The mascot-laden decade of the 90s has finally shot its last major anthropomorphic mistake of science and god alike into the high-definition age. Growing up, I was on the Sonic and Mario train, treating them to the majority of my gaming hours while only glancing against Crash a few times. Even so, I remember that push for him to be the Sony gaming mascot, the entertainment titan willing to fully distill itself down to an orange bandicoot with his tongue hanging out. For the kids or something.
I did get some Bandicoot mileage in these thumbs somewhere in my early teens and even more in this N. Sane trilogy, and I’ve become amused at how time has reshaped my opinion. I remember playing Wrath of Cortex in the back of my grandmother’s trailer on a twelve-inch corner TV, thinking “This is pretty fun!” without many drawbacks. My cousin, she being a big Crash fan, introduced me to the second and third games, my mind holding the second one up as the best of the three for years and years as the series’ quality lessened before becoming just another series to me.
This trio of Crash Bandicoots brought that thought to mind again, a distant memory popping back into place that Wrath was the one I simply had to play again. That was immediately proven faulty by time and perception alike.
This is of no fault to Vicarious Visions, the makers of this night-and-day grouping of graphical remasters, but actually falls at the feet of old Naughty Dog themselves. Each of the games is basically shot-for-shot how they mechanically worked in the originals, only with way more graphical heft. Everything looks gorgeous and shined…except for Crash himself. He’s never looked like a scholar by any stretch but the new art style turns his bottom lip and limbs into rubber. The exaggerated movements of yester-year are all the more involved with these effects fully shown every time you conquer a level. It’s the trite 90s mascot dance of flailing and funny noises that is not missed – you know the one.
Anyways, Wrath isn’t the best it turns out. For me, it’s reverse order with the simplicity of the first game far outshining the jumps and whirls of the latter two. You always know what you’re looking at with the execution and obstacles in the first game. A gap is just a gap, a boulder is just a boulder, and no one even thought of the words “jetpack” or “motorcycle”. The difficulty and I happily graduated in the same class at Platformer High where one could waste an obscene amount of lives in the name of science and experimentation. Sure, that one bridge level sucks to get everything on but I will take the practice-makes-perfect route with a sense of control and mastery growing even as my lives diminish.
Unlike most of the semi-upgraded remasters, there aren’t any nifty extras from the main menu in Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy – to no detriment of the package itself. Vicarious throws you right into a choice of which game you want to begin chiseling away at completion, immediately and rightly highlighting this well of nostalgia and discovery.
I can comfortably say I had plenty of fun looking at and playing Crash Bandicoot for the first extended time in years. This is in the vein of Ratchet & Clank’s big comeback tour to where a side-by-side video is a sight to behold. The graphical power at work here ultimately makes this more visually impressive than mechanically, which makes perfect sense on paper. Modernity won’t change your mind if you loved and/or hated Crash. It’s time itself that changed my mind in a minor way, revealing all the kinks that all the graphical love in the world just couldn’t cover up.
Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy Score: