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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4/XONE/Switch/PC): A Highly N. Tertaining Trilogy (Detailed Review)

I can safely say that, prior to 2017, I assumed the Crash Bandicoot series was as good as dead. Despite not having been relevant since the PS1 era, it was able to stay barely afloat until 2010, with the last console based installment being Crash: Mind Over Mutant. Despite the fact that I haven’t talked about it much, I have played the crap out of the PS1 games (2 and 3 at least) when I was a child, but I hadn’t touched them in so long that the remakes were basically a new experience for me. Not to mention that I had never even played the original game.

Crash Bandicoot was one of the biggest names during the PS1 era, yet when it fell off, it didn’t even fall off in the same way as Sonic the Hedgehog where every installment still got a lot of hype and sold a lot even though the games were hit and miss. It’s more so along the lines of people just stopped paying attention to the series, so we wouldn’t even know if any of the post PS1 releases were any good. I mean, I did enjoy Crash Nitro Kart, and I heard Crash Twinsanity was pretty fun, but the other two post PS1 Crash games I played were Tag Team Racing and Crash of the Titans, both of which sucked. Crash of the Titans was especially moronic in that it turned a platformer series into a beat em up so boring that it makes Sonic Unleashed’s night time stages look like they ACTUALLY came from God of War.

So the series was dormant for almost a decade until 2017, where the original PS1 trilogy was given the HD Remaster treatment and released as part of a compilation. The developer of this compilation is Vicarious Visions, the team behind the GBA titles Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure and Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced. I actually have played the former and I enjoyed it, and the same team also developed the aforementioned Crash: Nitro Kart, so it’s clear they had experience with the series. But considering that the rest of their repertoire is licensed games and ports, it seemed like it would be a 50-50 shot that they’d handle this correctly, and it looks like this coin flip landed in our favor.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, otherwise known as “the reason why Super Mario 3D All Stars looks so half-assed,” was successful enough that it not only inspired a similar remake of the Spyro trilogy and a remaster of Crash Team Racing, but it renewed enough interest in the series to bring about a new installment with Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time.

I suppose it goes without saying that a package containing enhanced versions of three of the most beloved PS1 platformers is a steal, but that is not to say that N Sane Trilogy does everything correctly, as it is a “from the ground up” remake after all. This means that it is not a perfect conversion. This can be most noticed in the various issues with enemy hit-boxes, and the fact that Crash Bandicoot 1 and 2 use the third game’s physics, when they controlled differently in the original PS1 releases.

While this isn’t as much of a problem with Crash Bandicoot 2, it DOES make the original Crash Bandicoot a lot harder than the original (at least from what I’ve been told) considering how its levels were not designed with this physics engine in mind. Activision’s “solution” to this was to tell new players to play the 2nd game first, and to tell original fans screwed over by muscle memory that it “adds to the challenge.” I’m not going to lie, this is a pretty piss poor excuse on their part, and it just reeks of trying to get out of doing any additional work because they already released the game and a bunch of other people already like it. In other words, it’s typical Activision slime.

While it did take a bit of getting used to, I thankfully didn’t feel like it effected my enjoyment of Crash Bandicoot 1 too much. Also having now played it, I can confirm that, no, Crash Bandicoot didn’t become “Dark Souls.” Crash Bandicoot 1 didn’t turn into an action RPG with a central hub where you travel to several depressing landscapes that each add to the depressing background lore of the game. You don’t lose all your collectables upon every death, you don’t have other players who can invade your playthrough and kill you, and it’s not even as hard as Dark Souls unless you try going for those fucking time relics.

Speaking of which, this remake added time relics to the first two games. For those unaware, time relics are earned by speed running levels in under a required time. Players can earn the relics in either a sapphire, gold, or platinum ranking, each of which requires a faster clear time. In Crash Bandicoot 3, you earned time relics to unlock bonus levels, and the game only required you to obtain the sapphire ranking. In Crash 1 and 2, they are not required in the main game, and thank fucking Goddess for that, but if you decide to go for them, then good fucking luck!

I have successfully gotten the platinum trophy in all three games, which requires you to obtain a gold relic in every stage in Crash 1 & 2, and all stages but one in Crash 3… for some reason. Going for the relics in Crash Bandicoot 1 was certainly a trip. I implied earlier that getting time relics in Crash Bandicoot 1 was excruciatingly hard, but the difficulty is wildly inconsistent. There were some levels where I got the gold relic within five minutes of playing, and there were some levels that took hours to get even a sapphire.

There are also time trial leader boards now, if that’s your thing.

And that is not even going into the absolute nightmare that was getting the time relic on Stormy Ascent. One would think that when the trophy description for getting the time relic on this level is literally “do hard time,” that they might have gone a bit overboard on the difficulty. Keep in mind that this was a level that was unused in the original PS1 release because it was so much more difficult and took so much longer than every other level in the game, IE the same game that thought Sunset Vista was perfectly fine!

