Played on Windows
Also Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch
The 90s are making a comeback, from remakes of almost every popular movie we enjoyed as kids, to musicals being made out of our movies, like A Bronx Tale. So even gaming is getting into remakes, and for that, we have our star today. The Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy. Can a 90s game still hang with modern games, or will it be a bit too archaic to enjoy?
First, who is Crash? Crash is a marsupial who was mutated by a Dr. Cortex, and then got his required dose of 90s “raditude” and became one of the de facto mascots for Sony’s PlayStation. The odder part of the story is that this was done when it wasn’t a first party game and now 20 years later, we’re able to play Crash on every current system including the PC, and that’s great because the player gets the choice.
Since this is a trilogy of games, I’m going to start by discussing the general graphics and story of the game, so I’m not dealing with writing the same pieces for each game. I’ll try not to repeat myself but I’ll also review each game and what makes it special as well, just as I did for the Mega Man X Legacy collection and the Second Legacy Collection. In fact, the Crash Series has a lot of differences even between the first three games, so there’s a lot to talk about.
Three great games, three times the content, let’s dive in.
Graphically, though, Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy looks amazing. This isn’t just emulated games on the modern hardware, Vicarious Visions has updated the visuals on all these games creating an improved look for the game, and modernizing the game.
Though I do have to admit, the original games looked better for their time, partially due to the amazing work of Naughty Dog, and while the original graphics wouldn’t hold up as well in 2019, the modern graphics don’t stand out as much for a number of understandable reasons. Nothing here feels bad or out of place, it’s just not as groundbreaking as the original games were.
I still think there could have been a way to see the original graphics next to these to really drive home how they improved it and showcase how well the game was taken care of. A simple toggle would have worked, but the original graphics are lost in this collection and it’s just a little sad in my opinion.
I do feel like the improved graphics do come with a cost, as the game is a lot slower to load as you can see in my first look. Load times are long, and while some people do have shorter load times, I’m running on an SSD, and later levels didn’t bother me as much, that might be more to becoming accustomed to the waiting. I’m not sure the exact reason for the load times but it is a little frustrating.
Another issue with the graphics is that the game relies on the frame rate for a number of points in the game. I found impossible jumps in the first game that I couldn’t accomplish and seesaw objects that broke for no reason. After a few attempts, I notice that this occurred when my frame rate was spiking downwards. After about half of the original game during which I didn’t have problems, suddenly the game was struggling. Lowering the resolution fixed it, but the fact that physics broke when the frame rate tanked (only to around 20 fps) is a problem as well. Tying physics to a frame rate is problematic, and while it can work on a console, on PC, it’s a serious issue.
The story of each of the Crash Bandicoot games is typical 90s fare. I’ll go over them quickly in each review, but realize that the story in this series is somewhat limited. Crash Bandicoot and PlayStation games were limited in storage, and team size and the focus was more on gameplay than the narrative. In fact, the narrative was usually pretty far down the list. As long as you know Dr. Cortex is bad, and Crash is good, that’s the most important part.
Crash Bandicoot is the beginning of the series, introducing Crash in the middle of an experiment from Dr. Cortex where he is zapped into the mascot we grew to love. Dr. Cortex says the experiment is a failure, while Crash escapes from the lab, and that’s really the only story scene in the entire game. There’s not even an attempt to say anymore, and for some reason, Crash escapes from the lab and then spends 30 levels trying to get back into the same lab. As I said, this is how stories for platformers were written in the 1990s.
The most interesting part of Crash Bandicoot 1 is how many different level types there are in the game. This is a staple for all three games, but in the first set of levels of Crash Bandicoot, Crash has a multipath level, a side scroller, a level where you ride a hog, a jet ski/water level, and then a level where you run at the camera from a boulder. The amount of variety in levels in this entire game is extremely high and it makes for a unique experience every time. Even after the first set of levels, there are a ton of new level designs all over the game, and it creates a really interesting experience.
