As soon as that all too familiar music hit on the home screen, it was obvious that the team at Vicarious Visions had accomplished what it set out to do – preserve the nostalgia surrounding the premiere Crash Bandicoot games. It's no secret that gamers who owned the original PlayStation have pleaded for the return of Crash Bandicoot for years, but as consumer interest shifted towards a more mature genre of games in the time that has followed its prominence, the jean shorts-wearing hero was left by the wayside. Evidently pleas from vocal fans were enough to garner the attention of the series' current license holder, Activision, with the company opting to remake and release the original Naughty Dog-developed trilogy in the form of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.
The largest concern to stem from resurrecting a trifecta of titles (all of which debuted in the 90s) is how well the mechanics have aged. Truth be told, not all aspects of Crash Bandicoot have held strong throughout the years – with the original installment being one with significantly less gameplay variety when stacked up to the other entries – but Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is very much a "warts and all" package that retains the difficulty of the originals while making necessary, albeit faithful, improvements to the games' dated graphics.
Gone are the pointy, polygonal aesthetics featured on the PS1, and in its stead are luscious tropical forests, water that shifts as it's waded through, and a pleasantly furry bandicoot. There's a lot that could have gone wrong in updating the characters and environments for a newer generation, and it's entirely possible that the final product may have lost some of the charm during this process if it weren't for the expert design abilities of those at Vicarious Visions. Crash Bandicoot, Neo Cortex, and all of the other big bads and friends found throughout this three-game romp haven't lost any of their original flare in the transition, and as a result of this cross-trilogy overhaul there's actually a lot more flow to the visuals from game to game.
It's easy to appreciate the updated look of the N. Sane Trilogy, but the score is just as important to setting up a worthy remake. Thankfully, the music has been beautifully restored by Vicarious Visions, opening up a floodgate of memories for those already familiar with the IP. Resurrecting tunes that feature that endearing blend of xylophones and drums was, admittedly, expected, but the developer ensured that it didn't end there as the dialogue and in-game sound effects have also been brought up to snuff. Initially, it's almost weird to hear the on-screen characters speak or even the yelps of Crash falling to his doom echo throughout a level with the clarity that was intended by Naughty Dog over twenty years ago, but it only serves to immerse players further in the ongoing action.
Visuals and sound were two of the most immediately apparent factors for the remake, but the difficulty of Crash is an aspect that many may have forgotten as a result of the rose-tinted memories that have occupied their thoughts during the franchise's time out of the limelight. Those that reflect on the series with fondness will soon find themselves cursing the collection's existence as they lose countless in-game lives to obstacles in nearly each and every level, and that's the exact experience that Activision was banking on recreating. It's frustrating in its design through the precision required in its control, and the end result is challenging but in a way that's almost addictive though catering to "one more try" enthusiasts.
As users progress through the games, they'll find themselves leaning towards their titles of choice. Each has its own appeal, with the first iteration lacking some of the smaller tools that make the others a more engaging experience. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes back, for example, builds on the platforming from the first game by making it easier to judge the size of a gap between jumps, while adding the ability to slide in order to quicken the hero's pace or gain some extra distance during a jump. Meanwhile, Crash Bandicoot: Warped mixes up the available vistas with a number of different scenarios and unlockable abilities that continue to expand on the base 3D platformer – allowing fans to see the series progress as they progress through the trilogy.
While the N. Sane Trilogy banks on reacquainting players with the levels and challenges of the first three Crash Bandicoot games, it also adds to the experience in a pair of notable ways. First, almost every level across all three titles can now be played with Crash's sister, Coco Bandicoot, which isn't a massive changeup or necessary option but her addition stands as a fun one for those that want to jump around as the titular character's sibling. Second, time trials are now present within Crash 1 and 2, which add to the challenge for veterans hoping to best their own times.
Crash Bandicoot's original trilogy appears to have stood the test of time better than most, and it's great to see that Vicarious Visions didn't fix what already wasn't broken. As a result, longtime fans and newer gamers alike can take on a revisited set of classics on their PlayStation 4 with the same balance of frustration and fun that fuelled the excitement and occupied the box televisions of so many over the latter half of the 1990s. All at a discounted price, no less.
So for those still wondering – yeah, Crash is back.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is now available exclusively on PlayStation 4.