E3 2017: Hands-On With Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

The big reveal, spoiled by the Trophy list a few days earlier unfortunately, is that Coco is playable in all three games now. This was a developer led initiative that came about early in the process.

Crash’s sister Coco was first introduced in Crash 2 as an NPC and then playable in Crash 3 but only on riding and vehicle levels.

Quite a few people on the team were asking to make her playable but the producers were looking at timelines and didn’t see a way to fit it in. During one of the numerous Game Jams at the studio, someone from the team decided to prototype it. Once everyone saw Coco in action they decided they had to find a way to make it happen.

The main thrust was to replicate the experience players had when first playing the original Crash Bandicoot twenty-one years ago. The joy and the whimsy in discovering all the animations and nuances of the character and how they play was a big priority here.

This isn’t just a re-skin, Coco is a fully fleshed out character. Finding a way to tie her into the narrative actually came quite naturally. A new interaction point was added to each hub in each of the games where you can add her to your party and then switch between her and Crash before entering the levels.

They used the time travel premise in the third game as a catalyst to have Coco travel back in time to the first and second games. Since she was hacking Vortex’s computer in the game anyway it just made sense that she’d be able to do that.

There are a handful of Crash and Coco exclusive levels throughout the games, mainly the riding levels. Bosses are also Crash exclusive because they wouldn’t make sense story-wise with Coco. When choosing a level if both face icons are available you can use either of them. If one isn’t available for that level they’ll be crossed out.

In order to make her a fully fleshed out character the development team had to dive into her interactions in the third game to get a better understanding of her personality and how she’d react to different situations from the first two games. She’s smarter with a bit of sass, quite competitive, and she always has her laptop with her.

While the handling is just the same in terms of precision, everything is reworked in a Coco way to add her personality. For example, she spins with her legs instead of arms like Crash does. She’ll also do drop attacks falling on her butt instead or her face with a body slam since she’s a bit smarter than Crash and going face first would probably hurt more.

Coco will be unlocked a little differently in each game based on the level progression. In the first and second games she’ll be available after beating the first boss.

The overall development was pretty tricky because they didn’t start with any of the original code. Everything was done from scratch and it took a ton of iteration to get that exact feel of the original games.

The handling was the most difficult part of the game to get just right. Ensuring that the jumping, spinning, and attacks all felt like the originals took tons of iteration.

Everything was recreated in a new engine so special tools had to be built to see the handling in action along with video captures of the original game where the developers went frame by frame to compare the movement. There was even a team dedicated solely to Crash himself for the entire project just to nail down the jumps and handling.

The first game was released before the original PlayStation controllers had analog sticks so it was designed with digital control through the D-pad. Because of this, the controls had to be slightly tweaked in the new game to make the analog stick controls feel a little more like that digital D-pad control.

Specific analog handling was built per game mode for various levels so that everything would feel right for veterans of the series. It’s a subtle difference but it makes everything just feel right.

Parts of the crate system had to be rewritten over and over as they played through and found nuances in the way they worked and reacted in different instances throughout the three games.

Because they were building everything from scratch, the developers at Vicarious Visions were able to take the Time Trials from Crash 3 and copy them into the first two games. This makes more than eighty levels of Time Trials all with Online Leaderboards. And by the way, there are three separate Platinum Trophies, one for each game.

The love and attention to detail that was put into this package really shines through as you can see in the levels I played. Fans of the series will love this and hopefully it’ll bring in a whole new generation of fans as well.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy will be available on June 30, 2017 exclusively on PlayStation 4.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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