Nko Reviews: Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled

This reveal at the Game Awards 2019 made me scream just as loud as Joker in Smash Bros Ultimate!!!

I have been so excited for this game I can’t even adequately describe it. My history with Crash Bandicoot isn’t known for many people outside my extended family, but when I was a kid, any trip to my cousin’s 45 minutes away meant PS1 and Crash Bandicoot all day. Hence why I was there every week sometimes. When the N’Sane Trilogy was released, I breezed through it despite issues with my hands I did not have as a kid because the game was pure muscle memory to me. It was by the numbers for a remake and much closer to a remaster with a few extra bells and whistles.

However, when I saw the hints dropped on Twitter for Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled, it was all I could think about for ages. I’ve been wanting a Crash Team Racing remaster since the PS2. Now I’m almost 21, publishing my reviews of games for the first time, and the bastards finally did it. They made a remake on the PS4 and Switch but added so much more including full-on customization, online play, new side mechanics to the racing along with a remastered soundtrack and visuals. Not only that… 18 CTR tracks, 13 Nitro Kart track and a bonus PS4 track (32 tracks total) alongside 7 CTR and 5 Nitro Kart battle arena tracks and nearly double the roster for CTR and Nitro Kart with additional characters including SPYRO THE DRAGON, yes, SPYRO THE FUCKING DRAGON, coming later.

For such a slow year for us spoiled gamers after the legendary years of 2017 and 2018, I have been loving every second of it with so much of my nostalgia being brought back to life. Resident Evil 2 getting a full remake, Devil May Cry 5, the first DMC game since I was in middle school, ports for Phoenix Wright on the Switch… for such a slow year the kick-ass releases have all been right up my alley. However, I was always waiting for this game to be released, especially after RE 2 Remake and DMC 5 were explored front to back. Not to mention that Crash’s racing career has gone downhill since the original CTR. Crash Nitro Kart didn’t nearly match my experience as the first one and… then we have Crash Tag Team Racing…

And my anticipation for this game was made even worse when it released, and I wanted to write a review straight away, but I was in the middle of Europe in a heat wave, and hotel Wi-Fi refused to let me download it along with 2 other games I may cover in detail or briefly another time. I finally booted up the game on a 10-hour flight back to my current residence and a 4-hour layover. The poor sap next to me on the plane (my mother) had to listen to me ugly cry with the opening of pure nostalgia overload at just the intro of the game.

Hang on what’s this… Activision License and Service Agreement? Yeah… this was a bit weird if I’m honest. I cannot state for a second that I know the specifics for why this was here, if it needed to be here in this manner or any solutions for it but a 42 page unskippable terms of service which requires you to button mash repeatedly, only to then be followed by a 28 page Activision Privacy Policy agreement… this is a bit ridiculous if I’m honest. I agree to whatever the fuck that was though. It could have at least been made better if I didn’t have to mash the button and could have held it down, not just for convenience but in my case and many others, accessibility. It was enough to give me a headache… until I saw the retro PS1 skins.

Now for our witch doctor mask friend to hang out with us in the classic first screen. Fun fact about this game. You get different masks depending on the character you pick. If you select a good guy, you get Aku Aku and all his omnipotent greatness. However, if you choose a bad guy, you understandable get Uka Uka who, yes, I am not making this up, now has a sexy jazz singer voice. Seriously, put Jazz music over it, and it’s indistinguishable.

Please note: Before I get into a deep dive of the game, rhetorically the audience I am aiming for is somewhat knowledgeable in Crash Bandicoot and Crash Team Racing.

Unless you change the control scheme, the controls are mostly the same. However, you have to press down or down on the analog stick to reverse which has tripped me up a bit. This game, however, knew that this game controls wise was never broken in the first place and required no changing. So don’t worry about the thrill of the authorities, one of my favorite things about this racing game, being muddied over the years. However, the turning is, regrettably, less responsive, and less loose. This lowers the need to drift as much at the beginning of the game and makes tight turns easier than before. However, the game does still let you feel the weight of the cars, and I doubt I would have noticed it if I had not played this extensively. In terms of difficulty in execution between the original and, say, Mario Kart, this remake is in the middle. It’s a bit more lenient on the turning. Even the characters with a noticeably slower set up in their speed and turning are not at all an issue, at least compared to what I and many grew up with. This, in my opinion, makes the games control better than the original. It’s ever so slightly more approachable while still maintaining what I love about the game. The guttural roars of engines and chunky vibrations of the controller, while you fight with the weight of your vehicle, is still present. The boosts still feel satisfying when you nail the jump just right, and everything remains since my childhood to be just as hectic despite no change in power-ups. It feels a lot faster, and I have had many close calls, even with the new boosting system ripped from Nitro Kart that enabled me to reach near illegal speeds.

These slight changes are subtle enough to have players relearn the game. This was something I didn’t even notice myself until talking to a die-hard fan and him recommending and stressing the need to break on stages, giving me the ah-ha realization for why I saw so many people in online mode fly off the tracks (but more on that later.)

