N. Sane Trilogy - News Roundup (April)

With just a little over 2 months away from the N. Sane Trilogy's release, it's time for another roundup of recent events and "bandicootian" shenanigans!

Graphical Improvements

The most oft criticized aspect in the N. Sane Trilogy was always the way it looked. Make no mistake: the game's graphics have always been fantastic, but compared to the original titles from two decades ago, something had been lost as these games were rebuilt for the newer hardware. The real-time lighting, combined with certain stylistic choices like fog and color changes, made the N. Sane Trilogy look muted and more washed-out compared to the PS1 games we grew up with. It didn't look bad, but it didn't look like Crash.

This being a remake, I don't think it has to be a 1:1 rendition of the original games. On the other hand, considering how much Vicarious Visions wants to be as faithful as possible (even refusing to call it a "remake"), they do need to follow the same design philosophies that made the Crash trilogy on the PS1 so beloved. With that in mind, they should absolutely try and improve the environments by building on what was already there.

Thankfully, Vicarious Visions has once again shown a ton of dedication towards updating these classics and giving the fans what they want. They listened to our feedback, and the results are impressive! Here are some comparisons to get the point across, courtesy of Crash fan Robokai:

Real-time lighting is a very different beast from the limited tech Naughty Dog had at their disposal during the PS1 era. Ironically, this is part of what gave the games such a distinct and colorful appearance, which proved to be a bit of a challenge for Vicarious Visions' more dynamic engine. Yet they somehow made it work in just a few months. Not only do things look a lot more vibrant and closer to the original games, but a lot of textures are even being redone, as you can see.

The difference is nothing short of astonishing. The beach looks warmer and the colors generally pop more, while the ruins no longer look gray and sterile. The water also looks less opaque and things in the distance now look crystal clear, as opposed to the foggy look from the game's reveal last year. It's all a lot more pleasant to the eye and that much closer to the original PS1 titles. At this point, going any further down this line would mean sacrificing detail and logic for authenticity. I think they've reached a great compromise between dynamic lighting and color scheme preservation.

Upstream

The first game's Upstream level was revealed just a few days ago, and it comes with a few things worth mentioning. You can watch it in its entirety below:

Before we can discuss the level itself, it's interesting to see what the new version of the map looks like. Besides the tremendous amount of detail compared to the polygonal island of ye olde PS1 version, you can also spot the Time Trial information for each level. It looks like you can switch between your records and the relic requisites. This will be very useful for anyone aiming for a platinum, and it's going to make my life immeasurably easier when it's time to work on Crash Mania's new level lists. Now if only Vicarious Visions included a photo mode and/or a model viewer... (WINK, WINK)

When it comes to the level proper, Upstream looks very close to the original thing, thanks to the aforementioned visual improvements and the level layout remaining virtually unchanged (eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed an extra platform at the very beginning, no doubt meant for the stopwatch that triggers the time trial). The water looks as amazing as it did in Hang Eight's reveal a while back, but there are other things of interest besides graphics. The snapper plants now take longer to close, and there's an added visual cue as they shake before closing. Not only that, but Aku Aku protects you from them, so they no longer kill you instantly. This makes the level considerably more forgiving.

Perhaps just as interestingly (and this is something that was noticeable in the PAX 2017 demo), the bonus round now loads extremely fast, to the point where I wonder why it even has a loading screen; maybe they should just replace it with a fade transition like they're doing in Crash 2. It also features a neat little detail everyone's talking about: Cortex taking Tawna away just as you reach her. In previous builds she would get sucked into the sky for some reason (and the original game just kept her there unless you count the Japanese version), but the new animation has a lot more character to it. I mean, it still doesn't make sense that Tawna's there to begin with, but I've always assumed the bonus rounds in Crash 1 were just dreams anyway.

Assorted Tidbits

Several short videos are being trickled by the official Crash Bandicoot pages on Facebook and Twitter, and one of them is particularly neat as it shows Cortex in various cutscenes and his first two boss fights. This includes a Warp Room conversation and a bit of Crash 2's intro where he discovers the master crystal (which now looks like a cluster of 3 crystals joined together). As always, Lex Lang's delivery is on point, and the cutscene animation continues to be one of the best things in these remakes. Also worth noting is that Cortex now carries a crystal with him during his boss fight in Crash 2 rather than his ray gun (which he never used there anyway). This is a welcome change as it makes the fight's context more logical. All in all, this was a cool surprise and likely a sign of more character videos to come.

A dynamic PS4 theme based on Sunset Vista was announced as a bonus for pre-ordering the game. The level's familiar tune plays in the background as the wallpaper switches between several screenshots, letting you relive all the pain and anguish of trying to get the gem without even playing the game. Curiously, the new version of this tune and the Upstream video confirm that the soundtrack will not be using the animal sound effects from the original Crash 1. Oh, you also get a couple of avatars along with the dynamic theme: one with the original Crash model and another one with the N. Sane version.
(UPDATE: It looks like these pre-order bonuses are exclusive to the US, so you might want to keep that in mind before you make your way to the PlayStation Store. Thanks to Ben Robinson for pointing this out!)

In case you missed it, there was an official contest to have your idea for a new idle animation in the game. The winner hasn't been announced yet, but they'll also be getting a special prize of some sort. There were some truly great entries from a lot of talented fans, and I'm looking forward to see who gets picked and what things Crash will be doing when I'm not controlling him.

To end this roundup, here's something neat that came completely out of the blue: a brand new Crash statue is in the works by First 4 Figures, a company known for their extremely detailed and high quality video game merchandise. If you're interested in this sort of thing at all, you've likely heard of them before. The prospect of getting a Crash statue along with these remakes invokes a definite sense of excitement and nostalgia (plus it won't break like those Resaurus figures from 20 years ago if you look at it funny), and that's not even counting their second announcement: They're also working on a classic Spyro statue, and the sneak peek of its 3D mold is looking great! One kind of wonders if there's a chance for the purple dragon to receive the N. Sane treatment.

That's all for now! Pretty soon we'll be able to get reacquainted with these classics in modern form, though I'm sure we'll be seeing some WARPED stuff before release. Maybe we'll finally get our first glimpse of Coco then. It'd be a good opportunity to see how good the jet-ski levels will look (I just can't get enough of that water).



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