Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy Review - A blast from the past that belongs in the modern day
"Activision presents...a smashing blast from the past" proclaims the lovely yet annoyingly unskippable intro. We see Crash Bandicoot as he was twenty-one years ago carrying some Wumpa. It's all very nostalgic. Then the lovable klutz trips and the fruit end up in a big machine coming out all shiny and new. Crash jumps in himself and comes out looking better than ever. This intro is not just adorable, it is the first sign that Vicarious Visions completely understands Crash Bandicoot. Luckily the rest of the game affirms this - Crash Bandicoot is back and he might be better than ever.
The original Crash games are still good even two decades on. It does show some age but compared to other PS1 games it still looks great. The N. Sane Trilogy gives everything from the original games a new lick of paint and some polish and the result is a really good looking game. Crash's redesign is much better than previous attempts to update the bandicoot, retaining a familiar design while bringing it to modern standards.
Presentation wise, each game retains the hub worlds of its originals with minor alterations. In Crash 2 you no longer fight bosses on the elevator up but instead, they have their own warp room so you can refight them if you wish. A lot of care has been put into retaining the look and feel of the originals while making only the necessary changes to the game.
The controls have been slightly revamped and more focus has been placed on precise jumping and platforming. The collective meltdown over the difficulty of Crash 1 shows that the game might now be a little harder than the originals but the reality is it makes for a better experience. Once you get used to the jumping it starts to feel good to chain jumps together and speed through levels. It also offers full analog support but old-school players can get on by just as well with the directional buttons - I have found myself switching between the two.
Music and sound effects have been remixed, remastered and sound great. The music has some excellent remixes but it would have been nice, if it was possible, to get the original soundtrack as well. However, the N. Sane soundtrack still rocks. All the voice acting has been redone too and it's really nice. The cutscenes have also been given a little extra care and attention - the opening cutscene for Crash 1 now makes a little more sense.
So, I've talked a lot about the technical aspects of the game and that is all really good. Vicarious Visions did a fantastic job remaking these games from the ground up and have made a fantastic package of games. However, for those of us who have played the originals to death - is there anything new added in for us? Yes!
A lot of major changes have been made to the game to make life easier for the player. I will go through game by game to point out the differences. Crash 1 has been given the most revamping. Getting gems once meant beating the entire level, breaking every box without dying. That's been changed to fall in line with the latter two games - you can now die to your heart's content and still get the gem as long as you break all the boxes. Some stages will require you to beat the level without dying to get the special colored gems though.
Relics have also been added to the first game and it honestly feels a little tacked on. Crash Bandicoot is not a game that is designed with time trails in mind with levels such as Sunset Vista being long and the bridge levels like Road to Nowhere require the most precise jumping in the game. Relics come in three forms - Sapphire, Gold, and Platinum. For the completionists who want the Platinum trophy, you will need to beat every level with a Gold time. It is not that easy in this game. If you want to Platinum the whole trilogy it might be wise to stick with the first game until you get its trophy - the other two will be much easier in comparison.
Another big difference for Crash Bandicoot is being able to save whenever we want - before you had to beat a bonus stage and save it from there. There is also auto-saving which is great. Speaking of the bonus stages, you can now replay them as many times as you need until you beat it. You do not lose a life if you do and they do not lock you out if you fail. This makes getting gems much easier and less frustrating.
Finally, Coco Bandicoot is playable in Crash 1 after a certain level. She is only available during normal levels - she cannot fight bosses or ride the hog.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot is still the weakest of the trilogy but it is definitely still worth playing. Completionists should complete 100% this game before the other two just because this is the hardest one by far.
Crash 2's changes include the aforementioned ability to re-fight boss battles in the warp room, the addition of relics and the ability to play as Coco. Crash 2 also added the Slide Jump which is the best thing and it is not new to the N. Sane trilogy but it is a wonderful tool for making long jumps and I love it. I would marry it if it was possible to marry a video game move but it is not, at least for now. I should start a petition...where was I?
OH YES, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back... is the best Crash game. Some may find that controversial as Warped seems to get the most love but Crash 2 has better levels and less gimmicky levels. It wins purely because it doesn't have those motorcycle levels from 3. Also because of the baby polar bear levels. That bear gives me life. Ten of them to be exact...
Moving on to Crash 3 which is the blueprint for the other games changes and therefore has the least amount of changes in the remake. I will say, I think 3 is the one that jumped in quality the least - the jet ski levels do not seem to be working as well and the motorcycle levels still exist. However, Warped is still a fantastic game. It does a lot of things right and there is a reason why Vicarious Visions made the other two more in line with Warped. If there is a new Crash game, I would not be surprised if it is more similar to Crash 3 than the other two, despite my personal tastes.
Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy is more than a blast from the past. It has taken the out-of-favor 90s mascot and brought him to the modern age. These three games feel familiar and fresh at the same time - a sign of an excellently executed remake. The fate of Crash Bandicoot in the last decade has always been one of the saddest tales in video games for me. Crash Bandicoot 2 was the first PlayStation game I ever played and to see it back in the forefront of gaming again is wonderful. A reasonable price for three excellent games makes this an essential purchase for those who loved the old games. Hell, even if you've never played a Crash game before - this is worth picking up. Crash Bandicoot is back, long may he stay.
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