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Crash Bandicoot Remastered: What to Expect?

With the recent announcement of the original Crash Bandicoot games being fully remastered for the PlayStation 4, fans around the world are overjoyed, curious, and even confused. We know it's coming next year and we know Vicarious Visions are behind this project, but other than that, there's very little information about this upcoming revival. I propose we take a good look at what we do know so far to have a better perception of what to expect.

Not only that, but I also propose we speculate. Because speculating is fun. But first let's try to make some sense out of this whole thing.

Remaster or Remake?

This is the question on everyone's mind. Ever since Shawn Layden announced a remaster of Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back, and WARPED at E3, we've all been wondering what exactly he meant by his short yet contradictory description, namely that the games are being, and I quote: "fully remastered from the ground up".

This doesn't make a lot of sense in and of itself. Remastering a work usually means giving it a few touches to improve the overall look and/or sound, while preserving everything that people remember about it. A typical game remaster could be a simple resolution bump to make the graphics sharper. This is why the second part of Shawn's description makes things confusing. You either remaster something or you build it again from the ground up. These two things just don't mix.

Like most things in this article, I want to point out that the following is pure speculation, so don't take any of my thoughts at face value. That said, I think remastering the games in the true sense of the word is out of the question. You only really have two options when you go down this route: you can port the games to the PlayStation 4, or you can emulate them with a higher screen resolution, among another minor perk or two.

Artist's rendition of a lazy port.

The first option would be extremely hard - all three games were coded in GOOL, a very specific tool created by Andy Gavin and Dave Baggett that no other developers really know how to work with (and there's a lot of other technical difficulties that, for the sake of keeping it simple, I won't go into). If Vicarious Visions are going to put that much effort into it, they might as well remake the whole thing and make it look like an actual PlayStation 4 game, don't you think? Conversely, the second option would just be lazy. Slapping the games onto an emulator would just be insulting, especially considering this would make it impossible to give the games modern standards like widescreen, which is the bare minimum in this day and age. This would hardly be worthy of the name "Remastered", and I seriously doubt it's ever crossed the developers' minds.

But that's not all. As you've no doubt already noticed, Crash's appearance in Skylanders Imaginators is also being developed by Vicarious Visions, and they put a lot of effort into redesigning the character in a way that could appeal to as many fans as possible, especially the older ones. They even went as far as digging up concept art and design documents that are of legal age to drink. I don't think this whole process was done just for a guest appearance in a game that isn't even Crash-related. Thus, if they're going to have this new design in the remasters, the games will logically have to be remade from scratch.

Seeing Crash's archipelago in HD for the first time could be truly amazing.

"Then why is the term 'remastered' being used to begin with?", I hear you asking. Honestly speaking, I think it's more of a buzzword. Not just because it's got a nice ring to it (I'm already imagining Cortex and Uka Uka announcing the title "Crash Bandicoot REMASTERED" when you pop in the disc), but also because the remasters are meant to be a nostalgia trip. What do I mean by this? It's quite simple...

The PS1 Crash games were always extremely popular, and there are tons of people out there who, like me, have very fond and personal memories of them. It's only natural that those wanting to relive those memories need to be reassured that this upcoming project still has everything that made the original games great. Thus, even if the games are being totally remade, the term "remastered" implies that all the key points that made them work will still be there. Whether Vicarious Visions succeeds or not is something that remains to be seen, but I would like to point out that if there's anything they've proven with their experience with the franchise, it's that they can recreate the gameplay and feel of the PS1 games to a T (at least as far as the platformers are concerned; Crash Nitro Kart was a bit of a misstep).

What Changes Can We Expect?

Crash's appearance in Skylanders Imaginators could be a clue.

If we assume that the games are, indeed, being totally remade, the possibilities suddenly open up a lot more. I've mentioned that modern graphics are almost certainly a no-brainer, and I'm confident that Crash's design used in Skylanders Imaginators is going to be used in the remasters as well (if I had to take a guess, I'd say they will keep his proportions closer to the promotional art, if only because there has to be a reason behind the art looking different from his in-game model, and also because it makes Crash much closer to his original design).

