Pretty much every gaming console released in the last 30 years produced character that became the unofficial mascot for the company – Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, Microsoft had Master Chief and Sony had Crash Bandicoot. Yet while the first three characters are still appearing in games today, Crash was pushed aside to make room for newer and cooler characters such as Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter and Nathan Drake. As the original Playstation era was coming to an end in 2000, developer Naughty Dog let the rights go to Activision and while a few new Crash games were released over the last 15 years, they were met with mediocre reviews and diminishing sales.
In 2016, Naughty Dog surprised fans by including an easter egg in Uncharted 4 which allowed you to play a level from the original game. While rumors had persisted for years that a new Crash Bandicoot game was possibly coming, this was the first actual sign that things may be actually happening on the sequel front. Soon after Uncharted 4, it was announced that Crash would be a playable character in the most recent Skylanders game. Then at the 2016 E3, it became official – Crash Bandicoot was indeed returning and his first three games (Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back & Warped) were being bundled together in the N. Sane Trilogy.
The first three games in the series are among the best platformers to ever be released on Sony‘s consoles. Hearing that they would be coming back for a whole new generation would be good enough, but the fact that the games have all been completely rebuilt from the ground up increased the appeal a hundred times over. Better yet, everything that made the original trilogy so special has returned, albeit with better graphics. The level designs are the same, boss battles are the same, controls are the same… if you were a fan when the games were first released, you should still be a fan now. Also adding value to an already great package is the inclusion of Crash’s sister Coco as a playable character in all three games and, for those who like a challenge, time trials for all non-boss levels in each game.
There isn’t much of a plot to speak of, but the games sure are fun to play. Each game has you controlling the Australian marsupial as he traverses various levels spinning into boxes and collecting apples while avoiding dangerous hazards and deadly creatures. The latter games also included animals you could ride and a few vehicle levels to mix things up a bit, but the traditional platforming was still the focus. Some levels require you to run up the screen, some need you to run towards the screen and a few have you running through a side scrolling level. Now, after hearing all this, you may think that these games may be a quick and easy way to spend some time. Well, you’d be very wrong…
The original Crash Bandicoot game may very well be one of the hardest platformers ever released on a Sony system. Between the need for precision jumping and exact timing, many gamers may find themselves pulling their hair out or throwing their controllers. The 2nd and 3rd games eased up on the difficulty somewhat, but they are still fairly difficult. The time trials, while completely optional, are absolutely brutal. Having to complete a level you just wasted countless lives on, but in the shortest possible time and without dying, is the stuff nightmares are made of. Completionists are going to have their hands full with these games.
In an industry full of high definition remasters that offer nothing new but a slight graphical upgrade, or remakes that change too much of what made the originals great, it is nice to see an actual remake that keeps everything intact. There was clearly a lot of love put into the N. Sane Trilogy, and it shows. It is my hope that the game is not only played by fans of the games from the Playstation 1 era, but it is also experienced by younger fans that never had the opportunity to play them back in the late 90’s. In any case, this is an amazing package and I truly hope that, after over 15 years, this finally leads to a true Crash sequel.