Crash Bandicoot Review: N. Sane Trilogy

Those who have been playing it for a few days already know it (or have remembered it): the first three chapters of Crash Bandicoot are challenging and require surgical precision to be addressed, before being completed. And the same goes for the judgment below.

a product impossible to categorize under a single label

Never a videogame product has brought a playable version of the Buddhist parable “The blind and the elephant” to the shelves. Why Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy it can be defined - and judged - under different lights and different aspects, and each of these possible analyzes would be fundamentally true. There is no doubt that this is one of those initiatives that we now define Operations Nostalgia, which in the wake of the advancing old go to revive old glories of the past (if they are in crisis so much the better) trying to find them a permanent center of gravity. But at the same time it is a platform triptych that marked the history of the first PlayStation, the debut of one of the most popular studios on the videogame scene today and waged war on icons such as Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. And again, of three platform sui generis, which on the one hand can certainly be attacked and questioned on the construction, concept and mechanics front, but on the other hand they were ambassadors of that overturning of philosophy that characterized the PlayStation generation. And on each of these aspects we could give a different judgment, to write a separate study, transform thoughts that are into words on the screen at the antipodes among them.

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy is a kaleidoscope to be faced armed with controllers and a lot of patience, practically impossible to tell in a completely detached, unique or "complete" way.

The evaluation proposed here at the bottom, never as in this case, it is purely indicative: if you are from that parish that considers Crash Bandicoot a failed experiment, a laughingstock within the genre of belonging or you simply no longer have the time and desire to curse in front of your TV, divide our result by two. If instead you feel the need to dive in in the mid 90s add one, two or even three votes, because the N. Sane Trilogy is launched, undoubtedly we go back twenty years. For better or for worse.

The first four letters of "analog"
The N. Sane Trilogy re-proposes the originals in all respects, for better or for worse

You should have understood it, below you will not find a fictionalized version of the contents proposed by this almanac of the Naughty Dog Crash or what they represented, but rather words that try to tell about the restoration directed by Vicarious Visions and above all how much today, in the middle of the journey of your videogame life, the three titles can be. And about this work, putting aside all the preconceptions that one may have when it comes to removing three-generation titles from mothballs, there is not much to say: Vicarious has done an almost unassailable job, loyal original in spirit and appearance and truly honest in manners and results. Basically it is like being in front of a painting traced on the original but using more modern techniques, which gives a good glimpse of the starting material under the graphic doodles animated by PlayStation 4. Of course, there are some secondary content extras (the Warped timed challenges contaminate, for example, even the first two chapters), but the feeling is the same year of release of the three titles. And it is already at this point that this treatment can be interpreted as a huge pro or as a missed opportunity, given that the woodiness of the trilogy is inevitably re-proposed, especially when you are grappling with the first - and from this point of view poorer - chapter.

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We have already talked about it and we will have the opportunity to return to the subject, but Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped are three three-dimensional video games in name but not in fact, heavily conditioned by the original platform (the first PlayStation will introduce analog sticks only at a later time) and for the most part thought before the advent of Super Mario 64, one of the titles that evangelized the market and explained how a three-dimensional title had to be made on the controls side. The N. Sane Trilogy is playable using the analogs of Dualshock 4, but the effect is alienating and not particularly successful, so much so that in different game segments it is wiser and more comfortable to rely on the controller's D-Pad, certainly not the tool best for moving in a three-dimensional context. But on the other hand much of the sadistic charm and the level of challenge of the three titles, especially if you look at the coordinates of the first and infamous chapter, passes through these crude checks and the contrived difficulty they add to the experience. In this, Crash Bandicoot has always been more inspired by Sega's blue hedgehog rather than the Nintendian plumber series. Rougher and less textbook game design, but fast-paced, fun and quite bad too. It is no coincidence that during development the codename chosen by Naughty Dog was “Sonic's Ass Game” - the game of Sonic's ass, in our language. It is not the most noble label in the world, but it is undoubtedly effective and in its own way also prophetic, given that the Sonic series will take its cue from the approach "to corridors where you run" which is the trademark of the three titles.


