Monday, July 31, 2017

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy (PS4) Review

For the final review of July on this final day of July, we have a SuperPhillip Central review from Bean, who we haven't seen for a while. This is his review from his full play-through of all of the games featured in the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy for the PlayStation 4.

A Proper Crash Bash

Crash Bandicoot originally raced on to the scene twenty years ago on the original PlayStation console. It was the story about an Aussie animal that was given sentience thanks to a pair of sinister scientists, Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr. Nitrus Brio, in their plot to take over the world using an armada of mutated minions. Crash escaped, but his girlfriend didn't, so he wound up going on an adventure to get back to the lab and save the day. He did and wound up starring in two critically and financially successful sequels before licensing issues would take him from top tier mascot to looking like he was a John Cena cosplayer. Activision, who had gained the Crash license through their merger with Vivendi, saw the fan interest in bringing the Bandicoot back to his prime old self and put Vicarious Visions on the job to remaster the popular PlayStation trilogy with the N. Sane Trilogy for the PS4. I'll say right now that the company did a very faithful, even if not totally accurate job at remaking these classics... for better or worse as you'll find out.

Crash Bandicoot shows us his fantastic Indiana Jones impression.
The goal in all three Crash Bandicoot games is to run and jump your way through stages while breaking every box along the way both in the main levels and usually a bonus path to find inside said levels these to earn yourself a gem at the end. In the original Crash Bandicoot, these were the only collectibles to worry about. However, what made them so hard to get in the original and not the sequels was that when you lost a life even after breaking open a checkpoint box, every crate would be back and unbroken. This meant you had to do a no-death run of every stage just to earn a gem, and that wasn't the easiest task in the world back in the day. In this remaster, the game has mercifully been toned down as you can now go through and die at checkpoints as much as you want... unless you're going for one of the game's rare colored gems. Those levels still require you to do a no-death run of the whole stage in one try lest you be rewarded with a screen that tells you that you were almost perfect except that you died. Ouch.

Some hazards in levels can drive the player a little batty. (Sorry, not sorry for the pun.)
One of the most frustrating things with the remaster is that the original source code was apparently lost. This means that physics were changed up in spots. In Crash 1's case, this is definitely to the disadvantage of the player as Crash does not get as much air on his jumps, and therefore, does not get the same distance on them either. Couple that with shadows that aren't as pronounced, and you have one-third of a remake where it's both tougher to gauge and land your jumps correctly. Even worse, physics issues will also pop up if you land on the edges of platforms. Things that could be easily done in the original, like running on ropes in the infamous bridge levels, now are nail-biting exercises in frustration. Yes, I was able to get through these stages fine without resorting to this tactic, but it never feels right to be safely on a platform only to find yourself running forward and be pushed off into the abyss. On the positive side of things, this is the only part of the trilogy where I felt things were off, but you still take a game I thought was mediocre for one reason and keep it that way for another.

No matter the dangers, Crash always rushes onto the scene!
But that all changes the moment Crash 2 begins. The point-to-point world map system is dropped in favor of small hubs that have five portals for quick access. Crash himself gets a few new moves like the ability to do both long and high jumps with a combination of pressing circle (or R1) and X. Even better, if the player presses Square to spin immediately after doing one of these two types of jumps, Crash will either get more distance or height on his leaps. Knowledge of all of these moves are required to get both gems and the newly-added crystals. The crystals themselves are the main collectable to make progress in this game and will usually be right out in the open in the second half of levels. Other additions in this one include alternate paths, secret exits, and a couple of non-platforming vehicle stages.

Levels where you're rushing towards the camera can take a little getting used to and require some memorization.
I'm a fan of the Death Routes which are alternate levels that the player must once again reach by not dying in the level up until that point. These areas usually offer a higher degree of skill to complete, and in one specific case, Crash will be forced to slip and slide through an icy chamber to hit a switch only to be forced to go all the way back to the start to be able to break every box in the stage. Oh, and did I mention this area is filled to the brim with Nitro Boxes, green crates that explode the moment you come into contact with them? Yes, this game expects a lot from the player and the backtracking in some levels can go overboard at times, but it's pure platforming fun and my favorite entry of the trilogy.

Crash 3 or Warped, depending on which part of the world you're from, continued to add to the Bandicoot's arsenal when you beat bosses as you'll earn new special abilities like a double jump or glide spin to once again make it through levels easier. It also added Crash's sister, Coco, as a playable character originally although she is playable in all three titles in the N. Sane Trilogy thanks to Vicarious Visions. Unfortunately, while Warped has some of the best platforming stages in the entire trilogy, it also goes overboard in terms of its gimmick levels.

This time around, no matter the game, Crash's sister Coco is available to play as.
I mentioned Crash 2's vehicle stages, but they weren't as prominent as they are here. This game throws them in early and often. Jet ski tracks, motorcycle races where you have to get 1st, airplane dogfight stages where you have to shoot down blimps, a couple of swimming stages. You have all of these new moves at your disposal, yet it feels like more than a third of the game takes you out of platforming and throws you into these kind of levels. It's a bit frustrating, but it's not a total dealbreaker, although I will say the jet ski levels feel a little more loose or tight depending on what kind of turn you're trying to make. It's still a fun game overall, but the final part of the trilogy could've been the best instead of a step down from its more fun predecessor thanks to these abundant and unnecessary gimmick stages.

The majority of Warped's levels have various gimmicks to them, for better or worse.
The final new addition in Crash 3 were relic race time trials. In these, you would hit a stopwatch at the beginning of the stage and go through levels as fast as you can. Certain boxes would be converted into a yellow color with a number on them from 1-3. Break those boxes, and the clock would stop for that amount of time as you kept going along. Sapphire, Gold, or Platinum Relics would be handed out depending on how fast you were... pending you were fast enough to earn one in the first place, that is. Vicarious Visions knew players enjoyed this and decided to also add these time trials into the first two titles as extras for trophy goals. Once again, they really don't feel right in Crash 1, but once you beat the final boss in Crash 2 and earn a Speed Shoes upgrade for faster movement with the press of the R2 button, it feels great. Your jumps again go farther with this active, so you might as well get your inner-Sonic on and race to the finish! Another obvious but necessary inclusion is the ability to save anywhere on the map or in hubs in all three games. It's just a shame the load times when going into the game or stages last a bit longer than I'd like to see.

Crash gives this boss encounter a spin and seems to be succeeding. 
Still, the whole N.Sane Trilogy does a faithful job of recreating two very fun games and the original Crash as best they could be in terms of both upgraded visuals and sound. I had a fun time going through these titles again this month for the most part, and really, a compilation set like this for the Bandicoot's 20th Anniversary is a no-brainer for any and all Crash fans to pick up. With its successful debut worldwide, who knows if this will lead either to a new entry in the series or perhaps another compilation set with a certain purple dragon? It's absolutely N. Sane that it took this long for the series to go back to its roots, but I'm definitely glad it did.

[SPC Says: A-]

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