Written by Leo Faria.
I have to make a confession: while I’m a massive retro gaming fan and also a gigantic mascot platforming fan, I have never had any nostalgic sentiment towards Crash. I’d only played the first game and Crash Team Racing on the PS1 a few years ago, so I don’t have any childhood memories of playing those games or anything like that. There are no nostalgic feelings like the ones I have towards Rare games. That being said, I still bought Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and was actually looking forward to it, not only because of the revamped visuals but also due to my curiosity towards the second and third games of the series, widely regarded as the best of the bunch.
Right from the moment you boot up the game, you’re greeted with an adorable FMV of the classic 1996 Crash, simple polygons and all, being transformed into his high-definition 2017 counterpart by the means of a machine, accompanied by the classic intro song of the first Crash Bandicoot game. For a person with nearly no nostalgia whatsoever towards the franchise, I already thought that intro was extremely charming. I can’t even imagine the effect of the same intro on a childhood fan of the series.
Crash Bandicoot, aka the original one, was the first game I chose to play in the collection, and it completely reminded me of why I didn’t even bother to look out for 2 and 3 a few years ago. The first game hasn’t aged that well in terms of level design and gameplay, sadly. For some reason beyond my comprehension, I found the controls to be a little clunkier in the first game, as well as the already long loading times to be even longer. It also didn’t help that the level design in the first Crash Bandicoot isn’t very good. Some levels, especially the ones featuring rideable animals, featured platforming sections in which only a very precise control response would be able to get you through them. The already mentioned clunky control response in this game turned some relatively simple segments into true exercises of patience.
But with the first game out of the way, it was time to finally tackle Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, a vast improvement over the first game. The addition of a hub world was great, as well as the overall improvement in level design. The gameplay was also slightly less imprecise and the loading times were shorter than the first game. I still have no bloody idea of why those loading times were faster in a game available in the same disc, but what do I know, am I right? One last thing I’d like to point out in Cortex Strikes Back isn’t a flaw, being more of a humorous nitpick: the story was way too dumb for its own sake, making Crash look like one of the silliest and most oblivious main characters I have ever seen. Granted, I’m aware that looking for a decent story in a game like this is like hoping for a White Castle sandwich to have a healthy amount of nutrients. But it might’ve been nice if the story was just a tad bit more intelligent.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped was by far my favorite game of the three. The gameplay felt a bit smoother and easier to control than the previous two games, and the level design was much more interesting, given the focus on levels based on different time eras. Special praise to the China levels and their fantastic soundtrack, as well as the incredibly awesome motorcycle-based levels, which initially gave me PTSD chills by bringing back some repressed Ride to Hell: Retribution memories due to the similar themes. Thankfully those levels were a bagillion times better designed, better programmed, and much more entertaining.
Not many new elements were added to the remade games, but some of them deserve mentioning: the inclusion of time trials and being able to play as Coco in both Crash Bandicoot and Cortex Strikes Back. Those features were previously limited to Warped.
All three games have received a very nice visual revamp, especially Crash’s character. Crash itself looks phenomenal, and is incredibly well-animated, looking and acting as well, if not better, than most Pixar movies out there. Sadly, Crash (and to a lesser extent, its sister Coco) is the only character who looks that good in the game, as the rest of the characters don’t look anywhere near as good. And the same can be said about some elements of the scenery, with the exception of the impressive lighting effects that really shine when you’re playing at sunset levels in Crash 3.
The soundtrack has received new arrangements, and that was a point of controversy prior to the game’s release. Given my lack of Crash Bandicoot knowledge, I limited myself to judging the new versions of the first game’s tunes, and didn’t find them to be bad at all. On the contrary, the vast majority of the songs were actually pretty good. While not being able to judge upon 2 and 3’s rearranged tunes, they were decent enough as standalone songs for a first-time listener.
One annoying thing I need to point out from the collection isn’t an actual flaw from the game itself, but one bad decision which could have only come from a company like Activision: while browsing at the trophy list, I saw that there are some trophies which can only be unlocked by playing DLC levels. That’s right, a collection of three games from the nineties will feature DLC. If the map pack for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remaster wasn’t bad enough for you, Activision is once again shoving in unnecessary DLC at games from years ago. Now, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt by having a (very) slight hope that this DLC will be free, but given the publisher, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The Crash collection is a great way for both nostalgic fans to relive their golden childhood memories and for newcomers to experience one of Sony’s main franchises from the 90s. Granted, Crash 1 definitely didn’t age very well, but the other two games are good enough for anyone to consider grabbing this collection. No matter what, it’s still yet another great 3D platformer from 2017. Mascot platformers are back, baby! Or at least until Bubsy arrives and ruins everything yet again!