STAFF REVIEW of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (Xbox One)

Thursday, July 19, 2018.
by Royce Dean

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Box art I was there when the first meme was born, and still I have a hard time with what meme culture has become. In their infancy, memes were dumb inside jokes that used recurring imagery to express stupid mistakes, bad advice, or remind everybody that cats loved cheeseburgers. Now, memeing is a cesspool occupied by folks of every terrible internet subculture that use their anonymity to get away with racism, gate keeping, or the shameful misuse of Minions. If I read one more “meme” about how I’m not a real man if I don’t ride motorcycles while firing my freedom-pistols, I might actually snap. If I may therapize you for a moment, this type of behavior is a clear sign of everyone’s desire to feel validation within whatever type of activity they enjoy, or as the type of person they are. Plainly put, they want to be part of a group group... which is something I’m sure we all understand all too well.

One such grouping that I fall into is the infamously over-stated 90’s kids. The group of internet 90’s kids has an insane level of nostalgia over the mundane. Worse yet, they sometimes behave in a way that would make you think they own nostalgia as a concept. Most people didn’t care about that one weird soda that had floating jelly balls in it because it was weird and didn’t taste all that great, but according to the internet it was part of the 90’s and therefore untouchable. I too feel nostalgia for the things from my childhood, but because I am not a god, I didn’t get to experience all things from that era... one such thing being Crash Bandicoot.

Crash Bandicoot was, for a time, a household name. Kids now are more about Fortnite, Minecraft and swearing on the internet when they think their parents aren’t listening, but, when I was that age, Crash Bandicoot was the enemy. Crash Bandicoot, Sonic the Hedgehog, and of course Super Mario were the faces of the teams you had to choose from... and you HAD to choose. Sony, Sega and Nintendo were the three competitors in the way too dramatically named for its obviously low stakes Console War. Every so often there was the kid named Travis or Bradley that had all three because his parents were rich and bred race horses or something, but for the rest of us there was loyalty. I was on the side of Nintendo, and as such never owned a PlayStation until I was of a working age. At some point we thankfully realized that the Console Wars were beginning to sound more and more like the plot of an episode of South Park and stopped the nonsense. Now, at the age of 30, I’m playing Crash Bandicoot for the first time and let me tell you... its effing hard, man.

If anyone else out there is like me and still hasn’t played Crash Bandicoot, let me lay it out for you. Crash Bandicoot is an action platformer that puts a twist on traditional platforming by having you run from front to back, or back to front, instead of the more traditional side to side. I’d say that it was unique and revolutionary for its time, but that wouldn’t be doing the franchise justice.

Crash Bandicoot games have yet to be mimicked in any meaningful way, meaning they still hold a mantle of uniqueness. However, that uniqueness, while impressive, may simply be because nobody else wants to touch it. Crash games no doubt hold a special place in the hearts of many gamers who grew up playing the games, but its strange perspective make it difficult to see much of what’s going on ahead of you, resulting in game-play that’s difficult in a way that feels bad and at times unfair.

The Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy comes with three lovingly recreated games that first appeared on the PlayStation. Each of the games was rebuilt from the ground up, and each looks absolutely incredible. Other developers that are looking to remaster an old classic should take notes and use The Crash Trilogy as a golden standard. The environments are lush and colorful, and the characters, both main and side ones, animate fluidly and are full of life. Crash himself teems with expression which helps to reinforce his wacky persona better than has ever been done before. The voice acting has been redone, but not to the games detriment. Changing a small element in great volumes serves to damage the legacy of a game, or detach the players of the original from the new product. This change, while noticeable, also serves to give new life to the characters and help returning players remember just what it was about the games that they loved so much growing up. The soundtrack to the trilogy is loaded with catchy and hummable tunes, a hallmark of the era of mascot platforming.

Starting at the beginning is best when revisiting old favorites, but is not an absolute when they are packed into bundle deals like this. You’re getting the whole extra-large number three combo here baby, tuck in! I’m glad I played through them in order though, because as I’m sure was the case back upon their original release, they improved mechanically with every iteration. The original Crash Bandicoot definitely feels like the first one. All of the ground work is there, but it feels a little rough around the edges. It was still forming its identity after all.

The controls feel a touch 'floaty', which took some getting used to and lead to countless deaths over miss-aimed jumps, both onto enemies or over chasms. The level design was also on the more malicious side, leaning towards traps and pit falls that couldn’t be seen unless you were a psychic, or had played the level before. And before you go about calling me bad at platforming... remember, I’m a Nintendo kid. Nintendo was, and still is, the king of platforming with more properties in that genre than the Hiltons have hotels. Crash Bandicoot’s level design make Donkey Kong games look.... slightly less difficult. I died more times in the first world of Crash Bandicoot than I have on the first world of any other game ever.

The sequel, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, not only has a Star Wars name, but it also features a space station! Mechanically it feels better with less cheap deaths, but no less difficult. It relies more heavily on proper timing and inconveniently placed obstacles. Unlike the first game, which features themed worlds, Crash 2 plops you down into portal rooms which offer up an array of varied levels ranging from snow to swamp in a single cluster, which is both refreshing, and again, unique to Crash Bandicoot. The controls have been tightened up a little (either that or I was just getting better) over the first game, but due to it’s 'over the shoulder nature', deaths involving jumps that didn’t land properly are still the number one strain on your extra-lives pool.

The final game in the trilogy feels like the most solid package and it is objectively the best title of the three. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped takes all of the greatest parts of the first two games and improves upon them. The controls are again made to feel more responsive, an improvement I can only imagine was made to its original release as well. The over-world is a cross between its two predecessors giving you a more open area to wander around with distinct areas for each world, but each of those world areas is condensed down into tight-knit “portal rooms”, more reminiscent of the second game.

Level design is once again improved, with even fewer deaths feeling cheap or unfair, though at the beginning it was unclear to me that goats were the bad guy, so I touched one and died. My bad. Crash 3, as with the two games before it, has a number of objectives that you can attempt to fulfill if you’re feeling saucy, finding and breaking each of the crates, or beating the level within a certain time. Each successfully completed objective nets you a different reward... but they’re all crystals. I hope you like crystals. And no, they aren’t the “align your neurons” kind either.

The Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy is a triumph in every sense. Not only is it masterfully put together, it’s a wonderful game for both nostalgic and new gamers alike. The Crash Trilogy holds onto its roots and respects the original releases by keep everything that matters, and by that I mean the things that made it so successful, intact. The steep difficulty curve will no doubt scare away some prospective on-lookers, but for those that grew up playing these games it just wouldn’t be Crash without it. The N-Sane Trilogy is a no-brainer pick up for anyone that wants a challenge, but digs a great deal too. Three well renowned games for the price of one is absolutely N-Sane.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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