Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy - Overview

After vanishing off the face of the Earth for the better part of a decade, Crash was revived by the studio behind most of the brand's Game Boy Advance output. Vicarious Visions combined their collective talent to take the bandicoot and his fans back to the franchise's roots, remaking the original PlayStation platformers for a whole new generation and long-time fans alike. Let's take a look at the N. Sane Trilogy and see how it stacks up against the beloved originals from two decades prior.

Crash stands on the beach while spinning a Wumpa fruit on the tip of his finger.The stunning graphics are leaps and bounds above the original trilogy and every other game in the series.

The N. Sane Trilogy fits Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2, and Crash Bandicoot: WARPED into one modern package. The most obvious changes here are the graphics: comparing the limited (though beautifully-aged) visuals seen in the original PlayStation to the beastly output of the PlayStation 4 is like night and day. Vicarious Visions' proprietary engine lifts the graphics to an almost CGI quality, thanks to the much more realistic lighting and environments, the amazing special effects (such as fur and water), and, of course, a higher resolution than ever seen in the franchise before. The base PlayStation 4 model lets you enjoy these games in 1080p at 30 frames per second, while the Pro model bumps up the resolution to 1440p (it also does away with a very minor and specific slowdown in the WARPED intro). Needless to say, you'll be fine regardless of which console you own, as the game looks beautiful either way, and the Pro model really doesn't improve things significantly (especially if you have a 1080p screen).

Crash is zapped by the Evolvo-Ray while being overseen by a nervous Nitrus Brio and a maniacal Cortex.The real-time cutscenes almost look like excerpts from a CGI movie.

The cinematics that play at the beginning and end of each game, as well as the Warp Room interjections with the floating heads, are arguably the best seen in the franchise up to this point. The characters move with such fluidity, everything is rendered so beautifully, and the scene transitions are done so professionally, that it would be easy to mistake these scenes for excerpts from a CGI movie. It becomes even more impressive when you realize that these are all being rendered in real-time using the game's graphics engine, which means there is no discrepancy between cutscenes and gameplay — the actual game looks just as good.

Everything has this really nice motion blur and a realistically cast shadow for a more natural feel (good luck taking screenshots that don't look like a blurry mess, though). Most animations during gameplay are more entertaining than before, and even though they don't quite reach the same heights as in cutscenes, this is a gorgeous, sharp-looking remake with a ton of detail and bright, vivid colors. The impact is even greater for anyone who remembers the original games, since comparing all the differences and looking at the gargantuan improvements becomes an absolutely joyful experience, regardless of the more subjective little things that only die-hard fans will notice.

Crash stands on a metal surface in front of a few patrolling robots and an acid-spewing pipe.The realistic lighting and special effects breathe new life into these classics.

To finish off in the topic of presentation, let's talk about the music. The original composer, Josh Mancell, had no input on the new tracks, and even though the N. Sane Trilogy doesn't change up the melodies too much, a lot of instruments sound different, and there was a deliberate artistic choice to make the new music sound like its own thing. It's a little concerning, however, that there are entire instrument layers missing from certain tracks. This happens most frequently with the animal sounds from Crash 1, and it makes the affected tracks feel more repetitive and simplistic to varying degrees. Thankfully, these tracks are the exception, and not the norm. The remaining changes are more subjective, and it's easy to pick up some new favorite tracks along the way while disliking certain changes, since unlike the graphics, the original games' music still holds up fine today (audio clarity aside).

On a more technical but by no means less important note, levels take roughly 10 seconds to load, which is in stark contrast to the original games, where most things loaded in 3 seconds. This may not seem like that big a deal, but it does add up in the long run (the level selection has to load too, so you're looking at a combined 20 second wait as you finish a level and move on to the next one). Not only that, but the game select screen itself takes some time to load as well. In other words, if you're booting up the game, you're looking at a minute-long wait until you get into your first level, excluding the time you spend navigating there and the unskippable intro, which is pretty long itself. This is nowhere near as bad as the original release of The Wrath of Cortex (which still holds the record for having the longest loading times in the series), but it's something worth noting nonetheless.

The outskirts of a medieval village.The level design is exactly as you remember it in all three games.

Now let's talk about the most important thing: the gameplay. The levels are perfect recreations of the originals, since the developers were actually able to reuse the level geometry from the past. Everything else was remade from scratch, which brought the opportunity to improve certain things. Crash's controls and physics have been unified across all three games, so you'll get a consistent experience from beginning to end, plus the ability to finally play Crash 1 with analog movement. The controls are most similar to the original version of Crash 2 (more specifically, Crash's momentum is cancelled when you stop moving in mid-air), which is a very reasonable choice given how easy it makes positioning Crash over crates. Jumping will take a bit of time to get used to if you're coming off the original games, but it works perfectly. To a point...

