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The Remake Conundrum

The herculean success of the N. Sane Trilogy has gotten everyone and their grandmothers asking for a Crash Team Racing remake. More recently, a Twinsanity one has been a hot topic as well. This got me thinking about the nature of remakes and what developers can do to create something people will look forward to, rather than being bored by the idea of retreading old ground continuously.

Remasters VS Remakes

Before we get started, I believe it's important that we establish the difference between a remaster and a remake. 'Remaster' is a colloquial term for taking an old work and modernizing it slightly to fit with current standards, without changing the overall experience. This can be anything from rereleasing a 4:3 ratio movie in 16:9 and better image quality to taking an old game and bumping up the resolution to HD and refining the controls. The content itself remains largely the same since the original source material gets reused.

A remake, on the other hand, takes far more liberties. When it comes to video games, there are various types of remakes, and we'll be focusing on two of them for this discussion. The first one is a straight-up remake where everything is redone from scratch but tries to be as faithful as possible. The N. Sane Trilogy is one such a remake. Don't let the marketing folks fool you — despite being thrown around as a remaster, it's actually anything but. In the world of video games, a remaster generally implies the reuse of the original code and assets, and the closest the N. Sane Trilogy got to that was using the original level geometry as the basis for everything else. From controls to graphics and even music, the developers started on square one, so it should be labelled as a remake — not a remaster.

Lastly, I'd like to draw your attention to a remake variant that's commonly known as a reimagining. Imagine a game that evokes the source material while still feeling like a whole new experience (compare something like the original Ratchet & Clank to the 2016 version and you'll get the picture). Such has never been the case in the Crash series, but we'll talk about that possibility in a little while.

Learning from the Experience

There are many lessons to be learned from the N. Sane Trilogy. A remake of the first three Crash games didn't just sound good on paper; it also proved to be worth the effort. However, like everything in life, it didn't come without its drawbacks, so what can we learn from it as an experience?

Let's start by determining what turned this collection into an object of so many people's desire. The reason why the N. Sane Trilogy's announcement was met so positively was, of course, because of the source material. The Crash games on the PS1 are the most widely beloved entries in the franchise, so if we had to go down the remake route, the choice seemed obvious.

It also made sense to reintroduce Crash's origins because those games are considerably old now, which meant there was a whole new generation out there who had never played or heard about Crash. What better way to introduce something to a new audience than show everyone how it all started? Not only that, but we're all aware of the infamous hiatus that lasted for a long time, right? Coupled with how inconsistent the franchise became over the years, it just made sense to start over fresh anyway.

Remakes are a delicate subject, though. When you're going to bring an old work back to life, you're always going to risk alienating fans because of the changes you do to it. Although the N. Sane Trilogy was met with critical acclaim (rightly deserved, in my opinion), it also changed many things that people expected to be kept the same (rightly criticized for, in my opinion). This ranges from artistic choices such as music and visual elements to gameplay differences. Some people prefer certain changes while others are bothered by them, but we always knew this would happen. Remaking the most popular Crash games was a logical decision, but it also meant the developers had huge shoes to fill. That's an important thing to note, and a reason why a reimagining can sometimes be a more viable option. This wasn't necessary for the N. Sane Trilogy, but not every game has aged as well as Crash's PS1 output.

History Repeats Itself

Sometimes you need to ask yourself if more remakes are truly necessary. We've gone over why the N. Sane Trilogy got away with it, but how much would this apply to another remake?

I think the main issue with going down this route extensively is that things just stagnate. If we're going to keep revisiting the past, no amount of improvements can save the franchise from heading towards a predictable path. After all, we've already walked through it before. The surprise factor disappears for the most part, and even though something like, say, Crash Team Racing with modern graphics and an online mode is admittedly enticing, we need to ask ourselves if that's worth the cost of something new and potentially more interesting.

Timing plays an important role here as well. What if we got nothing but remakes for the next few years? Sporadic remakes are easier to accept, because we'll have new adventures in-between to keep us tuned in. Now that we've gone back to Crash's origins, it would be nice to have something we've never seen before sometime soon.