Despite all of this, it is a good sign in N Sane Trilogy’s favor that its version of Crash Bandicoot 1 is still preferable to the original by far. I mean, I haven’t played the original version, but just knowing about the improvements added to this remake makes me not want to. In the original game, earning gems not only required breaking all the boxes, but you had to do so without dying. This means that if you died at the end of a level, you needed to start from the beginning and scour the level all over again. You also had no way of knowing how many boxes you needed to break or how many were remaining until you reached the end of the stage, and you only got one try at the bonus stages.

N Sane Trilogy changes this by adding Crash Bandicoot 3′s box counter to the first two games, and also allows you to retry the bonus stages as many times as you want. You will still need to beat six stages without dying to earn the colored gems in the first game, but it’s far more bearable with the other aforementioned improvements. When you add the fact that you no longer have to clear a bonus stage to save your game, it’s quite clear that this is the best version of Crash Bandicoot 1.

In regards to Crash 2 & 3, there’s a decent argument that could be made for either version being the best. The box counter alone is enough to make me prefer the remake of Crash 2, and the visuals are a fuckton more expressive and visually appealing, but there are a few more nitpicks to make about the remake.

The first of these is that cheat codes have been removed from N Sane Trilogy because it would prevent players from “properly earning” the achievements involved with 100% item collection. While I don’t think this is game ruining or anything, I am not crazy about them removing content from the game because it might make a piece of text appear on screen in a different way than the developers intended. It reminds me of how NieR Automata allowed players to buy achievements with in-game money, and it pissed off a bunch of elitist scumbags because some people might not be having fun the right way.

This is way too adorable to be a death animation.

Meanwhile Activision is actively cutting content so as to appeal to the douche bro crowd who demand that players walk up the hill both ways and earn their glorious text boxes, and not take these cheap handouts that let them unlock these text boxes an easier way. I’d like to stress that I’m more annoyed by the thought process behind the decision to remove the cheat codes than the actual removal, but seriously folks; achievements are only valuable if the player ascribes value to them. Making the game potentially less accessible to those who don’t give a shit about achievements and who may not want to do everything the normal way is a stupid fucking idea.

And the last remaining nitpick I have is that the remixed music loses a lot of the atmospheric effects that the original soundtracks had. A lot of the personality of the original music had to do with the odd choices of instrumentation, and the remixed soundtrack made a lot of the songs sound quite bland in comparison. This is especially noteworthy in regards to Crash Bandicoot 1’s OST, where the original songs prioritized atmosphere above energy. Just listen to the original arrangements of the Generator Room or Slippery Climb themes, and one will notice how the remixes lack the sense of eeriness, which in turn takes away from the immersion.

That’s not to say that every Crash 1 remix is inferior to the original. The remixes of Toxic Waste and the Brio and Cortex themes packed significantly greater punch than the originals after all. This also isn’t as much of a problem with Crash 2 and 3 as they had more energetic and varied soundtracks, but it still would have been nice to have the option to use the original soundtracks. In fact, every remake should have that option by default.

In addition to adding the unused Crash Bandicoot 1 level Stormy Ascent, N Sane. Trilogy also added a brand new level to Crash 3 called Future Tense. And they are both free DLC.

So I’m sure it’s obvious that I am recommending this compilation of three of the most beloved PS1 platformers, and I’m sure you all have heard more than enough people talk about how good these games are, but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t critique the base games at all. I’m going to keep things short though, since my opinions are basically the same as the general consensus.

While I found Crash Bandicoot 1 enjoyable, it’s really the 2nd and 3rd games that are the real deal. Crash 1 often felt unbalanced and unpolished, and there seemed to be less variety in level backdrops. It is a perfect demonstration of how fucked up the difficulty curve in this game is that I managed to get platinum relics in 1/3rd of the stages without trying, while I agonized over other stages.

Crash Bandicoot 2 and 3, have a lot less problems and were a blast to play the entire time. I especially need to give props to Crash 3 for how varied and interesting each of the locales were. In general, the Crash Bandicoot games just have a lot nice features that I’d like to see in more games. I quite liked the idea behind the colored gems unlocking new areas in previous levels, and finding hidden exits that take you to alternate paths in previous levels was flat out awesome. I also really liked the variety in different level mechanics that Crash 3 provided.

These games were just an absolute joy to play, and I have absolutely no issue seeing why Crash Bandicoot 2 and especially Crash Bandicoot 3 are held up as some of the greatest 3D platformers of all time. This compilation has definitely revived my interest in the series, and I will certainly be taking a look at future installments. In fact, I already got copies of Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time for Christmas.

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