The diversity in level design and inventive nature of the levels were really unique for the time, but admittedly much of the game is heavily dated. I feel it’s important to call out games for having artificial “lives” counters, and Crash does much of this wrong. When you finish a level with less than the starting number of lives, the game doesn’t reset back to the minimum.
Crash does, however, find new ways to make mistakes, such as not replacing 1-ups when a continue is used. It’s something that boggles my mind how Naughty Dog would make that mistake, but when you’re creating a remake, I would imagine you would want to fix those small issues. Instead, that change was left in, and created a harder than necessary game, and if you want to farm lives, you can do so by saving and loading the game to refresh the 1-up. The lives system was always in the game and I can accept they wouldn’t be removed, but the 1-up situation feels unnecessarily punitive.
In addition, other relics of yesteryear poke their heads up along with lives. Collecting “Doodads”, in this case, fruit is done so that once you get 100 of them you get a free life. The game tracks how many boxes you smash to award you a “perfect level”, and one hit kills and bottomless pits are all over the place.
Smashing boxes on the infamous bridges of Crash Bandicoot.
Yes, these are all common features of games from this era, and this is a classic collection, however I still feel that collections should be considered both for the historical value and how well the game compares to modern games, as players will be asked to spend their money on Crash versus any other title available at this time.
While the gameplay can be dated, what is included is solid. There are a lot of interesting challenges and Naughty Dog was on point in the design of this game, and Vicarious Visions did a great job bringing back to life.
While they did update the graphics, Vicarious Visions went one further and improved Crash Bandicoot a bit. They added in adaptive difficulty that was implemented in Crash Bandicoot 2 and Crash Bandicoot 3. Though this is done without adding new boxes, so some levels are easier with the adaptive difficulty than others. They also added in a second playable character, Coco, Crash’s sister from Crash Bandicoot 3. While she can’t be played in every level (mostly boss levels), the ability to choose between two players is a new feature in Crash Bandicoot, and it’s welcome.
Another change for the player is that the collectible gems in the original game required collecting all the boxes in a level and not dying. Vicarious Visions changed this in all the games so that the uncolored (non-special gems) are able to be earned by just collecting all the boxes in a single level. The major gems are still brutally hard like in the original game, but at least the game is slightly easier for collectors.
Perfect runs only require all boxes destroyed. A nice change.
Though even with all these changes, Crash Bandicoot 1 remains the hardest video game of the trilogy, and while it’s still the first game of the series, Crash Bandicoot 2 and Crash Bandicoot 3 are better starting points. I beat the Crash Bandicoot, but this game will make almost any player struggle and can frustrate new gamers, whether the other two are more welcoming.
There has been a well-documented change to the character’s collision model in Crash Bandicoot, and even the team has confirmed this. I didn’t find the game that much harder than I remember, but I can’t confess to a perfect memory of the original game. Though the famously hard “turtle jump” that people point to, is easily cheated, and in fact, there are a number of cheats in all of these games when you can abuse the environment, though those cheats can swing both ways as I did get stuck into a wall once.
The biggest problem with this franchise though is the reliance on perspective puzzles. The player is expected to make jumps and land on platforms using a strange view of the world and often this relies on Crash’s shadow, but it doesn’t produce a solid game. In Crash Bandicoot it is frustrating to deal with when the series focuses on it.
The Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy also comes with a bonus level that you can see in my first look, which is brutally hard as well. This was an unused and unfinished level that Vicarious Visions added in. It’s a nice touch and is perfect for Crash fans, but the difficulty of the level is even higher than the normal game here. It’s still great to see a new level revived, and the fact it doesn’t look like any other level is great.
In addition, there are speed runs in the game to earn Relics for the fastest players. These did appear in Crash Bandicoot 3, they have been added to the first two games as well, and they are very hard judging from the few that I even attempted.
Sadly, the leaderboards for them are filled with hackers which renders the leaderboards moot. It’s a sad mistake that a lot of game developers seem to make.