That's not all. New games can deal with the thirst for a remake too. By incorporating elements from an old game into a new one, the nostalgia will still be there, but you also get to enjoy something new in the process. For those who want a CTR remake, imagine a brand new racing game that features the old CTR tracks as unlockable content. And those who want to see Twinsanity being remade, what if some of its characters and set pieces were reintroduced in a new adventure (for example, having Evil Crash as an antagonist under a different situation, or Nina recruited with a new purpose)? This could be a solid compromise between old and new, as long as the developers carefully consider the new game's context and which returning elements would fit there.

Old and New

I've never publicly spoken up about my opinion on remakes, and I've intentionally refrained from showing my stance on a return to Twinsanity because I didn't want to influence the fan base's reaction to that possibility. That said, you can probably extrapolate my standing on the matter if you consider my previous points.

On one hand, yes, I would most definitely love a remake of CTR and/or Twinsanity, but only under specific conditions and maybe not right now. At the moment, I'd like to see something fresh that hasn't been done before. A "Crash 4", if you will. If it were up to me, I'd put the remakes on hold for the time being (assuming we're only getting one game at a time anyway), but I wouldn't mind seeing elements from both these games making it into something new either. That's just my opinion, of course, and I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade. Moreover, a remake of either game would still make me happy depending on how it's handled, so let's talk about that.

Imagine CTR gets remade next. When you think about it, this is a game that would benefit from a straight-up remake (a.k.a. the N. Sane treatment). Its gameplay is timeless, and the tracks and arenas are all very fun and well-designed, so there isn't much you can improve besides adding online play and additional content (like, say, more characters and tracks). Nevertheless, I would like to stress that CTR is only so fondly remembered because its mechanics are as deep as they are fine-tuned, and Vicarious Visions' first attempt at emulating them, though far from terrible, could have gone better (I speak, of course, of Crash Nitro Kart). As a result, I'm very wary of a remake that tries to be as accurate as possible, because I find there's a sort of "uncanny valley" thing going on when it comes to replicating gameplay — the feel of having something that's very close but not quite there can end up being more distracting than playing something entirely different. Crash Nitro Kart is a prime example of this and one of the reasons it's my least played racer in the series. Again, CTR's shoes may be too big to fill, but we shall see.

Then there's Twinsanity. It's no secret by now that I love this game in spite of its numerous flaws. Heck, Crash Mania wouldn't even exist if I hadn't played it all those years ago (but that's a story for another time). And yet, the only way I'd like to see it remade would be as something noticeably upgraded. Not having all the glitches is an obvious improvement from the get-go (even if a lot of them are really fun), but I don't think simply remaking Twinsanity bit by bit like with the N. Sane Trilogy would work, especially since we're talking about a very short game here. I think Twinsanity would be better off as a reimagining with new levels, retooled mechanics, and story elements the developers never got around to using before. Speaking of which...

One of the main reasons people want to see a Twinsanity remake is due to all the unused content the developers had no time to implement. These concepts looked heartbreakingly promising, and I agree that finally seeing them come to life would be a dream come true. That does make me wonder about a third option, though: why not simply make a new game out of it? I'm not opposed to keeping the original set pieces and characters for a reimagining of sorts, but Twinsanity stood out because it was something new for the franchise, and that's the feeling I want to get from the next titles. Luckily, if you count Evolution, there's enough unused stuff to create two, maybe three entire games! We certainly have no shortage of great ideas, at the very least, and that's where the true potential lies.

What Comes Next?

The franchise's direction is unclear at this point, but we do know for sure that it has a bright future, thanks to how wildly Crash's revival surpassed even the highest expectations (something Activision themselves have said word for word). There are various distinct possibilities from here on out, but whether they involve revisiting the past or focusing on something different, there are some things we should keep in mind before moving forward:

  • The more popular a work is, the more difficult it is to do it justice;
  • A remake should take liberties where necessary;
  • Retreading old ground continuously is not the way to go;
  • Timing is important for remake announcements;
  • Old elements can be reintroduced in new games for the best of both worlds;
  • CTR would be better off as a straight-up remake;
  • Twinsanity, on the other hand, would work better as a reimagining;
  • The unused content from the latter is extensive and popular enough to be brought into action.

Now... when are we getting a Crash: Boom, Bang! remake?


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