Pedal to the metal.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Genre: PlayStation Mario Kart, Now On Other Platforms(?)
This is the era of nostalgia, or more precisely; the era of remakes and remasters. Just look at the ungodly amount of ‘retro consoles’ that are filling the market. We have one from Sega, one from Capcom, and another one from Sony. The last one didn’t come out so well, though.
Similarly, some classic games that receive the modern touch didn’t do well either. For example, the original Star Wars: Battlefront II was loved by the fans of the epic saga, and yet the remake by EA was known worldwide for all the wrong reasons. It’s better known as the ‘pride and accomplishment’ game.
Yet, some games age gracefully and do wonders when given a second life. The upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake and the Final Fantasy VIII Remastered are games that come to mind. They bring back the great nostalgia of the relative golden age of gaming yet suitable for the current generation of hardware and players. It hits all the right chords.
The same can be said for Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled.
Right away, you’ll be welcomed by an old friend, Crash Bandicoot, who looks way better in 2019 than he was 20 years ago. Nitros Oxide also makes his way to the remake, returning with another attempt at transforming Earth into his parking lot. All the race tracks from 1999 are back.
In fact, the original blocky Crash is still here, in case you want to play the game like in the 90s. Don’t be fooled, the game isn’t stuck in the past. In fact, it has aged gracefully like fine wine.
Everything looks very sharp and detailed. Vivid colours fill the screen. Animations give life to dialogues and character. The game looks brand spanking new, without losing the original essence from the PS1 game.
The Whole Shebang
The game has 31 racetracks hailing from the original game and 2003’s Vicarious Visions sequel, Crash Nitro Kart, but you’ll only be racing through 17 tracks in the Adventure Mode, all of them are remasters from the original CTR.
Adventure Mode is the new mode which is the remastered’s attempt to fit in the with young ‘uns. Beenox has successfully modernised the game by introducing a mode filled with customisations between races.
You can also switch characters between races for the fun of it. Beenox has also allowed players to adjust the difficulty, so no mainstream gaming journalist can say that the game is too hard.
Progressing requires you to hit first place in all the races, which isn’t an impossible feat given the difficulty options.
Of course, for purists of the original game, the classic mode is also available to choose from. The game autosaves after every event, but those huge save monitors are also present for that hit of nostalgia.
He’s Doing It Sideways
The first time you hit a track, you’ll notice that the handling requires some time to get used to. You’ll also notice that a huge portion of races is won by powersliding.
The powerslide requires you to hold a bumper button while turning, and pressing the other button with proper timing to gain boost. Chain the slide up to three times for extra speed. The powerslide feels different from other racing games, sometimes turning too well but at times just sending you off the track or hitting the borders, stopping you abruptly.
Once you refamiliarise yourself to the mechanics, you’ll be happy to drift your way against your opponents.
The problem is, the game does a poor job of explaining mechanics. Aku Aku, or Uka Uka depending on your chosen character, only pops up to explain mechanics and tips, such as you can powerslide, or you can block homing missiles with crates, after races. It’s only when I head into the pause menu and check out the tips and tricks section that learned I could do so much more.
The game allows to race normally by holding the accelerate button, but that wouldn’t be fun would it?
The race tracks are peppered with turbo pads and tight bends. Not to mention, crates with tons of powerups to spice up the playing field. There are up to 11 items with wacky effects; beakers and TNT act as traps, rockets and bowling bombs to blow up your opponents and many more.
Collect 10 Wumpa Fruits and you’ll be ‘juiced up’. This means you’ll drift faster and your weapons will be upgraded. For example, your red TNT crate will be a green Nitro crate that will explode on contact.
Difficult Enough For Purists?
Fortunately, I can say yes Beenox has made it tough enough for sadistic players. I’m glad Adventure Mode has an option to drop the difficulty because playing on Medium and staying in first place is harder than F1 racing on Monaco with all the assists disabled.
Rubberbanding is present so no matter far ahead you are in front. No amount of boost can save you from the AI that’s about to catch up. Leading the pack? Why not the AI spam almost every weapon known to mankind up your tailpipe. At one point it feels like I was playing Ace Combat with all the missiles pinging my tail. All you can do is hope to pick up a shield or the more aggressive Aku Aku power up (or Uka Uka, if you’re playing a villain character) and defend your position.
Playing on Hard or Medium isn’t just about racing, it’s also about being lucky.
This is one thing I noticed during my playthrough. Easy feels too easy, often times the player will outplay the competition without challenge, but Medium feels too tough, with tons of rubberbanding and the non-stop beeping of homing missiles.
Bosses literally spam beakers, TNTs, bombs, rockets. You name it. It feels cheap. It’s like the game is hard for the sake of being hard. This form of difficulty mechanism is something Beenox should’ve left back in the 90s.
It’s funny how a kart racer implies itself to be a casual game yet terribly difficult. While I consider the difficulty special and enjoyable, it makes it difficult to pass the controller to those who are less experienced. Mario Kart also requires expertise but certain items make the game easily winnable.
Back In The Race
Regardless of all the difficulty qualms, the game manages to make me smile and squeal occasionally. It’s a proper remaster done perfectly right.
It’s not a kart game with simple mechanics, so I won’t say the game would be a suitable kart racer you’d play with your friends. It’s doable as a party game, just make sure to explain the mechanics to your buds as the game doesn’t do a great job of doing so. I think Mario Kart does party games better.
Even when you manage to overlook the misty-eyed nostalgia of the game, it still retains the fun and is engaging enough to keep you playing with a cheeky grin on your face.
So is Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled the best kart racer out there? The answer is no.
It isn’t the best, but it is one of the craziest kart games out there and it will definitely make you smile the first time you boot the game.
If all you want is wacky fun and hours of gratuitous racing, just set the game on easy and this is the kart racer for you and your pet cat.
- Wacky racing for the entire family.
- Lovely, detailed visuals.
- A butt ton of customisations.
- Getting hit in the face by the nostalgia train.
- A good party game.
- Needs better explanation on gameplay mechanics.
- Huge difficulty gap between Easy and Medium.
- A tad bit frustrating on higher difficulties.