Nostalgia can be a funny thing. We all crave it, and it can often invoke a wonderful feeling of comfort and familiarity. Whether it be a movie or a book, or even a particular smell or taste, it can remind us of times past where we felt particularly content and happy. Sometimes however – particularly with movies and games – it can only serve to highlight just how far the medium has come in the years since. Sadly, that’s where I feel we’re at with the release of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a compilation of the original trilogy from esteemed developer Naughty Dog.
Developed by Vicarious Visions, the N. Sane Trilogy is a commendable attempt to remake the first three games in the series from the ground up, with the graphics treated to a complete overhaul for the PS4. Everything from the title character himself to the environments he explores look stunning, with leaves rustling in the wind and dynamic lighting proving a sense of realism we only ever dreamt of seeing. If you’re just bothered about graphics, this feels right at home on the PS4.
Otherwise, these are the exact same games that you played twenty years ago. The gameplay remains unchanged (although miniscule adjustments have actually caused the compilation to feel even more difficult than the original games – particularly the first entry), and the general presentation is more or less identical. You’ll need to progress through the levels in a largely linear fashion, smash boxes, collect crystals and gems, and beat down various bosses in exactly the same way as you used to. It’s all very familiar – to a fault.
At the time of its release, Crash Bandicoot was a confident, slick example of how to do 3D platforming at a time when the genre was still in nappies. Even compared to the sublime Super Mario 64, Crash was a joy to control and the stages felt focused and impressively challenging. Its sequels expanded on this even more, adding scuba diving and even motorcycle racing to the already varied gameplay.
In 2017 though, gaming has moved on – Crash Bandicoot has reached that age where arthritis sets in, and the gameplay just doesn’t hold up as it once did. The platforming feels rudimentary at best, and downright infuriating at worst. Jumps will often not land as intended, and the fixed camera angle exacerbates this by messing with your perception of depth, making it difficult to triumph over some of the more complex areas. I can’t even imagine how frustrating this would be for newcomers, who don’t even have the benefit of nostalgia to fall back on. These are old games, and it sure as hell shows.
Still, for those looking for a quick blast from the past, there’s still some fun to be had here. The games are packed with inventive levels ranging from Medieval Times to Ancient Egypt, with bonus stages unlocked through time trials and gem collection. The boss battles remain fun, if a little simplistic, and the general aesthetic of the game retains an endearing sense of child-like innocence that kids will undoubtedly adore.
Nevertheless, it’s hard not to compare the N. Sane Trilogy to the recent release of Ratchet and Clank on PS4. Not only did Ratchet and Clank receive a wonderful new lick of paint, but Insomniac Games also updated the gameplay and added heaps of new content without sacrificing the feel of the original title. The N. Sane Trilogy meanwhile, plays things frustratingly safe and gives us an experience that may well be crammed with nostalgia, but ends with a bitter feeling of disappointment and makes me feel, well, old.