‘N. Sane Trilogy’ a Worthy Vision

Courtesy of Vicarious Visions

Crash Bandicoot is back, but rather than embarking on a new adventure, the protagonist revisits his roots. With revamped graphics, new cinematics and multi-platform access, fans of the Crash Bandicoot series are in for a treat.

“Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy” was initially released for PlayStation 4 in June 2017 and released on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC in June 2018. Vicarious Visions, the game’s developer, is no stranger to Crash Bandicoot, having worked on 2003’s “Crash Nitro Kart” and 2004’s “Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto’s Rampage.” “N. Sane Trilogy” comprises the original PlayStation-exclusive Crash Bandicoot platformers developed by Naughty Dog (1996’s “Crash Bandicoot,” 1997’s “Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back” and 1998’s “Crash Bandicoot: Warped”) with improved graphics, audio and cinematics. The story follows Crash, who constantly attempts to foil the evil Dr. Neo Cortex’s plans for world domination.

As Crash washes up on N. Sanity Island to begin his adventure, the graphics are immediately striking. Environments are vibrant — water is crystal-clear and life-like, walls depict detailed cave-paintings and fire and lightning move fluidly. The improved graphics also make each level more distinct. Despite having the same foundation, two snow-themed levels will feel different due to smaller unique details, such as caves and stalactites. Every enemy, stick and stone has been remastered from the ground up, presenting gamers with a lively and immersive experience.

An issue that commonly arises in remastered games is that the characters do not honor the originals. But Vicarious Visions stays true to body geometries and facial expressions, and uses upgraded graphics to enhance these features, rather than completely altering their look and feel. Crash’s ever-changing emotions are more apparent than ever — players can see his fear when he’s running from a boulder and his silliness when he’s confused. They can also sense the evil in Dr. Neo Cortex’s eyes while he concocts a wicked plan. Every character is upgraded in a way that respects the original trilogy and clearer emotions make the characters more exciting and personable.

The gameplay mechanics follow a similar pattern. Jumping feels exactly the same as in earlier iterations, which is important because the game is largely centered on perfectly timed leaps from one area to another. In many cases, mechanics feel better, too. In “Crash Bandicoot: Warped,” gameplay involving snorkeling, flying or riding an animal all feel more fluid and responsive. A large contributor to this improvement is a console feature largely taken for granted: the analog stick. On the original PlayStation, “Crash Bandicoot” required the use of the d-pad to move around. “N. Sane Trilogy” allows players to use analog sticks, making movement easier and more controlled. Enemies’ attacks, and even fish jumps, maintain their original integrity, necessitating no change in player tactics.

The soundtrack is upgraded, too. It’s still composed by Josh Mancell, but with crisper beats and improved sound quality. Characters’ voices were improved — Cortex’s voice echos and booms, sounding more nefarious, and Coco, Crash’s sister, has a more easily distinguishable and clearer voice than in the original trilogy. Interestingly enough, no voice actor from the original trilogy reprises their role in “N. Sane Trilogy,” but it doesn’t detract from the quality. Almost all the voices sound the same, if not better. Ripper Roo, though, lacks the maniacal, high-pitched laugh that characterized his persona in the original trilogy.

Although “N. Sane Trilogy” is a remastered game, Vicarious Visions hasn’t just copy-and-pasted the original trilogy with better graphics and audio. Small alterations include infinite attempts at bonus levels, rather than having one attempt per level to destroy all the boxes. Thankfully, players can now save whenever they’d like. Arguably, this gets rid of some difficulty, but, in the original “Crash Bandicoot,” you could normally only save once every four or five levels, having to backtrack and redo levels that you’d already completed. This made for a frustrating experience at times.

Some brand-new additions are available as well. Now, gamers can play as Coco, who time-travels to help Crash, throughout most of the trilogy. Tawna, Crash’s girlfriend, fights back in a cutscene against Cortex and his minions, rather than just standing helplessly like she does in the original game — perhaps a reflection of the modern woman. Stormy Ascent, a level removed from the original game due to its difficulty, is now available in this reissue. Most notably, Future Tense is a brand new level developed for N. Sane Trilogy. Available on the game’s recent release, the level has a futuristic setting in which Crash needs to dodge lasers and scale a skyscraper.

Vicarious Visions has ingeniously re-created the original “Crash Bandicoot” experience, revamping the games that so many fans know and love into a trilogy that honors the originals. Remastering such a largely popular franchise can be risky, but it’s safe to say Vicarious Visions emerged from the insanity victorious.

 

Grade: 9.5/10

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