E.9 – Gaming Tastes & Looking Ahead (Bonus Episode)

It’s time for a bonus round.

If you’re new to the show, this is an excellent place to start tuning in to the Screen Looking podcast. In our first bonus episode, Alex Koval and I take a respite from the deep dives for a chill, candid conversation about our tastes in video games – and how our personalities inform them.

In addition, we have a special announcement at the top of the episode, followed by some fun ideas for future installments.

We’ll be returning soon with more deep and varied explorations of why video games are such an interesting medium, discovering new stories and rediscovering old favorites. For now, we simply couldn’t wait to keep the conversation rolling.

Additional Notes & Credits

E.6 – Iconic Snow Worlds: Winter Special Edition

Love ’em or hate ’em, the most unforgettable video game worlds are usually buried in snow. In this special winter episode, friends & listeners of the show write in with the ones they remember most.

Regardless of whether they’re frustrating, fun or simply a change of scenery, a “good” snow-themed level will push any game’s design to the absolute brink. They surprise us with bold visuals and subvert our expectations of a game’s environments. At the very least, they know how to stand out. Challenging yet wondrous to explore, these virtual worlds left an indelible impression on those who survived them. Today, I get to share their stories with you.

Grab a warm beverage, abandon your chores, and commiserate with me on that extended commute as I open up the mailbag for this special edition of the Screen Looking podcast.

Additional Credits & Notes:

  • Recipe: Yeto’s Superb Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Soup (thanks, Cory!)
  • The opening theme for today’s episode is a remastered version of Final Fantasy VII‘s “Buried in Snow,” recreated by Pontus Hultgren — a freelance composer/orchestrator based in Sweden. Visit his YouTube channel to hear more.
  • Additional music in today’s episode comes from each entry and their respective OSTs, including: Banjo-Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes BackDonkey Kong Country, Goldeneye 007, Journey, The Last of Us, The Legend of Zelda series, Mario 64, Max Payne, Metal Gear Solid, Puzzle Agent, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
  • Thank you to everybody who wrote in! Video games have the unique power to connect us across far distances, and I can’t think of a better way for the show to celebrate that this season.

E.2 – Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

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.
  • Read Andrew’s feature story on Engadget to learn more about Vicarious Visions’ process and determination behind their Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, view exclusive concept art, and more.
  • 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).

Engadget Feature – Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy

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.

Continue reading Engadget Feature – Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy