By now, most gamers who were yearning to get their hands on the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy for some good ol’ nostalgic fun are aware of the seemingly increased difficulty of the games. While these can just be brushed off as gamers who have become soft to modern-day video games, this is unfortunately not the case. Recently, Vicarious Visions, the developers responsible for helming the remastered trilogy, openly admitted to adjusting certain mechanics in the game that make it far more challenging. I don’t believe this is a major problem, but the difficulty adjustments need to be addressed, and in a broader context, how gaming has evolved to nurse us over the years.
The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was a game I was extremely excited about. The thought of having Crash Bandicoot, one of my favorite video game characters, back as a relevant mascot was great because it would also be the entry point for many gamers, young and old, who aren’t familiar with Crash. I happened to get into Crash Bandicoot at a very young age, but since then, my interest for the games had waned a bit since Crash’s departure from Naughty Dog. When a remastered trilogy pack was announced at Sony’s E3 2016 conference, all that nostalgia come rushing back to me – including the difficulty.
Even as a kid, I knew the Crash Bandicoot games weren’t particularly easy. I was old enough to know they required patience, an understanding of the mechanics, but most of all, perfection. This seemed pretty demanding of kids my age who were also playing Crash Bandicoot, but then it dawned on me; gaming in general at the time prided itself on being challenging. These were times when Battletoads, Contra, and Metal Slug had all graced living rooms and arcades as a few of the most brutally difficult games on the market. Crash managed to snuggle into a part of the market that balanced kid-friendly design and challenging gameplay meant for everyone to master or fail.
This type of mentality is applied to a few modern games, particularly the Dark Souls series, which has been widely praised for its punishing difficulty that demanded players to be patient and understand how the game works. Dark Souls may be one of the last remnants of a time when this kind of game design was the norm, but Crash Bandicoot appealed to a far wider demographic due to its extremely marketable image and its involvement in the wave of lovable mascots like Spyro and Sonic that were starting to become household names in the 90s.
The N. Sane Trilogy posed an even greater challenge, however. Developer Vicarious Visions purposefully re-adjusted the jumping mechanics of all three Crash Bandicoot games available in the pack to all appear to have a seamless gameplay transition when in fact, the jumping mechanics of the third game, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, were applied to its predecessors. This of course posed several problems for the game design of the first game in particular, which required precision in jumping and perfectly timed leaps. The Warped jumping mechanic introduced more versatile mobility while in mid-air which made the jumping far more responsive, but it didn’t fit well with the first games’ unintentionally clunky, unrefined charm that made it so beloved in the first place.
The N. Sane Trilogy still remains an astonishingly fun experience, with or without the new mechanics. However, given that the difficulty of the games is what people are complaining most about (and seemed to have gained traction in gaming news lately), is it possible that we’ve become too soft? Game design has evolved over the years to cater to larger and larger demographics, and with that came the changes in difficulty. This was an obvious move to make games more accessible to wider audiences, but the Crash Bandicoot remaster speaks to a certain nostalgic base of players that remember the punishing challenge that came with it. There will always be games that reward modern gamers who are willing to push through and master it, but the re-introduction of Crash Bandicoot may welcome back those challenging days in large heaps now.
You can read our review of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy here.