Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy

While the SNES was my first experience with gaming, it was with the original PlayStation that my formative years in the medium occurred. I credit the console with introducing me to the idea of games being immersive worlds, not just obviously-constructed game areas for me to beat. I put hours into ToCA 2’s mode where you could mess around freely on the test track, pretending I was there. I got lost in Driver’s world. Spyro the Dragon was the series that made me want to develop games as well as live inside them, with its tranquil and enchanting worlds.

And Crash Bandicoot was hard.

I preferred Spyro. Spyro was easy. Other than a few small difficulty spikes, Spyro was not a difficult game to complete 100%, 117% or 120% depending on the game. But I just couldn’t finish the Crash Bandicoot games.

I could beat Cortex in Crash 3, but not obtain more than about 10 relics and 10 gems. I couldn’t even get to the first boss in Crash 2 due to the level where you run towards the camera (and continuously die). And while I could beat the first boss in Crash 1, I never got on with that one at all – I’m glad that 2 was my first taste of the series, because I’m fairly sure the first would have put me off it for good.

Very little has changed with the N-Sane Trilogy. I went in expecting to have matured, gained the reflexes necessary to destroy all three Crash games in a couple of days. And no, apart from the fact I can now get a lot further in Crash 2 (that boulder chase level is easier than I remember), either I still suck at Crash, or they’re just plain hard.

So the good points? Two thirds of The N-Sane Trilogy are excellent games, particularly Crash 3. The modern age has been sorely lacking a well-constructed 3D platformer, and Crash still holds up beautifully. This is aided by the stunning PS4 graphics featured, although the typographer in me is not fond of the new font used in the remakes.

But Crash Bandicoot, the original, stinks. I can only give it credit for establishing the series and paving the way for the better sequels – a trait Naughty Dog series share. But it’s hampered by levels that go beyond being difficulty spikes and enter the realm of unfair. Mixed with the game’s linear progression (as opposed to 2 and 3’s batch-of-five-in-any-order approach), levels like Native Fortress, Hog Wild, Slippery Climb and both of those horrific bridge levels will be huge sticking points. It’s never good for a game if you feel obligated, after reaching a Game Over, to go back to an earlier easier level and spend an hour farming lives, because you know you won’t make it through the difficulty spike with the 5 you’re initially given.

Crash Bandicoot levels are also less visually interesting than those in the sequels since they don’t vary so much. Bored the jungle setting? Tough, you’re stuck with it for ages in Crash 1.

Bar the ability to revisit bonus levels if you “die” in them and a few other requirements made a little more lax (like not having to run levels deathless in Crash 1 to win the gem), every level in the N-Sane Trilogy is nigh-on identical to its PlayStation 1 counterpart, warts and all.

The remakes have a couple of other changes, too. The game’s saving has been modernised to allow both autosaving and manual saving at any point – no more of the dross bonus level guff the first game used to put you through, which is arguably the most welcome addition in the entire trilogy.

You can also play every level other than bosses and a few special levels as Coco. This is awesome, although I’m not sure why the game won’t let you play as a Pura-riding Coco in Crash 2’s Polar-riding Crash levels, and vice versa in Warped’s Orient levels – they are functionally interchangeable as far as I can tell. It’s odd that you can enable and disable the swapping ability too, since if you didn’t want to swap to Coco at any point, you could just not swap to Coco at any point.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my time, I’d have liked to have seen a little bit more from N-Sane Trilogy. I’d have loved a “megamix” mode that jumbled all three games’ levels into one massive game broken up into 15 (or so) sets of 5. The option to disable lives as a game mechanic would also have been welcome – I know plenty of people love the challenge, but getting through 5 exhausting checkpoints only to Game Over and have to do them all over again, in my mind, is just time consuming.

Overall though, N-Sane Trilogy is superb. Mechanically, Crash is one of the few 3D platformers of its era that hasn’t aged all that poorly – thanks to its locked camera movement and its simple controls and concepts, it’s still fun, if difficult as heck, as it was 20 years ago.

I’d recommend it to anyone that likes the idea of it. But I’d also recommend that, if like me you were planning on going through them in order, cancel that plan immediately. Crash 2 and 3 are still excellent games – the original isn’t any more.

Now who do I have to bribe for the Spyro trilogy to receive this treatment?

Allison James

Independent game developer, font creator and occasional casual writer.

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