Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy Review (PlayStation 4)
Like Sonic the Hedgehog before him, Crash Bandicoot tried to be everything the family friendly Mario wasn't. Naughty Dog's wild, spinning beast was brash and had a "crazy" attitude. All that personality doesn't get you anywhere if the game itself is a bust though, and fortunately for Sony, the core Crash Bandicoot trilogy was well-received and incredibly popular. It's with nostalgia-tinted glasses that Vicarious Visions returned to Crash for a modern-day update, and this anniversary collection is just what fans deserve. Even if the Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is more challenging that it was decades ago.
Remastered games from three console generations ago are a rare breed, and Vicarious Visions had its work cut out for it from the start. Almost none of the original assets for the first three games were in usable condition, save for the level geometries for each game's numerous stages. At least with that foundation, Vicarious could apply a fresh coat of polygons to Crash's world, giving the blocky islands, snowscapes, and medieval castles of old a more modern look. Even Crash and Coco, the two playable characters, were given notable facelifts. Both actually look more like a Dreamworks animated character now, and seeing them turned from flat representations to fully realized figures is a great treat for longtime fans.
The whole of all three games just looks fantastic thanks to the power of the modern console, and you can tell Vicarious went to great lengths to capture the same vibrant worlds with everything at its disposal. Mayan-inspired architecture has more personality and detail. The enemy creatures have so much more nuance in their designs, from intricate patterns on turtle shells to fine clothing details on Cortex's minions. It's easy to get lost in observation of all the upgrades Crash's games got, which lead to a few deaths while we doddled. Still, given the ease with which extra lives can be obtained, losing one or two when taking in the scenery isn't all that bad. Losing them to complicated platforming sections? That's another story.
There's no mincing words; Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is just as difficult today as each of the original games in the series were back in the '90s. Given that Vicarious didn't have access to Naughty Dog's original development kit outside of the level designs, all of the action elements needed to be built from scratch. That mean testing and re-testing the jumping and attack commands to get the timing just right. All of that had to be done for every little bit of movement for Crash and Coco, including the way the characters bounced off boxes or enemies, let alone just the basic jumps and attacks.
As anyone who's ever played a platforming game can tell you, the timing of those jumps must be perfect to find success in more complicated areas. Crash's controls are fairly strong, however the timing does feel off in segments where you've got to have the most precise movements. Whether that's because the character model and the landing platforms are built slightly differently or the challenge was increased given the higher graphic fidelity for this collection isn't clear. All that we know is it takes a lot of patience to find success in some of the trilogy's more frantic portions.
We lost countless lives to just missing a landing zone where we thought Crash clearly made contact with it, or by slipping off the edge even though it looked like we had plenty of room. Bumping into enemies was also a bit of a problem, given that there were clearly times we didn't contact a physical spot on a foe, but likely bumped into an invisible hit box. When those things happen a few times, it's a mild annoyance. As they continued to happen throughout each of the three games included, it grew to be frustrating. However, it was also completely in the spirit of the original Crash Bandicoot games. Those PlayStation One titles were no picnic, and Vicarious has done well to recapture the honesty of those games. That may not sound like much of a selling point, but for anyone that's been a fan of this franchise and waiting for more Crash, this collection serves as an excellent reminder and tribute. Even if you do need to walk away from the controller from time to time to cool down.
It would be easy to dismiss Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy as a nostalgia play, but it's quite a bit more than that. This collection celebrates a franchise that was once a hallmark of a bygone console, and that hasn't been relevant for quite some time. Vicarious Visions has done a fantastic job recreating everything that made Crash Bandicoot such an appealing series, and it's done it with style and improvements that only this latest generation could provide. Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy isn't for the impatient player, but it's a rewarding experience for anyone with the guts to get a little wild.
This review is based on a digital copy of Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.