It’s another deep-dive into another remake…of another classic Playstation series from the mid-to-late 90’s – and it’s on the anniversary of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. We might be a year late to the conversation, but we’re just too fond of the orange marsupial to let that stop us.
Originally created by Naughty Dog, the Saturday-cartoon-style platformer made waves in 1996, just as the industry was discovering the 3rd dimension. With its lush art direction, innovative gameplay, expressive characters and irreverent attitude, Crash Bandicoot cemented Naughty Dog as the world-class studio we still know it to be. But it’s Vicarious Visions’ remake that brought Crash to an entirely new generation last June — and to the center of our discussion today.
Not only is Crash’s makeover a piece of modern entertainment, but an important entry into the efforts of game preservation. By adapting & rebuilding the trilogy for modern consoles and players, Vicarious Visions brought a renewed clarity to a notable slice of gaming history. We look at what choices they had to consider, what they refined, what they changed, and what they preserved with an unwavering loyalty.
Being a year removed from the N. Sane Trilogy has its benefits, though. As three-games-in-one, this was no easy topic to digest nor keep to an hour. But our mutual hindsight keeps things sprightly and candid. My partner and guest, Hilary Bovay, is the only other person I know who grew up with a love for this trilogy to match my own. Join us for a myriad of perspectives as we breakdown the classic Crash Bandicoot trilogy and its gorgeously challenging remake.
Additional Credits & Notes:
Hilary Bovay is an incredibly talented photographer from Aquidneck Island, RI, now based out of Cleveland, OH. She has a keen eye for aesthetics & visual storytelling, and her love for the original Crash Bandicoot is all you’ll ever need to know about her taste in video games.
Music in this episode is from the OST’s to Crash Bandicoot and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, composed by Josh Mancell. The title theme featured at the top of the episode was reproduced by Justin Joyner (Audio Lead at Vicarious Visions).
Welcome to the inaugural episode of Screen Looking, a podcast where close friends take a closer look at their favorite video games.
We’ll be focusing on one game per episode from the perspective of its artwork, game design and storytelling, ranging from contemporary blockbusters to remakes and indies. Typically, we’ll unpack games we’ve already played through. But because this is our first episode, we decided to discuss something special: the newly announced remake of Resident Evil 2 (RE2).
RE2 was originally released in 1998 to critical acclaim as a two-disc game for the Sony Playstation, shortly following its breakthrough predecessor. Twenty years later, it’s finally getting the remake fans have been clamoring for since Resident Evil’s in 2002. The pair of survival horror classics defined a new genre and terrified gamers in their formative years. My guest, Alex Koval, and I can attest to this, as it’s a series we grew up playing together, bonding over, and thinking about ever since.
Join us as we look at what gave RE2 the status it earned in 1998, our impressions of the remake fresh off of its E3 reveal, and what we look forward to seeing next.
Additional Credits & Notes:
Alex Koval is a full-stack web developer, an independent short-filmmaker, and a fan of the horror genre. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade, and some of his favorite games include Resident Evil, Final Fantasy Tactics, Eternal Darkness, and Banjo Kazooie.
Music in this episode comes from the OST’s to both Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2
Audio clips from Resident Evil courtesy of “Resident Evil – Voice Acting Horror – 10 Minute Cut” by YouTube user gamegoo
Key artists from Vicarious Visions walked me through their approach to remastering Naughty Dog’s iconic PlayStation trilogy, and how they handled inheriting a legacy with millions of nostalgic fans. You can read the full-length feature on Engadget.
As a lifelong fan of Crash Bandicoot, and I am incredibly grateful to have told this story. Within it are in-depth interviews with art & design leads who oversaw the remasters, as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at their process and even some of Naughty Dog’s original concept art. What stood out to me as I worked on this were the philosophical aspects of VV’s approach, and the pressure they placed on themselves in striking a balance between their vision and Naughty Dog’s (circa 1996).
Special thanks to Aaron Soupporis at Engadget for his mentorship, collaborative spirit and going the extra mile on the layout, as well as Jessica Conditt for connecting us. Nicholas Ruepp, Kara Massie, Cory Turner, Curtis Orr, Leo Zuniga and Wiebke Vallentin at VV & Activision were all extremely helpful in coordinating the interviews and art assets we needed, even on the eve of the game’s release date.
Polygon graciously allowed me to write this intimate opinion piece for them, which explores my experience playing the long-awaited The Last Guardian and the parallels I drew between it and our bond with animals. It serves as an analysis of the game’s design, as much as it is a personal essay and investigation into the ways we all encounter animals in need.
Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
The Last Guardian doubles as an interactive metaphor for the discovery and rehabilitation of animals in situations of abuse or neglect. For being such a fantastical setting, it plays host to a cautionary tale that is grounded in reality. By offering us an extended glimpse into an abused animal’s perspective, The Last Guardian asks us to empathize: What does it mean to spend time in their environment? How are they a product of it, and how much can they change?
Everybody may have vanished from the slumbering town of Yaughton, but not without a trace.
Across a blindingly bright English countryside, with radios left on, research abandoned, doors unshut and phone booths ringing, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture explores what life there was like as you piece together a hauntingly calm apocalypse in a most unfamiliar setting: home sweet home.
Previously known for their surreal Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is the latest game from studio The Chinese Room. In my curiosity to learn more about what fueled Rapture’s story, its big questions and the creative drive behind them, I discovered what inspires and compels the team that created it. Dan Pinchbeck, Creative Director at The Chinese Room, graciously took me through their process, the artistic decisions they made, his thoughts on science fiction and the potential for storytelling within video games today.