The voices would most definitely be redone as well. Audio standards have improved quite drastically since the PS1 era, and the original dialog sounds lackluster on more advanced set-ups (heck, even in old TVs WARPED sounded quite muffled whenever someone was speaking). Not only that, but if Skylanders Imaginators is of any indication, the newer voice actors are probably going to reprise their roles. We already have Jess Harnell as Crash and Greg Eagles as Aku Aku in that game, so it wouldn't be farfetched to assume that Lex Lang will be Cortex, Debi Derryberry will be Coco, and so on.

The music is a similar case. The original soundtracks heard in-game weren't high-fidelity, as the quality suffered with the conversion to the PS1. We don't know if Vicarious Visions are planning to have an in-house composer to remake the soundtrack, but we do know that the original composer, Josh Mancell, hasn't been contacted about the subject (although he's openly mentioned that he'd be onboard for the whole thing).

Gameplay-wise, I've already pointed out that Vicarious Visions is experienced in making their games feel like the PS1 trilogy, and now they have an even better excuse to do so. My guess is that the levels and object placement won't change too drastically, but I still hope the team won't be afraid to change things where they need to be changed. After all, the original games are far from perfect, and there are a few pockets of level design that can be a bit rough around the edges, most notably in the first game. Speaking of which, I believe this is the game that will change the most.

Sometimes I wake up at night in a cold sweat as I see flashes of Sunset Vista before my eyes.

The original Crash Bandicoot has always felt a bit alien compared to the sequels, as Naughty Dog was still experimenting with a lot of things. Supposedly, the remastered games will all be part of a single package, so I wouldn't be surprised if they were unified in terms of gameplay and perks (like the crate counter, for one). Maybe we'll be able to play Crash 1 with the controls and extra moves from the sequels, but even if we don't, I'm sure they'll at least fix the awful checkpoint and save systems (in fact, I'd be surprised if all 3 games didn't auto-save now). I mean, breaking all the crates without losing a life is the only reason I never go for 100% in the first game anymore.

Since we're speculating about things they could add, how about Time Trials in Crash 1 and 2? It would definitely be quite interesting, and now that we're no longer in the late nineties, they would do well in creating online leaderboards for some good old-fashioned competition, and perhaps even the ability to race against other people's ghosts. I think these are all things that could make the games feel fresh while still retaining their original qualities at the same time. I do think Time Trials should be optional, though, at least in the first two games.

A fixed camera doesn't have to be a bad thing.

There is also something else I'd like to see addressed: backtracking. Running against the camera after the road split so you could break all the crates was never fun, and it was easily the thing I disliked the most about Crash 2 since it was so frequent there. I've seen people suggest there should be a camera flip button to make things easier, and I think it's a terrific idea. At the very least I think the camera should be pulled back more when you start running towards it so you can see where you're going (I never really understood why they only did this for chase scenes).

People have also been wondering about the story. Will there be extra cutscenes, or will they stick to the Warp Room dialog? Is Crash 1 going to show the intro when you start a new game instead of hiding it in the idle demo? When you think about it, there are a lot of improvements that could be done in this regard. I'd like to see a bit of subtle foreshadowing leading up to Coco and Uka Uka's appearances, just so they don't seem shoehorned into the plot. Likewise, it would be interesting to see what happens to Tawna after the end of Crash 1. Maybe they can even show Crash interacting with her in the beginning, or how Crash and Aku Aku first meet, or even the growing conflict between Nitrus Brio and Cortex. These are all interesting things that have always been told through the manual, and now would be a good time to actually show them.

Time Will Tell

The only thing we know with absolute certainty right now is that Vicarious Visions has what it takes to revive the brand. They've shown tremendous dedication with Skylanders Imaginators already, and there's no reason to think they'll stop there. All we can do right now is wait and speculate, but that's always been part of the fun.

What do you think the remasters will be like? Do you have a different point of view or anything you'd like to add? If so, post your thoughts in the comments and share your opinion!

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