However, what is this new boost system? Well like the original you tap r1 to jump and hold it while turning to start drifting. While in the drift you can boost up to 3 times with the L1 button when the exhaust flames go black or when the burnout meter turns red at the bottom right of the screen. However, taken straight from Nitro Kart, the longer you leave it in that burnout zone, the more you are rewarded with a more significant boost, even after hitting it 3 times. However, go too far, and it will all cancel out, and you’ll lose any increase. It’s risk and reward and benefits top tier players while punishing them for messing it up and not learning the now rhythmic mechanic of the game. It not only levels and adds risk to competitive play, but the rhythm also adds a new enjoyment to the feel of the game never before witnessed. There are also multiple visual cues you can take into depending on what works best for yourself and your aim. These include the smoke behind your kart, the standard boost meter, the color of the wheels on your car, a more detailed boost meter and a speedometer… which does nothing other than show you how good your jump boost will be. Even amidst the chaos, you can make it even more risk-reward by adjusting how much you can safely rely on the meter while having to keep your eye on the road.

If you haven’t seen the maps reimagined visual wise and need a selling point on the game’s update in graphics I recommend checking out Tiger’s Temple and Roo’s Tubes. This game, unlike the original, did not need to sacrifice much visually to maintain it’s gameplay. I am aware the game is in 30 fps, and that will make some gamers upset; however, I have never been bothered or sensitive to a frame rate as long as it is consistent, even as an animator. I am thrilled to report with this in mind that I have experienced zero frame drops in my several days of hands-on experience playing this game. So, I personally don’t find the 30 fps to be much of an issue, especially since this game was also released on the Switch, not nearly as powerful as the PS4 as it is a portable console. This is basically N’Sane Trilogy in terms a visual. Cartoony aesthetics along with a slight motion blur to make it utterly unnoticeable for me and barely noticeable for any trains fps eyes I am aware of. Along with details and kinetic energy added to the background, sound design and even the characters themselves form ears and hairs flapping in the wind to fat juggling over bumps. It’s a beautiful game.

Is there anything new in the already fantastic adventure mode? No, not really, but it’s still just as fun to play. You can switch characters and carts on the fly instead of being restricted to one. However, the newly ported tracks usefulness has been wholly welded into online and single-player in-game currency collection, which is admittedly disappointing. The N. Tropy Ghost Time Trials make up for it, but the effort in this game makes this area of the game a bit disappointing. Even competitively with traps being enabled in the Nitro Kart tracks, it still doesn’t translate into adventure mode. Wouldn’t it have given you more options to unlock the adventure mode exclusive customizables? A very, very minor complaint but something that made me wonder. The rest of the adventure mode, however, is all back and more beautiful than ever. Even the difficult as sin token challenges and time crate relic races, are here to help you explore the tracks in preparation for the ruthless online races. However, I have not changed my mind that I hate collecting relics in this game, especially the Platinum relics. Despite my love for platniuming games I am a die-hard fan for, it falls under my rule that if it destroys the fun of the game for me, only for the sake of me receiving a trophy or other reward, I refuse to let it ruin my time with the game and therefore, refuse to platinum it. I refuse to touch an 100% run of this game for that reason. However, I cannot fault this game for difficulty as it is an element that I pride the game for over Mario Kart.

You see, I always argued that CTR is better than Mario Kart, despite both being a huge part of my life, but only because it caters to two different audiences. While my sister liked the more simplistic and beginner-friendly Mario Kart as a casual gamer, I love the challenge CTR brings to me as a hard-core gamer, even down to shortcuts in the game being harder and more rewarding to find. There was an instance where I would be punished for not paying attention in the shortcut and losing because I, say, got eaten by a giant Venus Flytrap. It’s a lot more enjoyable for me to play. However, I will always love Mario Kart 8 and Mario Kart Deluxe for my late at night relaxation games, and for the memories, I share playing it with friends and family.
If you recall I mentioned the term in-game currency. I know that screams a word condemned by many in this industry, micro-transactions. So allow me to explain. These in-game coins are used to spend in the store for cosmetics such as carts, costumes, and characters. Thank goodness, because I know you’re all thinking the same thing I did when I first heard about them, they are not micro-transactions and let us pray it never becomes that. To earn them, you race whenever you feel like it and gain them as a reward for enjoying the game. You can then spend what you achieve on whatever you want in the shop. No time restraints or locks or an option to buy more. There is no need to pay real money even to speed it up. It’s literally just there if you want it and, that’s nice, especially with how much there is to collect and customize in this game. As for customization, my god, there are minimal limits here. You can choose wheels, paint jobs, stickers, decals, characters, costumes, you name it. They have many outfits including Ripper Roo’s costume from Crash 2 and Crash’s outfit in the plane sequences that, if I may add, because he’s in a cart makes him look like Mr. Toad.

