Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review

By Mark Delaney, 1 month ago
In a generation full of remasters, what may have felt like nostalgia for some games has often turned to fatigue. That's often because we've regularly seen games from just a few years ago get a new and inexpensive coat of paint before being thrown back onto shelves. That's not the case with Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Vicarious Visions clearly went to great lengths to bring the series to the modern day, displaying an impressive attention to detail and an obvious love for the property. The studio clearly adopted the adage of "if it isn't broken, don't fix it" and it consistently works for the trilogy. That mantra only gets them into trouble when they also chose not to fix what was broken from 20 years ago.

14/06/2018 - Carousel

If you've never played Crash Bandicoot, it's a platformer series from the days of console mascots. Essentially, the orange bipedal marsupial in sneakers was Sony's answer to the likes of Mario and Sonic from rival publishers. Since the first game released over two decades ago, the Crash Bandicoot series saw two more really fun games and a few memorable spinoffs before a slew of lesser sequels. This trilogy recaptures the original three games nearly frame for frame, only now they have the benefit of modern visual fidelity.

Simply put, these games look gorgeous. You know how when you were a kid you'd fill in the blanks left over from nineties-era video game graphics? One could extrapolate what the game presented and make it prettier and more detailed in your head. This trilogy feels like it's done that work for you. If you're at all nostalgic about Crash Bandicoot, this is the best way to play the series that has ever existed. Vicarious Visions calls the game a "remaster plus" because it wasn't made similarly to a lot of the more recent remakes we've seen. Instead, they took Naughty Dog's original geometry, level by level, and used it as an outline to rebuild each game. The end result is a lovingly crafted collection that keeps intact nearly every detail, big and small, from the originals.

Every enemy placement, the width of every hole that needs jumping, and Crash's goofy dance moves — it's all here and precisely as fans will have remembered them. Loading up the game shows players a brief cutscene where a low-res Crash and some objects from the originals go into a machine and quickly come out the other side looking modern and more detailed. It surely wasn't so easy, but Vicarious Visions makes it seem that way with this collection.

Play them in chronological order and you'll see the evolution of a young Naughty Dog studio.Play them in chronological order and you'll see the evolution of a young Naughty Dog studio.

This is almost always a good thing because it means the games have returned just as you'll remember them. When this isn't the case is with some audio. While sound effects like Crash's whistley spin move or the nostalgic bounce on wumpa fruit crates are all just as you will remember, voice lines have been redone. This is mostly fine as the new actors do a great job of delivering lines in ways that follow the originals closely, but some minor sounds, like the grunt of a knight with his sword stuck in a rock on the first level of Crash Bandicoot Warped, sound noticeably off. These are by no means major blemishes on the game. They just happen to be one of the only areas in which these remakes didn't follow the originals exactly as they were.

Among the other few adjustments Vicarious Visions makes are the ability to play as Coco instead of Crash in most levels. Unless one or the other is explicitly required, like Coco's tiger dash levels or Crash's motorcycle escapades, you're free to play with either of them, which is a fun new wrinkle even if it's nothing more than a palette swap. Additionally, some of the later game mechanics like box counters are retroactively added to the first game, which again makes sense as a small but smart change.

Other than these changes which are never very big, all three games are just as you recall them. Following them so closely comes with one glaring problem, however. Sometimes, and even pretty frequently in the first Crash Bandicoot, depth perception issues get in the way to the extent that they can get very annoying and lead to deaths that feel unfair. This sort of problem is a cardinal sin of 3D platformers and no tint of nostalgia goggles can rightfully deny the games have problems with this sometimes. Thankfully, this issue mostly exists in the first game and the other two are largely spared.

Warped takes the most risks by frequently changing up the genre.Warped takes the most risks by frequently changing up the genre.

If you play them in chronological order, it becomes an insightful trip into the evolution of Naughty Dog's abilities as a studio. The first game's corridors were tighter and thus often more problematic. The sequel widened things favorably and began to experiment with new hazards and level presentation. Warped takes this to the next level with a mashup of all sorts of genres, from wave racing to aerial dogfights, and even some challenging street races, although it still focuses primarily on the platforming that, by then, is really nailed down. Vicarious Visions deserves plenty of credit for bringing these games into 2018 with blatant affection and attention to detail, but as they are so faithfully crafted, these are still some of Naughty Dog's earliest works too, and it's a fun ride for that fact alone as we all know where they stand today.

The achievement list counts as one on Xbox Live, but it offers a massive 3,000 Gamerscore. Each game is given 1,000 of that and their lists largely resemble one another. You'll get achievements for beating bosses, holding 99 extra lives, performing specific moves, and finding bonus areas in each of them. For the most part, the first game's list is basically copied and pasted into the other two, with adjustments made when needed. It'll take a true Crash devotee to finish off the list as you'll need to perform well in time trials and collect everything from every game, but if you did it in 1998, you can probably do it in 2018 as well.

Check out our The Best Xbox Platformer Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

In an age of remasters that don't always feel earned, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is one for which fans have been rightfully clamoring. Vicarious Visions' recreations are simply stunning. The nostalgia overflows from this collection for those that played them so many years ago, and if you're new to the series, they mostly still hold up today. Depth perception problems return in their original state like so much else in a trilogy so faithfully remade, but as those are uncommon after the first game, the majority of your time in Crash Bandicoot will feel like a fun, wumpa fruit-laden stroll down memory lane.
4 / 5
Positives
  • Doesn't try to fix what wasn't broken
  • Beautiful, vibrant, almost always faithful rendition of the originals
  • A video game history field trip
Negatives
  • Can't fix what was broken, like frequent depth perception problems in Crash 1
  • Some of the new audio doesn't match the original work
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 15 hours collecting wumpa fruit, smashing boxes, and dodging enemies. Along the way, 17 of 77 achievements were collected spread across all three games. An Xbox One review copy was provided by the publisher.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his fiancée and son. He almost never writes in the third person.