It has been more than 20 years since we first saw the infamous Crash Bandicoot pop on our TV screen to collect fruit and crystals. The unofficial PlayStation mascot has since starred in many games, but none quite like the original trilogy–until now. With the announcement of the remaster of the trilogy, which has been built from the ground up for PS4, a lot of people have been (im)patiently waiting for Crash’ return. Is the return justifiable? Does the remaster hold up to the original trilogy? Read on to find out.
The Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy includes the first three Crash Bandicoot games that were released originally on PS1: Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back, and Warped. You play as Crash Bandicoot, series protagonist, as you run, jump, break boxes and collect Wumpa Fruit and crystals throughout a variety of levels en route to stopping Dr. Neo Cortex’ plans for world domination.
When starting the game, we instantly get to see how Crash gets upgraded from classic Crash to remastered Crash via a fun animation, instantly giving off the silly, fun vibe that the original games always had. After the intro, we arrive at the main title screen. From here, you can start either of the three games, which are shown with their respective original start-up logo. It’s an easy and quick start-up, allowing you to choose which game you want to play and whether you want to start a new game or continue from your last run. One odd save quirk, though: when starting a New Game from this menu, you’re warned that your last auto-save will be overwritten. Take care to make manual saves if you want to start fresh at any time.
The trilogy is practically identical to the original games on PS1, with re-orchestrated music, the setup, and the gameplay all true to the originals. The major difference is the upgrade in quality of graphics and audio. The graphics have been redrawn across the board: new textures, new objects, new animations, and new environments. In up-ressed 4K on PS4 Pro, it looks positively breath-taking and jumps colourfully off your TV screen, whereas the audio (music, voice acting and sound effects) have also been updated to sound crisp-clear. However, with these visual upgrades in mind, they did not change the original camera angles. While the gameplay is pure, there’s no denying this causes unnecessary frustration due to lacking a clear view on how far to jump or how high some platforms are compared to others, especially when the camera is angled behind Crash and you’re running away from the screen.
For those who are reuniting with the games, it’ll feel like catching up with an old friend you’ve been missing for a long time, going back on adventures throughout the levels of the Wumpa Islands while jumping, spinning and sliding to survive. However, for newcomers, there are no tutorials. Consequently, despite most of the controls being straightforward, there are some useful ones that you might miss out on with no actual control scheme shown–nor is there any explanation on what each button does. A good example comes in the second game of the trilogy, Cortex Strikes Back. There are levels in which you hang from a ceiling, and when enemies pass by, you can survive by holding up your legs with the Circle button. Even as a seasoned player of the original games, I completely forgot about this action due to no information being available on the control schemes for each game. Additionally, though the D-pad and analogue stick work fine for the most part, the controls don’t feel precise enough when trying to hit certain jumps just right. Crash’s movement isn’t quite as predictable, and ever-so-slight input lag affects your play.
Still, by and large, the three Crash games are exactly the same as their original release. This brings along nostalgia as well as frustration. Sadly enough, from a critical point of view, nostalgia can’t paint over all the original faults. It’s clear that some parts are outdated and don’t hold up to today’s standards. A big example would be the collision. It’s clear that Crash’s hitbox, or the precise way he interacts with the ground when landing, has changed with Vicarious Visions’ remake. Because of this, it can be very difficult to complete some difficult parts of the levels that involve landing your jumps to perfection. In the original games, you could jump on the edge of a turtle (that is upside down) without falling off, but you now slide off the edge of the animal’s shell. This happens with many jumps throughout the game that veterans will remember functioning in a particular way; if you don’t stick your landing perfectly, you’ll die. Over time, you can adjust to the remake’s tweaked physics, but a select few levels that were already dastardly have become a truly atrocious experience; the first game’s bridge levels chief among them.
As the games have been remastered pretty much from the ground up, Vicarious Visions added a few minor improvements and extras to the games. One of the improvements added is the unified save system. Your progress will now automatically save as you play throughout the games. However, you can also disable auto-saves and manually save your game at any time. Other improvements include the Time Trial runs that were already present in the third game of the series. These Time Trial runs are now available in the first and second game as well, giving players that extra challenge to get the most out of each game. Finally, the ability to play as Coco Bandicoot, Crash’s sister, is a neat extra touch. Completely the same, but with a different cosmetic overlay, Coco is a welcome extra, but a unique personality and moveset could have made for more interesting gameplay.
Wrapping everything together, the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy has been remastered beautifully and truthfully to the original releases, with a few minor extras and improvements that are welcome. Despite that, the controls and gameplay feel outdated, and despite the Crash PS4 trilogy doing well to stir pangs of nostalgia, the games don’t hold up to 2017 standards of excellence. Revisiting Crash is a sweet trip down memory lane, and there’s plenty of fun to be had, but alongside comes frustration that more faithful control could have dampened.