Overall though, Crash Bandicoot does remind the player of what the 90s were like, both good and bad. With about 30 levels and a number of boss fights, it’s a solid game, though the difficulty is rather high for it.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Crash returns after his first adventure with a direct continuation. The last scene of Crash Bandicoot and the first scene of Crash Bandicoot 2 is separated by a moment. Cortex learns of the power of crystals and decides to trick Crash into collecting them for him. Again we have a cheesy 90s plot to give Crash a reason to run through levels. Though, this time there are a number of cutscenes with Dr. Cortex, his henchmen, and even Crash’s sister giving him information as he goes. While it’s not a very good story, it’s a much larger effort than the first game.
In addition Crash Bandicoot 2 is now set up where Crash can choose from 5 levels. While the player has to beat all five levels to proceed to a boss, the ability to choose which order to tackle the levels is a small improvement.
A level hub is now provided.
Hints also appear to matter a lot more in Crash Bandicoot 2, and a number of levels hide multiple gems, in addition to the “perfect” run gems. The loading screens all give a small hint for the level. In the original game, only a few levels had special hints, but Crash Bandicoot 2 and 3 both have important hints on almost every level.
Similar to the first game, Crash Bandicoot 2 adds in a number of level types. Crash Bandicoot 2 experiments more with the riding mechanics, this time giving you an adorable polar bear to ride.
There is a focus on ice levels including a sliding mechanic that works well, and overall is another game where you’re curious about what will happen next. The game does reuse a few levels at the end with longer levels or higher difficulty, though it is done well enough and only a couple of times.
Then there are the Jet Pack levels, and there’s a special place in hell for the designer of those. For a trilogy of games that had extremely good controls, the Jet Pack levels are the most frustrating things I have experienced. I ended up remapping my controller just for those levels to try to make it more playable and found that made them both easy and enjoyable.
There’s a question I feel I must ask. If the remaster made major changes to the first game, shouldn’t they have tried to improve all three games, in addition to making the first game slightly easier? We see Vicarious Visions making minor changes, but the Jet Pack controls were begging for a fix and didn’t get improved. While there are only two levels, they become the worst two levels of Crash 2, and almost the worst two of the game… luckily Crash Bandicoot 3 has something worse in mind.
While those two levels earned my contempt, Crash Bandicoot 2 is a huge improvement on the franchise and becomes very enjoyable and worth playing just because of how solid the experience is and it’s clear the developer learned a number of lessons from the first game.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
The animals and characters in all three games are pretty cute.
For the third game, Dr. Cortex is joined by a new character called Uka Uka, which is a brother to mask that has befriended and protected Crash, Aku Aku. Uka Uka claims to have been controlling Dr. Cortex…. Ugh… 90’s video game stories are a little bad and just pull enemies out of anywhere. In this case, we have a time travel story, caused by a strange boss, but continues after that boss. It’s Crash Bandicoot 3, and the good news is the game is great, even if the story tries entirely too hard.
Though Crash Bandicoot 3 is one of the most interesting games in the series. It seems to understand a number of gameplay design philosophies that were rare at the time. While beating the game isn’t that difficult, there are a huge number of hard to find boxes in Crash Bandicoot 3. The gameplay is relatively easy and it’s where the series should have been all along, though there is so much to discover in Crash 3.
In addition, there are upgrades in Crash 3 which are new for the series. Every boss gives Crash a new ability. These range from an essential double jump, to a possibly meaningless improved ground smash ability. I don’t know if the player is required to backtrack in the game to get all the boxes, but the game definitely uses the new abilities as it proceeds further forward.
The Dinosaur Chase levels are some of my favorites in the entire series.
Crash Bandicoot 3 is the most inventive of the series and tries a number of new things. This ranges from rather interesting and unique underwater levels to dull jetski levels, and then there are the motorcycle levels.
