by Tanner Kinney
Disclaimer: This review is of the Nintendo Switch version of the game and was played primarily in docked mode. This copy of the game was provided free of charge by the developer for review purposes.
When Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was announced for the PS4, long-time Playstation fans were both shocked and amazed. Finally, a developer was going to give Crash Bandicoot the love it was missing for so long since the IP was acquired by Activision. However, the more incredible thing is that for the first time, the entire Crash Bandicoot trilogy would be available on non-Sony platforms. Particularly, die-hard Nintendo fans could finally experience the trilogy on a Nintendo console. Aside from the fact that Nintendo has claimed the head of another former rival mascot (first Sonic, now Crash), portability for these games is also something that’s great to have in theory.
The Switch port has everything intact from the PS4 version, along with all additional content that was added after release but now with portable capabilities. It’s nothing too special, but for those who’ve never gotten to experience one of pioneers in 3D platforming, it’s a very good treat.
Presentation that defines how remakes should be done
Vicarious Visions, a developer with a long and storied history of making shovelware, handheld ports, and Skylanders, does some impressive necromancy reviving the long-dead Crash Bandicoot series. Considering the developer previously worked on the less-than-impressive GBA Crash Bandicoot games, it’s clear that the developer’s history with the series encouraged them to turn the remakes up to eleven. Each remake has impeccable animation, sound design and music that brings the beloved bandicoot back in a big way. Crash and Coco especially are incredibly well-animated, with tons of personality into their faces and movements. I may not personally be a fan of the Crash Bandicoot soundtrack, but it’s a pretty faithful recreation. Then again, that’s all the same from the original PS4 release of this title. What does the port add to the experience?
The main draw of buying the game is either not having played it before or wanting to play it portably on Switch. As someone in both of those categories, this port has a lot of value. The main drawback is how the game runs in portable mode. Although they put effort into making the game run as smoothly as possible, menus are slow and choppy, and the game runs at a lower framerate in portable mode. The game doesn’t necessarily feel worse to play, but it is noticeably worse looking in portable mode compared to docked mode. If that’s a dealbreaker, then it’s not worth buying again for those who’ve played the game on PS4. The experience is still definitely worth having for those who own a Switch and haven’t played the game before.
One great game, one good game with flaws, and one game that’s absolutely infuriating
The best part about the N. Sane Trilogy is the fact is contains three games for roughly $40-$60. That’s a pretty sweet value for those looking for some bang for their buck. It should provide plenty of game time, though some of the games are longer than others, and some games are artificially lengthened by their difficulty.
Each game is roughly the same platforming experience. Crash Bandicoot is a 2.5D series at its core, not really true 3D like Super Mario 64. The levels are a series of 3D corridors and “2D” sections, based more around getting through the level as efficiently and as cleanly as possible, picking up any collectibles along the way, rather than exploration. It’s a very welcome retro experience, and as someone who loves retro platformers but never played Crash Bandicoot, it’s an absolute joy to get to play these games.
Yet, the games are all fairly inconsistent, and especially as a whole package it’s obvious which games are newer than the others. Even if levels were selected at random from each game, it’d be pretty obvious which ones belong to which game based purely on level design. Here’s a quick overview of each game individually:
Crash Bandicoot: This game is a rollercoaster of emotions. There’s something that just feels wrong with how the game plays. It’s likely due to the fact that designing levels for a 3D space was a new thing, and things like precision platforming sections were still being done when the controls did not suit it. The game starts out pretty standard, but the player doesn’t get very far before they are given difficulty spike after difficulty spike. Even those who are experienced with retro platformers will get curb stomped by levels in Crash. It’s frustrating to the point of madness, but it is also very satisfying when a level that has caused double-digit game overs is finally conquered. This game is not for the faint of heart, and I would actually recommend playing this one last, after getting accustomed to the Crash formula and general level design.
Crash Bandicoot 2: This game is the best of the three. It provides a reasonable challenge, a variety of good levels, and entertaining character moments that were missing from the first game. Some levels start to feel pretty samey as the game progresses (in particular, any of the sewer levels), but the game overall feels so much better to play than the first. If there was a game to start with of the three, it would be this one. Just trust that there isn’t much deep Bandicoot lore missed from skipping the first one.
Crash Bandicoot Warped: This game is another rollercoaster, but for different reasons. The traditional Crash Bandicoot levels are probably the best in the series, with plenty of branching paths and varying environments to make the game exciting to platform through. The platforming sections are probably the easiest in this game though, with game overs only occurring during the… non-traditional levels. The worst parts of this game come from the vehicle levels and the underwater levels. The underwater levels are okay but odd to play. The vehicle levels are a nightmare to control. The first jet-ski level is absolutely infuriating to control, and the second motorcycle level creates frenzies of madness not seen since the first game. Overall, this game is still very solid on its own.
In terms of how the game plays on Switch, it feels pretty great to play with the Joycons in handheld mode, and the D-Pad isn’t bad for the first game. The pro controller is much more fit to play these games when the system is docked. The d-pad on the pro controller is nicer for the first Crash, and the analog stick works better for Crash 2 and Crash 3. Again, it does feel slower in portable mode, but it’s not game-altering. The game is a perfect fit for the Switch.
The value of the port is the value of the port-ability
This game is still a port of a game that’s still a pretty fresh release. In a market where a majority of gamers either already own a PS4 and MAYBE have purchased a Switch recently, it’s a hard sell to say that this game is worth it for those who have already played it. This isn’t a case like Stardew Valley or Hollow Knight; the game doesn’t really benefit that much from the portability. In fact, the overall experience is worse in portable mode as a whole. That’s something to consider if buying the game again is something desired. Owners of both a PS4 and Xbox One probably don’t get much from buying the game twice either. There is value in buying the PC version, specifically to achieve 4K and 60 FPS. For the owner of a rig with the right specs, the game is pretty worthwhile to buy again.
For those who do not own the game on PS4, don’t own a PS4, or have never played Crash Bandicoot before, this game is an incredibly solid purchase that fits in with the line-up on the Nintendo Switch. It’s not even weird seeing these flagship Playstation games on a Nintendo console, Crash blends in pretty well with the Nintendo brand. Just, maybe skip portable mode for the Switch version. It’s cool to play Crash Bandicoot on the toilet, but maybe not optimal.
Images: WindowsCentral, Activision
Tanner is both a Telecommunications and Theatrical Studies major. Tanner keeps a large collection of gaming related stuffed animals. Self-proclaimed expert in all things related to former Indiana governor Paul V. McNutt. Has beaten the PSP version of Final Fantasy in under two hours.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
“Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy” is a great fit for any Nintendo Switch library. The port was flawlessly executed, though portable mode can be a bit questionable at times. The game is the same incredible remake of the "Crash" trilogy that it always was, with amazing visuals and music. Sure, the games are inconsistent and sometimes borderline awful, but the overall experience is so great that even levels like “Slippery Climb” can be excused. It’s solid buy for any Switch owner who has never gotten a chance to experience these gloriously retro titles.