
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.4/5 (88%)