Three years ago, if you said to anyone that Crash Bandicoot would be one of the hottest franchises going in 2019, they would have laughed at you. At that point in time, the series had been dead for almost a decade. But what a turnaround it has been for Crash. In 2017, the N. Sane Trilogy was released on the PS4 to much fanfare and acclaim. A year later it came to all other platforms, spending eight weeks at the top of the UK charts as a result. Overall, the game has sold over ten million copies worldwide. And now Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fuelled has hit the shelves as it looks to replicate the monumental success of the trilogy and reaffirm that Crash is well and truly back.
Thankfully, Activision seems fully committed to the future of this series. Last year, it was reported that the publisher had a five year plan in place for Crash Bandicoot. And last month, a report from Business Wire revealed that Activision now considered the franchise to be one of its ‘flagship brands’ alongside the likes of Call of Duty. What this all means is that we are almost certainly in for some more action from the lovable orange marsupial and his pals. Great news!
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fuelled may be less than a month old, but let’s look beyond that and to the future by considering what the next Crash project should be. One option is another remaster. It would mark the fifth Crash remaster in a row, but Vicarious Visions and Beenox have done well with the first four, so why stop now?
There are problems with this line of thinking though. The main one is deciding what the fifth game should be. The first four, all made by Naughty Dog, are the only ones that are universally loved by fans. Everything else divides opinion. As a result, many fans feel that there is nothing else worth remastering because nothing compares to the originals. The only one that really comes anywhere close is Crash Bash, the first game post-Naughty Dog and the last Crash title on the PS1.
Its reputation makes Crash Bash the likely option if Activision decides to head down this route. But another game that might be worth looking at is Twinsanity. That was an unfinished, buggy mess and yet it maintains a cult following and a relatively high standing among Crash Bandicoot fans. It’s not hard to see why as the game had a lot going for it. The voice acting and humour was spot on, so too was its catchy acapella soundtrack. And to add to that, players could play as Cortex for the first time in the main series. The open world gameplay was an interesting departure from the familiar formula as well.
But the biggest reason for inclusion here is that the game has a lot of cut content. A lot. Every year, it seems we learn of new characters, new levels and new bosses that were meant to be included but had to be cut as developers rushed to meet tight deadlines. Adding all this in a remaster would not only make Twinsanity into the game it was meant to be, it would be an almost completely new game.
Still, a new Crash Bash or Twinsanity (or any other old Crash game) would be a hard sell when a completely new game seems so alluring to fans. After all, it has been twelve years since anything new came out of this franchise. It’s beyond time. And if Activision wants to define this ‘new’ Crash as something great, it cannot hope to do that by simply retreading old ground. In fact, that goes for any franchise. You can’t hope to build a new series by rehashing everything that came before.
And so the publisher would be wise to simply wipe the slate clean by taking the N. Sane Trilogy and Nitro Fuelled as their foundation and building upon them. In theory, this means they can do it right this time by learning from past mistakes, although this is not guaranteed in practice.
The early signs are positive though, even if the sample size is rather small. Vicarious Visions have created just one new level for the N. Sane Trilogy since its release. But that level – Future Tense – has been received well. And it has also managed to highlight the developer’s ability to craft levels which can successfully emulate the Naughty Dog style that is so loved by fans. Meanwhile, Beenox has just released the first original racetrack for Crash Team Racing as part of its monthly Grand Prix system. Named Twilight Tour, it has been welcomed by fans. And even more racetracks are set to be released over the next few months, so we’ll be getting an even bigger indication of what the developers can do when given the creative freedom.
There’s also the question as to what type of game this new Crash Bandicoot title should be. The most likely (and safe) option is more of the same – an open-world, linear platformer akin to the N. Sane Trilogy. The Future Tense DLC has shown Vicarious Visions to be perfectly capable of pulling of an enjoyable and challenging game of this nature. And there’s also the fact that this kind of gameplay is at the very heart of Crash Bandicoot. The most well received and best loved games in the series follow this formula, so why deviate from it?
But whatever form the next Crash Bandicoot game takes, all we can do is speculate. There are reasons to be positive though. What we have seen so far has been good. The N. Sane Trilogy and Nitro Fuelled are brilliant remasters which have done justice to the source material. And the original content that has been put into those games have shown what the developers are capable of. There is really no reason to believe that the next project can’t be just as good. It’s only natural that expectations are high and we can only wait to see if a new Crash game can live up to them. Here’s hoping they can!