If you are like me and have anxiety playing against actual people online, then Adventure Mode will be your best friend for collecting coins. There is another way, of course. However, that is met with a few issues for me. These include replaying the stages, and the time trials to bead N. Tropy’s Ghost and unlock him as a racer. However, even if you can complete the required speed needed to race N.Tropy, it will not let you open him until you get the chance to lock him. In other words, you have to beat the whole thing even if you have proven capable. I didn’t have this problem, but someone I knew did, and I have to admit that is a bit annoying.
What isn’t annoying though is the fantastic boss intros. Yes, they have actual intro cutscenes now, and man did they go above and beyond with them. There are cutscene changes all over the game to add a fresh new take on them. This is a remake after all, and yes, the added slapstick humor and gags make it a blast to watch. I am not however delighted with Ripper Roo’s cutscene after defeat. His raspy forced coughing with the help of the fantastic sound design actually was painful to listen to and made me fear he would cough up a lung.
But wait, was that an insult towards the sound design? Well, no, I’m merely stating that the audio was so well done it audio wise portrayed the pain behind the cough and his body that I too felt unease and distress. Nothing but praise from me concerning this game sound wise, honestly. The sound design is better than it ever has been. The soundtrack has the perfect boost and instrumental depth and quality it deserves. Thanks to the continued contribution of the original composer in this remake along with nothing being let out for the sake of console restrictions, this is the best I can imagine this soundtrack getting. Sound effects litter the stages from the crashes of boxes and roaring of engines to the subtle splish-splash as you roll through puddles and even banter between other racers and the added bonus of the sounds echoing in open areas. Also, no matter if you play multiplayer or single player, you will get a hilarious reaction out of someone when you blow them up with a rocket.
However, I have neglected to talk about multiplayer. Split-screen co-op? No different than before, just as fabulous and better due to the technological advances and the games 30 fps. Battles are outright sadistic and, believe it or not, one of the most excellent editions to the remake is the online feature, it is something we have always needed, and I now realize that even more. Since this game is skill based, you will meet people in online mode who are ruthless and, I decided to share a tip that a British friend of mine gave me in his Discord Server. Do not be afraid to break. I talked about how this game is a lot more subtly quicker and how the boosts give us a bit more power then we are used to earlier, so his recommendation (thanks, by the way, Jim) is just to tap the brake button when you think it’s necessary. Don’t hold it, don’t spam it, just touches every once in a while to keep you going at high speeds while still in control. Focusing on boosting and going fast is a given in this game, but in the remake, due to subtle control changes, it will trick you and make you lose control.
You can also use this tip to make tight turns in close quarters tracks, especially with loads of ramps, he recommends to let go of accelerating and tap the break, then turn mid-air. Due to the turning being more fluid, this trick can solve the same problem it started. It’s just a new way to play, and it will make things more interesting. This trick works best in Cortex Castle, especially cause if done right it will not affect the boost you get for jumping. This will give you more of an advantage everywhere, especially online mode where this is still tripping people up, and trust me, you want to play online mode.
Not only can the fun never end, but you also can farm plenty of coins from online mode. I’ve seen posts on Reddit trying to explain how to get the most coins from these and how they are calculated but, something seems off. The fact of the matter is, how the points are tallied what gets you a certain amount of coins is so unexplained that all my friends playing this game have just decided it’s random. Samples of the scores gathered from multiple people are as follows…

1st place – 600
1st place – 400
1st place – 600
1st place – 400
1st place – 80
1st place – 120
2nd place – 180
2nd place – 72
3rd place – 510
3rd place – 350
5th place – 300
… I have no idea what is going on…

Another thing I can’t wrap my head around due to my 100% lack of any game dev knowledge is a very minor and very occasional clipping issue I have found in an otherwise 100% non-buggy game. It is shown in several playthroughs where, under the circumstances in the games coding I have not been able to identify, will occasionally confuse the borders of corners and obstacles causing a wide array of strange occurrences. I personally have not had this happen to me, but I have seen it happen to 2 people and 1 other person repeatedly. No idea what’s happening there, but that is not my expertise, and it’s so minor I’m sure they’ll be able to patch it on a later date.
I keep mentioning little nitpicks here and there like these glitches and some spaces in this games polish that are barely noticeable, and of course that extended agreement at the beginning, but there are so many little details in this game that are amazing. The scrapbook is back, littered with gorgeous concept art is back in full glory. Also, upon beating the game, you find out what happened to the characters in the future, like Polar becoming a chief ice cream taste tester (that’s just adorable.) You can even unlock Penta Penguin by typing a cheat code at the beginning of the game, just like in the original. The last time I had to type in a cheat code in a game to unlock something was Bioshock Infinite, and that was in 2013. This is an extremely nice touch, and I very much appreciated it.

(Btw the cheat code is Hold L1 + R1, then press↓,→,△,↓,←,△,↑)

To summarize, this is my new favorite cart racer of all time. If you though N’Sane was great than this game will completely blow you away with what it has added to an already masterpiece of a game. Following Crash news on twitter makes it even better with the promise of the addition of Spyro the Dragon into the game, which alone is something I could never have even dreamed of being able to have, it’s that awesome. If having Spyro The Dragon added into this fantastic game is possible then at this point I should be asking for a Crash Bash remake as well!

It is without a doubt I loved this game, and if I happen to run into anyone as I play, I hope you think I’m at least passable at the game. If it means anything though, I am excited to either lose abysmally or leave you in my dust. Anyone questioning picking up this game, it’s got my staple of recommendation…

… But fuck those Platinum Relics.

  • Nko

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