Crash slips off edges now (even if you're just jumping in place), so the tolerance for landing on a platform is much lower. You can even slip off crates if you're too close to the edge, which is most noticeable in bonus rounds where you often need to use crates as trampolines. Not only that, but the distance covered after bouncing on something is noticeably shorter than ever before (which even makes a specific secret impossible to reach now, though thankfully, it's entirely optional). These two issues make any segment that requires precision platforming or slightly longer jumps extremely unforgiving as a result, and The High Road in the first game is now absolutely dreadful as a result (those turtles will be the bane of your existence). For such a faithful recreation of the original gameplay, it's more than a little mind-boggling that these oversights made it to the final product.

Crash slips on ice.Ice-skating is notoriously hard in the N. Sane Trilogy.

Speaking of things that don't work too well anymore, if you've ever thought ice-skating was hard in the original games, then you're going to throw your controller in frustration when you try it in the N. Sane Trilogy. The ice physics are very wonky and Crash is unbelievably slippery, gaining way too much speed and being unable to turn around or jump properly. Good luck doing the Death Route in Cold Hard Crash (especially when you notice Crash is grossly off-center there for some reason).

On a more positive note, all games sport general improvements, and Crash 1 benefits the most from this, since it was always the worst-designed and most limited game in the bunch. You'll be happy to know that besides an auto-save feature being present in every game, you no longer need to beat bonus rounds to save in Crash 1, since this is automatically done for you every time you finish a level, making progression that much more enjoyable. The only downside is that Crash 1 is still as linear as ever, and you still have to beat all the levels in order.

Another major and very welcome change in the first game is that you can lose a life and still get a gem, since checkpoints now remember which crates you've broken like in the sequels (you can also check how many of them you're missing at any point in every game, something that was only present in WARPED before). The only exceptions to this rule are colored gems, which still require you to do perfect runs. Maybe this was done to make them more unique since they were never acquired through conventional means in the sequels, but it also means you have to bring in your A game or risk reliving some frustration (a simple option for restarting the level is still missing, despite being present in time trials). To make things consistent with the other games, all bonus rounds now count towards your crate total as well, but this time you're immediately free to retry them if you fail, thanks to some conveniently placed warp pads.

Dr. Nitrus Brio stands in his lab with some beakers in hand. Crash is standing in front of him, while a sentient blob with a face looks menacingly at the latter.Like many things in the new versions, the bosses are better balanced.

Not only that, but the dynamic difficulty from the sequels was carried over to the first game. Fail to reach a checkpoint too many times and you'll be granted an extra mask or two for protection, and if you're still having trouble, you'll get an extra checkpoint on your way to the next one. Certain things were also tweaked, such as the addition of visual hints here and there (like marks on the floor in Toxic Waste that let you know where the bouncing barrels will hit). This sort of hints is present in every game, but only where things used to be frustrating, unpredictable, or unfair. This makes the games more accessible for newcomers without taking the meat of the challenge away. Arguably, the same can't be said about the new text hints you get while loading a level, since most of them are either useless or reveal too much about secrets that are fun to find on your own.

It's worth noting that the bosses in the first game are actually harder now, since you no longer get free masks when you reach them (and Papu Papu has 5 hit points instead of 3). The bosses were never particularly tough, so combined with the newly-added dynamic difficulty, this makes things more balanced.

Crash 2 had very few glaring issues to begin with, but it does have similar improvements of its own (such as replaying bosses no longer being a hidden feature). Unfortunately, backtracking is still as awkward as it's ever been, and it's a shame the developers did nothing to fix it. Now that a fixed camera is no longer necessary to compensate for the demanding graphics, it would have been nice being able to turn it in a 180º angle, or even just have it zoom out more when you're running towards the screen, the same way it happens in chase levels. The rest is mostly kept the same, though Polar is now considerably looser in control, which will take you a while to get used to.

Coco rides Pura on the Great Wall of China while some Lab Assistants in Chinese garbs train in the distance.Pura and the vehicles feel different. Some changes are more intuitive than others.

When it comes to WARPED, you'll experience a number of changes with its vehicles and alternate gameplay schemes. Pura's top speed is insanely fast, for one, and drifting with the motorcycle is trickier, as it now requires you to let go of the acceleration as you turn. Swimming underwater has a few issues regarding movement, as turning around or spinning now pushes Crash into the direction he's facing even if you're not moving, making it easy to ram into a hazard sometimes. The sub's projectiles cover less distance, and it's impossible to cancel a speed boost (in fact, boosting has a nasty tendency to block your vertical movement after you return to normal speed).

The biplane is hands-down one of the largest improvements in the entire collection. It no longer automatically snaps to a position that is parallel to the ground, meaning you can aim diagonally without constantly having to push up and down. Not only that, but you can also slow it down in case you want to focus on a target, and aiming is made easier through the presence of a reticle. Thanks to the improved draw distance, you can even shoot things from much farther away. The biplane is the perfect example of how to revamp something in all the right ways, and you will never want to go back to the original versions of these levels after this. The only downside here is that you have to sit through the intro with Crash/Coco waving at the player whenever you lose a life or restart a time trial.