The Jet Ski levels just let the player move at their own speed and are a bit too easy to win, but is at least a unique experience. However, the motorcycle levels are terrible. While the Jet Pack levels from Crash Bandicoot 2 are bad due to bad controls, they allow the player to play at their own speed and get used to them. Crash Bandicoot 3’s motorcycle levels don’t give the player that luxury.
The controls for the motorcycle are understandable, but the player is forced to race very long tracks to win, and finishing anywhere but first will not give the crystal that Crash needs to progress in the game. To get a win, the player has to hit almost every boost in the game, many jumps, and avoid the very large opponent’s vehicles all at the same time. There are only a couple of these levels, but these are the worst levels in the entire trilogy and for a game to make me say that after only two levels of their type is a bad sign.
Still, the rest of the game is excellent, and the time travel “gimmick” works well here. The player is able to go from a medieval village, to an underwater level, to riding a cute cat on the Great Wall and it all makes sense in the theme of the game.
Similar to the original Crash Bandicoot game, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped also got a new level, called Future Tense, with cut elements, so fans of the original game will be able to see something new and unique as well.
There’s not much more to say about the game, the two biggest changes in the franchise, adding the second character, and the time trial are good, but the N-sane Trilogy added those features to the two previous titles.
There are some really fun levels at the end and I have to admit, while I hate the motorcycle levels, Crash Bandicoot 3 really didn’t have another bad level in it. It’s a great game, even if there are some blemishes.
So those are the three Crash Bandicoot games in Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy. Vicarious Vision updated the visuals and did minor changes to the game play of the games, trying to improve on Naughty Dog’s original games.
Crash 2 also has an amazing Polar Bear chase sequence.
All three games though are worth playing, there’s not really a bad Crash Bandicoot game here, though the first game is brutally hard, and that’s probably a mistake, the other two are much easier and better due to a firmer design and understanding of both the character and theme of each game.
Yet, the question still bothers me. Why remake the series, and make rather major changes to the collision model, adaptive difficulty of the first game, adding the second playable character to the first two games, time trials and more and not fixing the bigger playability issues. The original Crash Bandicoot could have used more changes than just the adaptive challenge, why not remove the lives, or fix the 1-ups that don’t spawn? In fact, the changes in the model made the game harder. Vicarious Visions probably should have gone further. They had changed the graphics why not change just a little more?
The second game definitely needed better jetpack controls, and the third game’s motorcycle levels could have given the crystal for third place or above and a new gem for getting first. This gets into the question of how much developers should change older games, but when the game has already been changed a bit, the question becomes why not try to improve the bigger issues.
Ultimately difficulty wise, I feel that the games should be ranked Crash Bandicoot 2, Crash Bandicoot 3, and then the original Crash Bandicoot, I think that’s also the order I like them as well, from best to worst. It’s not because of the difficulty, but because Crash Bandicoot 2 improved on Crash Bandicoot in every way, but Crash Bandicoot 3 got too inventive. Crash Bandicoot is a great game, but it’s a bit plain compared to its sequels.
Still, this trilogy as a whole is worth it for any fans of the original games but also for new fans. If you accept the 90s style to the gameplay, the 90s sensibility and lack of real story, Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy is really fun. These games are classics for a reason, and while they have aged quite a bit, fans can go back and enjoy seeing what made Crash one of the first Playstation mascots.
Overall I give Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy a
These are really solid games but they are still an oddity in 2019. I enjoyed my time with them, and I’m looking forward to the Spyro Trilogy as well, but the fact is that as great as the collection of games is, it’s really aimed towards Crash fans or fans of the 90s platform genre. Games and game design have evolved so much since when these games were originally released that modern gaming fans might not be able to really understand the brilliance shown in this collection, and that’s what really hurts the final score for me.
Final thoughts: A solid recreation of the original games, though some of the games are modified a bit the overall experience is still very enjoyable, though far more difficult than expected.
Stats: 31.8 hours played 52/74 achievements earned.