When Crash Bandicoot burst onto the scene effectively becoming the mascot for PlayStation in its early years, I was a pure PC gamer. I did not own a PlayStation until the PS2 and not even that until about 2004. Around then, and ever since, I have become a collector of videogame systems and games, old and new, and in my collection and backlog (if you can even call it that) are the original Crash Bandicoot platformers.
Thanks to Vicarious Vision and Activision, I won’t have to dust off a PSX to fire these up. The N.Sane Trilogy includes Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, all faithfully redone in beautiful HD and with some modern conveniences but still maintaining the core essence and nuances of the originals. Vicarious Visions literally rebuilt the game’s levels based strictly off of Naughty Dog’s original vision, and did little to nothing to tamper with that. Some enemy hitboxes or ‘tells’ are altered, but precision platforming is still required here. The first game in the series is admittedly the hardest, even the press materials provided by Activision mentions that. You can play all three games at your convenience and easily switch back and forth between them — while the stories of each game are loosely connected, there’s really no pressure to play them in chronological order.
The story has Neo Cortex, a mad scientist, setting out to take over the world. One of his experiments goes wrong, giving rise to the zany marsupial, Crash. With the help of Aku Aku, a floating voodoo mask and guardian of the Wumpa Islands, Crash sets out to stop Cortex. The first adventure begins on Wumpa Islands, with Crash having to navigate through various jungle and old temples, precisely avoiding contact with any of Cortex’s minions or environmental hazards like fires and long falls. Crash can only take a single hit before dying, unless you have found an Aku Aku power-up which gives you an extra hit. Checkpoints help temper the frustration, and for every 100 apples you collect you get an extra life, which you’ll likely need. Your platforming has to be precise and punctual, and a little luck in that and in hitting the enemies a split second before they hit you will go a long way. Indeed, the first Crash adventure is a little frustrating, but well worth your time.
Before going onto Crash 2 and 3, I want to mention a few other tidbits about this new release. The original game now has Time Trials, and there is online leaderboard support for the Time Trials in all three games. You can also now play as Coco (Crash’s little sister) in any of the three games for levels that do not involve driving or bosses. You can also use the analog stick as well, and I found myself switching between it and the d-pad as I often do with other games.
So with Crash 2 and 3, which I have spent less time on thus far, are more forgiving and interesting, and by extension, more fun. Gameplay is very similar to the first Crash, although in a more robust, forward-looking way. Environments are larger (the first Crash was practically on rails at times). Crash 3 continues to ramp up the wild action with scuba diving and motorcycle driving, which sounds way out of place for a 3D platformer, but suffice it to say that the Crash series is kind of on a plane of its own. Anyway, all three games in this Trilogy actually include their own Platinum Trophies for those that seek them (not I), as well as new cutscenes.
With any remaster, you have to expect a graphical overhaul, and the N.Sane Trilogy certainly does not disappoint. Obviously, the old PSX originals were built on graphical engines that are just too old to do a whole lot of modernizing with. So Vicarious Visions rebuilt the game and it looks absolutely stunning and runs super smooth, even on a launch PS4. On the PS4 Pro, 4K resolution is supported as well. The graphics pop off the screen like a Pixar movie and the animations are silky; Crash’s wide range of emotions are on full display and they’re noticeably great. Similarly, the soundtrack, already catchy enough with its reliance on drums, has been remastered as well and sounds excellent.
Ultimately, there’s a whole lot to like about this release and very little to gripe about. My increasingly busy self would have loved some kind of realtime save or a rewind feature (Prince of Persia style) just to help getting through these games less painful, but even without that crutch these games are a lot of fun and provide a good challenge, the first game especially. Taking a step back from the games themselves, the job that Vicarious Visions and Activision have done here is really commendable; from top to bottom, they did a textbook job of reviving these classics for a whole new generation.