It’s finally here: Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled! We’ve only been calling for this on the podcast since the very beginning. I’m glad someone finally heeded our plea for a Crash Team Racing remake. Now if only they’d follow up with Crash Bash…
Emma and I have been playing CTR for roughly two decades. It was one of the first video games we ever played! It’s been a fixture at family get-togethers and beach weeks, and we’ve stuck with it even as we left the disc behind, re-purchasing the game on the PSN for Emma’s (and now my) PS3. So, to call this blog “10 Thoughts in 10 Hours” is true: I’ve played about ten hours of the remake now. But it’s really more like “10 Thoughts After ??? Hours.” This is one of the first remakes that’s really hit the nostalgia nail on the head for me! So let’s get pondering!
And yes, that is me, dressed as Uka Uka for Halloween in the title image.
1. Beenox’s dedication to remaining faithful to the original game is impressive.
It’s not just seeing the old tracks and characters again. I don’t think I’ve ever found as much joy from the opening studio acknowledgments as I did from the recreated out-of-the-box intro. The menu sounds, the return of battle mode, the completely unnecessary big green saving screens in Adventure mode. It all adds up to a tremendously nostalgic experience. I feel like I really get the business of all of these remakes from a first-hand perspective for the first time!
…except one thing. I took a break from writing this blog to play a little bit of CTR (what else?) I had just switched racers (more on that later) to Dr. Neo Cortex said he said clearly, not once, not twice, but three times: “THE TROPHY’S MINE!” Every reasonable person knows that the original quote is “THE CUP IS MINE!” Right? Right???
This sparked a minor existential crisis. Let’s move on before I think about it too much.
2. All of the tracks look awesome
As you’ll quickly discover by reading this blog (or you know already from listening to the podcast), I am about as familiar as you can get with the original CTR levels. I’ve been playing this game relatively consistently (by which I mean at least once a year with a fair number of weeks in there where I played a lot) for almost two decades. So I feel authorized to say that the spruced up tracks look fantastic. I mean, look at all this beauty!
3. …Almost too awesome.
The problem with these new stunning tracks is that they’re incredibly distracting. I’m willing to admit that this is partially a novelty thing that will wear off. However, not only am I sometimes too busy looking at all the cool new scenery to focus, the background business makes the levels from Nitro Kart really hard! Because there’s so much going on all around you, it’s a lot tougher to distinguish where you’re supposed to turn to stay on the track. Maybe I will improve in time, but for now, I’m doing a fair bit of crashing into gorgeous, detailed wall animations.
4. The AI is hard now!
When we played our first race, Emma and I were shocked to find that our digital rivals were actually in it to win it! I’m thrilled about the difficulty upgrade. One of the things I was worried about with this game was that I would get bored of it pretty quickly, since you know, I’ve played a lot of it before. Now that they’ve cranked up the difficulty on my computerized opponents, those fears have been eased.
5. They’ve balanced the power-ups a bit
There’s a clear hierarchy to CTR power-ups. The masks, blue energy ball, and the stopwatch are obviously at the top. Potions and TNT are at the bottom. The bubble and speed boost vary in position depending on your current place. But generally, I would have given third place to missiles and a distant fourth to bombs. Now, it’s a much closer race.
6. The load screens seem designed for multiplayer play.
I spent the weekend at Talk This DC HQ, so of course, I took advantage of the opportunity to play some old-school local multiplayer! After a few hours of two, three, and even four player races, I decided to take a peek at some of the reviews. I was surprised to see some of the reviewers really savaging the load teams in Nitro Fueled. I hadn’t noticed the loading screens taking a very long time?
Then, I returned to Talk This NYC HQ and played a bunch of the single player adventure mode (because Clickbait Boyfriend is in Europe, otherwise I would have spent a few more hours kicking his butt). Suddenly, the game seemed to be loading at a glacial pace. Hey, it’s retro, am I right?
Seriously though, this did not bother me at all when I was playing with other people. It gives time for chit chat, checking your phone, trash talk, all that good stuff. It also works well for my strategy of alternating a few minutes of gaming with a few minutes of work, but I don’t think that’s going to be a selling point for anyone but me.
7. I wish I had a bigger TV.
This isn’t a new game thought, exactly. I have this thought pretty much any time I need to navigate using a minimap on my iPad-sized television (this is an exaggeration, but only just). But I’m already dreading what multiplayer is going to look like on this screen, which is a shame, because I love nothing better than LOCAL CO-OP. Earning CTR tokens in Adventure mode is super hard too, because I have to squint to see the letters even when I’m wearing my glasses.
8. The easiest level is Coco Park. The hardest? Definitely one of the Nitro Fueled tracks, but the jury is still out.
I had always thought that Crash Cove was the easiest level because it’s the very first one you race in both Adventure mode and in the Wumpa Cup, but after playing with my mom (!!!), it’s become clear that Coco Park has far fewer obstacles to run into, while still being the same counter-clockwise circle of a track.
I wish I had as clear of a verdict on the hardest track in the game, but I need to gather more data. My experience is so heavily skewed in favor of the CTR levels that I find all of the Nitro Fueled tracks pretty difficult just because of lack of familiarity. That said, I do think they’re harder as a whole? They certainly seem more complex.
9. The character customization is inspiring me to shake up my usual racers
Usually, I’m Tiny Tiger until I die, but now that I have incentives for winning races as every one of the characters, I’ve been cycling through racers. This is going to backfire on me when I’m having to race Oxide as Pura or something, but it’s worth it to make them all funny colors.
I find the cart customization a little less exciting, even though it technically has more options. The stickers feel a little pointless, since you can’t see them for 95% of the game. I do appreciate Emma’s sticker of choice, #4, as her way of “setting expectations,” but still, much less exciting than Ninja Cortex.
10. I could probably never play this at a party. Unless…
I mean, unless I get a bigger TV and an apartment that is actually large enough to host gaming get-togethers, this is obviously a hypothetical party. But what I mean to say here is going to sound like a humble brag: I am too good at this game to play it with newbie friends. As much as I enjoy winning in video games, I recognize that duking it out for second place does not a fun party make. So I’ll have to settle for playing with Emma, CBB, and occasional guest stars for now, thanks mostly to my available square footage.
But when I one day get that apartment with a living room (I just got chills thinking about it), the only way I could break out CTR is if I pair if with a game that I am as bad at as I am good at this one. You guessed it folks: Super Smash Bros. I would have to swallow my pride and buy Smash so that everyone could blast Joker Champ McDude into oblivion. Friendship never tasted so sweet.
Bonus thought: the special edition pins are so cute!
Yep, I sprung for the super deluxe Oxide edition. I was not expecting the pins to be this stylish and adorable! Of course, I donated one to Emma to feed her pin addiction. Look at these cuties!