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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: June 29, 2018

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Switch Review - 'Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy'

by Andreas Salmen on July 20, 2018 @ 2:35 a.m. PDT

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy lets players spin, jump and wump as they take on the epic challenges and adventures from the three Crash games that started it all: Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped.

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In 1996, who would have thought that a comical rendition of a marsupial from Down Under would define the jump-and-run era on Sony's PlayStation console? While Nintendo had its favorite plumber explore the first semi-open-world 3D adventure we had seen to date, Crash Bandicoot successfully created an experience on the rivaling home system and become a video game icon. Naughty Dog's creation has since seen several spin-offs, with actual sequels few and far between, but the titles didn't catch on nearly as well. What's the next best thing to an actual sequel? That's right: a proper remake.

The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was released in 2017 on the PS4, and the PC, Xbox One and Switch versions came out this year. We took a look at the Switch version to determine how well a crate-smashing bandicoot can make the jump from more powerful consoles to the hybrid handheld.

The PS4 version was hailed by many as the best remake we've seen in years, and they may have been right. The N. Sane Trilogy revives all games of the original trilogy: Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back, and Warped. Instead of just giving them the expected HD overhaul, developer Vicarious Visions completely remade all assets and pieced together an experience that feels distinct while still capturing the essence of the series. The Switch port was done by the same developer of the original port, and they did a fantastic job given the Switch's limited hardware capabilities, but more on that later.

In case you're not familiar with Crash Bandicoot, he's a comically exaggerated Bandicoot that usually squares off against his creator and nemesis, Doctor Neo Cortex, to spoil his plans of world domination. While the first title mostly takes place on Crash's home of the Wumpa Islands, the two sequels mix up locations frequently, with time and location jumps as well as the inclusion of Coco Bandicoot as a playable character throughout the trilogy. The actual games are best described as 2.5D platformers that provided quite the challenge when they were originally released. The camera is often placed directly in front of or behind Crash as we run, jump, punch, slide and crouch through the colorful world. Along the way, he defeats a diverse mix of enemies, smashes a staggering number of wooden crates, and defeats inventive bosses.

Crash Bandicoot is still a lot of fun to play, with colorful and packed levels that look even sharper today and a lot of moments that are reminiscent of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Crates have always been the most prominent part of the game, and each level could only truly be completed if all wooden boxes were found and destroyed. The crates provided and introduced minor puzzle elements on top of more challenging and diverse platforming ideas. They populated the stages in Crash Bandicoot and added some purpose while using the least polygons possible — a rare commodity in those days. Cortex Strikes Back and Warped extended and built on these core ideas, making them a more fleshed-out and nicer experience when compared to the rather rough original, which still holds true in this remake. Bosses are more interesting, there are more crystals to collect, vehicle missions aren't quite as infuriating, checkpoints are more achievable (as are lives, for that matter), and Crash's move set receives a few extra tricks. The disparity between titles is still present in the N. Sane Trilogy, and fans of the original games may not be too fond of that.

The first Crash Bandicoot title wasn't an experience to breeze through. It's a pretty short title — every game in the trilogy is short, though — that's severely prolonged by some challenging stages. The stages don't break the game and aren't overly infuriating, but they were difficult, especially for young gamers. Although the original trilogy was created and released in less than four years, the three titles do things differently in terms of enemies, hitboxes, platforming, and its general feel. The N. Sane Trilogy makes all three games into a cohesive whole and seems to focus on the sequels, especially Warped, without significantly updating the level design everywhere else. As a result, Crash often doesn't feel the same, especially for people who are familiar with it.

The first, and coincidentally toughest, game is even more difficult in this version due to a few factors. The hitboxes are different than they were before, making Crash slide down the edges of platforms when it seems he should have landed on them safely. The collision detection of enemies is not always correct and can end in one of the countless deaths within the game. Of course, technology has evolved quite a bit to render and display edges as they really are. Gone are the days of generously hovering in the air at the edge of a platform like we used to in these kinds of games. In combination, this adds a frustration level that noticeably exceeds the original, and newcomers are encouraged to skip the first game to experience the more streamlined and optimized approach in the two other entries. Playing the trilogy back to front might be the best idea.

The first title isn't unplayable or unfair, but it has a weird learning curve that isn't as approachable as the originals, so the tougher segments are harder on the thumbs. Playing the game in handheld mode with Joy-Cons is an OK experience, but using a Pro Controller is the more precise and preferred input method, especially since Crash can feel "floaty" on occasion.

What we haven't answered yet is whether the N. Sane Trilogy is fun — and it is. While it's not a well-rounded gameplay approach, using a new engine and combining all three games into one was a great idea that paid off. Even though we are talking about three games that are over 20 years old, they hold up well, and thanks to the new paint, they're the perfect entry point for anyone who hasn't experienced Crash yet. By extension of that argument, the Switch may also be the best console to experience the game on, due to its approachability, portability and the fact that we can quickly jump in and out of the game at any point. The controls are tight, the platforming and level of detail and variety are amazing, the concept is fun, and it looks better than ever — even on the Switch.

Of course, it's no surprise that some sacrifices had to be made to run the game on the Switch, but the results are equally impressive and beautiful. While the Switch version can be easily identified when shown next to an Xbox One or PS4 iteration, the differences are rather minor. Fur effects have been removed, which isn't necessarily visible from afar but can make models look a bit like plastic. The other major change is the reduced resolution, which results in slightly blurry image quality in both handheld and docked mode. The big payoff is that the game runs without any major hitches or frame drops. Of course, there may be the occasional stuttering here or there, but overall, we're looking at a mostly stable frame rate. Coupled with a good implementation of HD Rumble and a few extra stages that really test our skills, the N. Sane Trilogy feels like a great collection of cult classic platforming in a beautiful HD package.

At the fair price of $40, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy offers three fun platforming classics that have been re-created from the ground up, and only minor adjustments have been made for the Switch. The first title suffer from its unification strategy, so it's a more frustrating experience, but Cortex Strikes Back and Warped play really well. The visual style and graphical performance on the Switch are fantastic thanks to the minor adjustments, making this a well-deserved port for the handheld's library. If you don't have enough retro platforming on your Switch yet, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is as close as it gets to nostalgic perfection, even though it's "just" a remake.

Score: 8.2/10

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