Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
I remember when Crash Bandicoot was unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 1996. I was there. I played the game at Sony's PlayStation booth, and interviewed Jason Rubin, the game's co-creator, who quickly interrupted my first question to tell me that Shigeru Miyamoto had stopped by to play his game. He was beaming with excitement, and understandably so. Crash Bandicoot was the talk of the show. People called it Sony's answer to Mario and Sonic. Flash forward 20 years, and I find myself standing in Sony's booth at PlayStation Expo, starring at a television that is running a demo of Crash Bandicoot.
The moment is surreal, but also fascinating. For all the new games in the room innovating and pushing games forward, Crash Bandicoot has drawn the largest crowd. The game is still special. It still has the "it" factor that caught Miyamoto's eye, and it doesn't appear developer Vicarious Visions is changing much in its effort to remaster it.
Crash's character model is clearly more detailed (and a hell of a lot fuzzier), and the enemies finally have textures, but it plays exactly like it did 20 years ago. I have no problem sliding back into the groove of leaping over chasms, smashing boxes, and spinning through enemies. It's fun, challenging (in a slightly frustrating way), but still the same old Crash I remember, and that's okay.
Representatives from Vicarious Visions tell me that they don't want to change much at all. The maps are identical in design, right down to the boxes not moving from their original placements, which is surprising, since the levels have been rebuilt from scratch, and they look stunning.
Given the name of the game, Vicarious Visions is remastering all three of Naughty Dog's Crash Bandicoot titles. The demo I saw today was of Crash Bandicoot's first level, N. Sanity Beach, and a later stage in Dr. Neo Cortex's castle, called Heavy Machinery. I flew through the first stage, smashing all of the boxes along the way to unlock the diamond reward. Heavy Machinery reminded me of just how precise Crash's spin moves have to be to hit the targets. I struggle with this a little until I figure out the range again. I began by playing on the analog stick (which wasn't a part of the original game), but ended on the d-pad, finding it to be the preferred way to navigate this level.
Along with the analog stick support, the only noticeable changes I see to this remaster are time trial challenges, which unlock after the level is finished. The introductory cutscene is also entirely new, and even features new voice work from many of the same actors. Vicarious Visions also says all three games feature unified checkpoint and save systems. The team teased more features, but wouldn't even give me a hint of what to expect.
No matter what comes next, however, it appears Vicarious Visions is trying to keep the original vision of the game intact as best as it can. It was strange seeing Crash Bandicoot presented as a new game again, but given how much I enjoyed playing it again, it's clear it has timeless appeal. It's one of those classics that could very well entertain a new generation of gamers, even without innovating in over 20 years.