The jet-ski is a funny case. If you're used to the way it handled previously, then you're going to have a hard time adapting yourself to the new controls and physics, since it's generally more loose and the camera is always placed directly behind it. This, on the other hand, makes its movement more precise (the key is to let go of the acceleration while turning to avoid sliding). This vehicle is also considerably slower now, which may help with precision, but is kind of an odd choice compared to the introduction of analog acceleration (the game already lets you use the pressure-sensitive R2 button anyway, so it's kind of a wasted opportunity). The jet-ski is unique in that it's better suited for newcomers rather than long-time players, but practice makes perfect, and there is a good chance the new controls will grow on you regardless of your history with WARPED. Besides, it's not like the original jet-ski didn't have problems anyway.

Coco runs from a giant rolling boulder in the middle of the jungle.Coco is now fully playable in all three games.

The N. Sane Trilogy isn't just made of changes, though. It also brings a lot of brand new stuff to enjoy, such as a fully playable Coco. Don't let these words scare you, because even though Coco's never had it good as a platforming character in the past, this time she can be chosen at will and plays just like Crash. Coco doesn't have quite as many death animations as her zanier big brother, but she finally gets affected by a lot of hazards in a similar way he does (such as being crushed by boulders or smacked into the screen). She's much more expressive than ever before, no longer being a stoic and unfunny counterpart to our goofy protagonist. The difference between both characters is purely cosmetic, sure, but it's an appreciated bonus for those who like Coco or simply want a break from Crash. It's worth noting that the boss fights and most vehicle levels are still restricted to each character, so you won't be playing as Crash on the jet-ski or fighting Cortex with Coco, for example. The classic on-foot levels, however, are fair game for either bandicoot.

Time trials are now present in every game, as are trophies.

If you've always liked WARPED's time trials, you'll be pleased to know that they're now present in the first two games as well (thankfully, however, they're also entirely optional). You even get the speed shoes power in Crash 2 after beating the final boss. More interesting, perhaps, is the inclusion of online leaderboards so you can check how well you're ranking and indirectly compete against other players.

It's a bit of a shame that time trials still remove checkpoints, since it can be very frustrating to do a perfect run and mess up near the end. Thankfully, the only time trials you actually need to beat for the good ending are still WARPED's, which arguably has the shortest and easiest levels, as well as the lowest requirements. As such, it's a bit hard to call this a flaw, since it's up to you whether you want to spend over an hour trying to do a perfect run on the first game's Sunset Vista.

This being a PlayStation 4 title, there are, of course, trophies to collect. These optional achievements are scattered throughout the trilogy, and they range from mundanely easy to ridiculously hard. Each game has its own set of trophies (you'll even get three platinums for doing them all), and they're fun time-wasters for anyone who wants an extra challenge after getting everything there is to collect.

Looking at three games all at once is a lot to digest, but suffice to say that if you weren't there for the franchise's origins or you simply want to get reacquainted with these old favorites, the N. Sane Trilogy has you covered. With spectacular graphics and a slew of new features and improvements, these timeless classics are richer than ever. It's a shame bouncing and landing on platforms is botched, because this sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of a truly fun experience; one that reminds us why Crash was such an icon in the late nineties.

The good

  • The characters and environments look amazing
  • Outstanding cutscenes above anything previously seen in the franchise
  • Some things are more accessible thanks to some subtle hints and tweaks
  • The unified physics make Crash easier to control in the first game
  • The camera in jet-ski levels is much better. You might also prefer the new controls
  • The biplane is perfect
  • Optional time trials in the first two games
  • Online time trial leaderboards
  • Coco is fully playable in every game
  • Dynamic difficulty has been added to Crash 1
  • You can lose a life and still get a clear gem in Crash 1
  • Bonus rounds in Crash 1, though mandatory for gems now, can be replayed with no penalties
  • The awful save system from Crash 1 is gone and all games auto-save now
  • All bosses and hidden levels in Crash 2 are now easy to access after being unlocked
  • You can check how many crates you're missing in any level from any game

The bad

  • Crash covers less distance after bouncing on something, making many segments an exercise in frustration
  • He also slips off edges very easily, so precision platforming is ruthless
  • Ice-skating is very wonky and difficult
  • The underwater controls have gotten a bit worse
  • You might find the jet-ski hard to control if you're used to the original version
  • Crash 1 remains as linear as always in terms of level choices
  • Backtracking is still awkward and frustrating
  • A few music tracks are missing instruments and feel poor compared to the originals
  • The intro before the title screen is unskippable
  • Loading between levels takes a bit too long (switching games takes even longer)
  • There is still no restart option unless you're doing a time trial
  • For some reason, restarting a time trial after reaching the exit reloads everything (and yet doing it from the pause screen is always instantaneous)

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