Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review
Crash Bandicoot first debuted when Nintendo was just launching the N64 console. During those years he was the face of the PlayStation console - an edgier, significantly crazier version of the face of Nintendo gaming, Mario. If you were gaming in the mid-90s, would you have imagined then that Crash would appear on a Nintendo system? Well, he technically has appeared on the Game Boy, DS and Wii, but those were new games, not classic Crash in his purest, original form. And since classic Crash has decided to make that jump from PlayStation to Nintendo on the Switch, you've got the original Crash games in a portable for the first time ever as well.
Well, to be accurate, these aren't the original Crash Bandicoot games - Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped - because they've all been rebuilt from the ground up. Twenty years' worth of advancements in game technology have been applied to the originals to make them look and sound every bit as good as any other modern platform game. The developers made the wise decision not to make any changes to the gameplay itself, so the new games play exactly as the originals did. For those who played the original games this is very welcome news. For those who did not, well, you may be in for a surprise. Platform games from the Crash era were a lot harder than most games created today, especially those aimed for a mainstream audience.
It's not that the game is unfair or inconsistent, but rather that it expects you to be very precise with the timing and location of your jumps and attacks with very little margin for error. The tight tolerances on the jumps feel even tighter because the control precision feels twenty years old as well. In preserving the original game's feel, the developers also preserved what was a point of frustration in the original Crash games in that it can be difficult to get into a jumping rhythm like you can with modern platform games. The same is true of Crash's spin attacks - start a spin just a touch too soon trying to anticipate a touch of that old school lag and you'll come out of it right next to the enemy who will one-hit kill you before you can do anything else.
The one-hit kills are coupled with another old school platformer feature, limited lives. Many of the levels in all three Crash games are relatively short, so in general you'll get through a number of levels before you run out of lives. The game implements a modern save system, though, so you can pick up the game again with the only penalty being that you'll have to begin the level your game ended on from the beginning. This can be frustrating on the longer levels, though, as you can easily burn through all of your lives before reaching the end and then you'll have to start them all over again from the beginning.
The level designs become a bit more diverse as you make your way through the second and third games, but they all fall into a handful of styles. The standard level puts the camera behind crash and the level scrolls towards you as you move. Horizontal movement is kept pretty constrained by the tight lane design of the levels, and dangers primarily consist of pits and enemies that move back and forth between patrol points. A variation on this design puts you on the back of an animal or in a vehicle, which turns those levels into on-rail carnival rides. Another set of levels flips the direction of travel so that Crash is running towards the camera while a giant boulder or large animal gives chase. These levels often become exercises in rote memorization as you'll need to remember each obstacle's location and anticipate them before they appear on the screen. The last major category of levels feature 2D side-scrolling platforming action that play like classic platform levels.
The basic goal of each level is to reach the end, but there are additional challenges for those who like to get 100% completion in their games. Each level is filled with crates for Crash to break, most of which award Wumpa fruit, a currency of sorts that are converted 100 at a time for a new life. Finding and breaking all of the crates is the first additional challenge. Once you complete a level it can be replayed at any time, so you can try to earn full completion on it by hitting all of the crates. You can also replay completed levels in a time trial mode, so there's plenty of extra mileage in the game for completionists.
The game collection is set-up so that you can play the games in any order that you want. You can begin with Crash Bandicoot, start out with Warped, or play a level in one game and then jump to another game to play a different level. You'll need to back out to the title screen to switch between games, but overall it's not really a very long process and you'll be back to playing in short order. One new feature added in this new release is that you can now play most levels as Coco, Crash's sister. Coco has the same move-set as Crash and controls the same as well, so switching to Coco is purely an aesthetic change.
As an added bonus there are two levels included that were not part of any of the original games. The first is Stormy Ascent, a level that was originally designed for a Crash game in the 1990s but didn't make it into a game. Once you play it you'll understand why it wasn't included - it is extremely challenging. This is a level purely for those who want to push their skills to the absolute limit. Future Tense is the other original level, but it was designed specifically for this collection. The N. Sane developers did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the original to the point that unless it was called out as a bonus level, those new to Crash would be unable to distinguish it from the game's other levels.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a good game to play when you have your Switch detached from your TV. Everything that can take one of your lives away is still easy to see on the Switch's built-in screen, and the large cartoon style fonts in use throughout the game remain easy to read when you're gaming on the go.
If you have a nostalgic love of Crash, then this game collection will certainly bring back a lot of memories. There were plenty of "hey, I remember this level" moments for me as I played. Like me, though, you might not remember the controls being quite like this, especially since you'll find that you've evolved along with platform games over the past twenty years. If you've never played a Crash game before, then you may find the level design constricted, the basic enemy movements somewhat simplistic, and the controls too unforgiving. The developers have done a really good job of bringing the game's visuals up to date while retaining all of the game's original charm and humor, but platform games have simply evolved over the past twenty years, and even though the game has a modern look its gameplay is strictly old school. Whether or not you think that's a good thing will be a big factor in how much you'll enjoy playing Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.
Final Rating: 80% - Playing the entire original Crash Bandicoot trilogy on a portable system is probably the realization of a lot of 90s kids' dreams.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.