At the beginning of this year, Sony reinvigorated the Ratchet & Clank franchise with the surprisingly excellent PlayStation 4 remake of the first Ratchet & Clank (and a rather unfortunate feature film). That Ratchet & Clank remake proved that there was a high demand for re-imagined old games, and it perfectly managed to capture the spirit of the original while imbuing it with the lessons learned from over a decade of refinement. Activision and developer Vicarious Visions are taking a similar approach with the upcoming remakes of the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy, but it's much more focused on preservation than refinement.
We got some quality time with the latest build of Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy at PSX 2016, and the thing that immediately grabs one's attention is that this is a pretty game. Much akin to Ratchet & Clank, Crash Bandicoot isn't afraid of showing off goofy visuals in gloriously detailed HD environments. Crash's densely detailed coat of orange fur now makes him resemble a marsupial pipe cleaner. The camera has a slight motion blur effect as you move through stages, and there's hardly a sharp edge or jagged polygon in sight. Colours pop and environments are filled to bursting with more charming detail than ever before. From a visual standpoint, this is a physical embodiment of the idealised version of the game that you see in your mind when you recall it fondly from your younger years.
The gameplay, on the other hand, is exactly what it was from over 20 years ago. We got to play through the iconic first level, N. Sanity Beach, and a much harder level from later in the game, Heavy Machinery. What was immediately apparent in our run through is that Vicarious Visions has gone to great pains to ensure that this is essentially a beat-for-beat reproduction of what came before, right down to the exact placement of every box. From what we've seen, it's done a remarkable job in this endeavour, but there's still a feeling that perhaps it did the job a little too well.
Sure, you can control Crash with the analogue stick in all three games now, but you'll very quickly go back to the D-Pad when the occasionally unforgiving controls get in the way. If you tilt the stick the slightest hint in the wrong direction as Crash is coming down on a platform, there's a good chance that he'll overshoot it entirely. If you don't initiate a spin attack within inches of touching an enemy, it'll probably be out of range and you'll just spin in place. The Crash remake looks like a PS4 game, but it still plays like a PSone game.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. After all, if Vicarious Visions took liberties in the game design to make it "easier", there'd likely be an outcry that the studio wasn't faithful to the games. And really, no other platformer has physics that feel quite the same as Crash; the difficulty is an integral part of its charm. This particular writer took great pride in clearing a bonus stage that the developer said only one man in the Vicarious Visions office was capable of clearing. It's certainly a fun game to play, and it speaks volumes to the timeless nature of the original.
It'll be interesting to see, then, what the final product looks like. The developer we were with was coy on the subject of additional modes or other changes, so there's a good chance that there will be more to this Crash remake than just straight ports of the original three games with a fresh coat of paint. However, it seems likely that this remake will more or less emulate the gameplay and difficulty of the originals flawlessly, with very little tweaking or adjustment to some arguably outdated gameplay elements. Whether that's a positive or a negative will ultimately depend upon how much you enjoyed the original games. Either way, this is clearly being made as a love letter to fans of the original Crash games, and we can't wait to see more of it as we move through 2017.
Will you be binging on Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy like it's a Wumpa fruit pie? Do you think more should be done to modernise the gameplay, or do you want it to play like the PSone originals? Spin attack the comments section below, and let us know.