Bad game design ≠ bad game design

And one of the criticisms that most inflamed the network in recent days - and which at the time bounced on the ancestor of the network, the paper magazines through which we informed ourselves - is precisely that about the crudeness of playful solutions taken at the time by Naughty Dog and obsequiously re-proposed today by Vicariuos (which indeed, thanks to or due to the added in-game suggestions a little softens the difficulty of the trio, which remains high anyway). In reality, once the pad is taken back in hand, we realize how the developers at the time had done the math at home, and despite all the limitations due to the historical / technological context in which they came out, they brought to the screen really great things.

Terrible, sure, but great.

An imperfect design, but which draws charm and character from these edges

Especially in the first title there are moments in which the player is called to have a steady hand and ready reflexes, paying dearly for every mistake and having to really spit blood not only to complete the level by collecting all the boxes (a must of the series, for those who aim to collect all the gems) but also simply to get to the end of the game. Frustration, as we have said, also passed through some commands that are not at the top, which however then turns noisily into satisfaction, and hides what inevitably looking at some levels today becomes esteem and appreciation for some choices made. Having to calculate the jumps to the millimeter, bouncing from cash to cash, risking a life to hit a box "wedged" between two TNT, or even going in search of the secrets scattered in the second and third titles of the series, is a job that manages to still pay today. And that - we mentioned it - a bit like it happens with wine, the more it "ages" (moving on to the subsequent titles of the collection), the more it becomes appreciable, since Cortex Strikes Back then goes to filing away some of the distortions and excesses of the first chapter e Warped is even exaggerating, reinventing the formula and experimenting not only from one painting to another, but also within the same level. In short, anyone who talks about bad game design should perhaps put aside his prejudices and go back to the three titles: we have said it and we repeat it, surely these are not gimmicks to be studied in schools and undoubtedly there are those who have done better (Super Mario 64, on the other hand, is still the platform equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody), but that doesn't mean the Crash trilogy was badly drawn. Indeed, proof of this is the fact that if Naughty Dog drew from Sega, then Sega in turn drew from the marsupial of the American studio, and when it did, it packaged some of Sonic's most compelling three-dimensional moments.


The eye of the storm
In this case, the graphics are better than 60 fps

We want to close this atypical review by returning to what is now our canon, and dedicating the last paragraph - as per tradition - to the creation and technical rendering of the title. And here surely someone will turn up their nose for the choice to "limit themselves" to thirty frames per second, in place of the sixty of the originals (fifty, here in Europe). In reality, however, it must be said that it is not one of those hybrid platformers typical of Sony, which go to mix exploration with the shooter or with the action. It may be disappointing - or rather, unsettling - the fact that three games from twenty years ago do not run at 60 fps on PlayStation 4, but it is a limitation of concept rather than physical. Vicarious has focused more on the more directly visual impact, and without a doubt hit the spot and turned on the pixels of the TV forming suggestive images, well packaged and at times almost surprising (especially when the game allows itself some bluster such as rains and other atmospheric phenomena).

Acoustically instead? Again, a twenty-year backward pike dive, proposed again with more modern and updated sounds. The notes on the score are those, but they have a more 2017 sound, going to perfectly meet the general mood of the entire initiative. The only drawback? We would have liked to have been able to “switch” to classic graphics and sound, as other similar initiatives have accustomed us to seeing in the past months and years.

Verdict 8/10 Are you hungry for apples? Comment You should ignore the vote opposite (or above, depending on the resolution). Really, it is the result of a (not so) weighted average between the various aspects that we have called into question during this non-review, and as such it therefore necessarily loses its expressive capacity. What you should be asking yourself is, simply, what do you think of the first three Crash Bandicoots. If the memory of the trilogy is enough to brighten your face with a smile, then go straight to the store - if you haven't already done so - and go home ready to regress to your childhood / adolescence / whatever it is. If, on the other hand, the judgment is negative, well, you already know what awaits you: Crash for better or for worse has not changed, the real question is whether and how much you have changed. Pros and cons Very faithful remake, even in the feeling
Crude, but very rewarding
Graphically guessed x Very faithful remake, even in the feeling
x "Only" 30 fps
x Classic graphics are missing

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