N. Sane Trilogy - First Impressions

The wait is over: We finally have the first gameplay footage and details for the upcoming remakes, which will come out in 2017 under the name of N. Sane Trilogy! This special project by Vicarious Visions promises to deliver the original Crash trilogy in one neat package with updated graphics and other improvements.

I had previously written about my predictions for this project, and at the risk of tooting my own horn, it seems like they were quite accurate! This is, indeed, a remake being made from scratch, as opposed to something like taking the original code and improving things from there, for the same reasons I had previously suggested.

Vicarious Visions prefers to refer to it as a "remaster plus", since they want to keep things as faithful to the original games as they can, only with some modernization and a few perks thrown in. This includes auto-saving (fixing the terrible save system from Crash 1), Time Trials being brought over to the first two games, remade cutscenes, and the box counter present in Crash 1.

Judging from the footage that's been shown so far (which includes Crash 1 only, sadly), the gameplay is very faithful to the original game, almost scarily so. For better or worse, the way Crash moves and the level design all seem like they're still the same game we first played 20 years ago, and that deserves to be acknowledged and praised. I'm kind of hoping you can unlock Crash's moveset from the sequels in the first game, but hey, one thing at a time!

As for how things look, well... This is where I feel that I need to be a little more critical. Although the N. Sane Trilogy sports a fancy graphical overhaul, there are quite a few things I'm not too fond of, but they all mostly boil down to three things: the animations, the lighting, and the character designs. I think the best word to describe them at the moment is "rough".

Crash's animations look very stiff sometimes, and while I understand that they might want to keep things close to how they used to be, I don't think anyone would mind if they just skipped the animations from Crash 1 and brought over the ones from the sequels. Another thing that's bugging me is how slowly Wumpa fruits and extra lives float up to the HUD. Speaking of which, what's up with that generic font? Please let that be a placeholder, Vicarious Visions.

As for the lighting, the way it looks right now is making the game much less colorful and vibrant than it was originally, and it even seems odd at times. Crash's fur appears to be downright red depending on the place, and some areas are either too dark or too muddy-looking. The atmospheric lighting and colors from the original game are muted often, and it's especially apparent in the trailer when they cut from the old graphics to the new ones, like when Crash is running away from the boulder. They also changed some level palettes for no discernible reason, which is very noticeable in levels like Temple Ruins.

As for the character designs, well... I don't know what the decision process for this was like, but after seeing Vicarious Visions do their darnedest at recreating Charles Zembillas's designs in 3D for Skylanders Imaginators, it's very odd to see them redesigning the cast yet again.

It's doubly weird when they want to make these games as close to the originals as possible. Does Papu Papu really need tattoos or a hole in his teeth? Why is Koala Kong so ridiculously huge? How come Komodo Moe is so short now? Most characters just look a bit off in various ways.

The character that's bothering me the most right now is Crash. Not because he looks bad or anything, but because I liked his design from Skylanders way too much to even consider them going back to something simpler. I think Crash in Skylanders looked perfect, and he was amazingly expressive with a ton of great, fluid animations, so I can't help but look at him in the N. Sane Trilogy and consider this version a downgrade.

Crash is surprisingly stoic during gameplay, and they also went back to the old color scheme for his fur (I've always preferred the new one where his muzzle connects to his stomach, but oh well). Still, I have to give credit where it's due: I don't think Cortex has ever looked this great, and the scene where he zaps Crash with the Evolvo-Ray really captures his old personality.

I also feel like I should mention the music. Yes, the old compositions are all still here, but as you'd expect, they've been recreated as well. The instrument choices change up some themes considerably, so I predict this will become a very subjective matter depending on the track. I personally don't like what they did with Heavy Machinery, but I can get behind the new rendition of Tawna's theme. I wonder if unlocking the original soundtracks is too much to hope for?

As a whole, the N. Sane Trilogy seems to have nailed the gameplay from the classics, though I can't quite say the same for its presentation just yet. But hey, we still don't know when exactly this will be released, so there's still time for them to fix some of the things that are looking a bit irksome. At the very least it already seems that it plays like the classics, and in the end, that's still what matters most!

(Be sure to visit the game's new section for plenty of screenshots and all the usual goodies!)

UPDATE: The opening cutscene from Crash 1 has been revealed, and it's by far the best-looking footage of the game so far:

Everything about this cutscene is amazing, from the way it looks (super fluid animation, great lighting), to the voice acting. They absolutely nailed the dialogue from the original game, even if Maurice LaMarche as Brio was always going to sound a bit different. Lex Lang is perfect as usual, and Jess Harnell as classic Crash is something I never knew I wanted.

I absolutely love the part when Crash comes out of the Vortex and Cortex's theme plays in the background. The music is just perfect for the scene (even moreso than in the original game). More surprisingly, it's great to see Tawna as more than a helpless damsel in distress, which was always one of my problems with the character. This time you actually see her fending for herself, rather than standing there motionless. If I had one little nitpick about the cutscene, however, is that she and Crash still never see each other, keeping us wondering when exactly they first met and why Crash didn't try to escape with her. All in all, an amazing cutscene and hopefully a sign of things to come!

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