When Sonic Racing Transformed released in 2012, it was the biggest shake-up in kart racing since double karts in Double Dash. In 2003, Nintendo introduced the mechanic in their sequel; Mario Kart: Double Dash, allowing players to double up on karts and power-ups, creating more varied races and player options.
Sonic Transformed brought boats and planes to the party, with tracks changing from lap to lap, adding depth to the typically simplistic kart racer. Almost three games in one, Sonic Transformed was well received, praised for its wealth of content and bringing a genuinely fresh take on kart racing.
Racing games never seem to go away, an ever-persistent genre in gaming. The Game Awards saw more racing action, with an award for Forza Horizon 4 as best racing/sports game and a trailer for its upcoming expansion; Fortune Island. The highest rated Xbox One exclusive, Horizon 4 took players to “historic Britain”, a massive open world showing off the best of the British countryside and a stunning recreation of Edinburgh, Scotland’s famous capital.
On a less realistic note, The Game Awards brought a trailer for the much-rumoured Crash Team Racing remaster: Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. Hot on the wheels of the Crash Bandicoot N.sane Trilogy, a collection of the first three Crash games remade, Nitro-Fueled takes players back 20 years to Naughty dog’s first and last Kart racer. HD visuals bring the game into the modern era, which has since seen multiple Mario Kart releases and the aforementioned Sonic Transformed. These two series have seen much iteration since 1999, refining the controls and adding new mechanics. Will this affect the reception of Nitro-Fueled?
The sales for the Crash N.sane trilogy have been great for Activision. The game sold 2.5 million copies by September 2017, before the game released on platforms aside from PS4. On its second release in 2018, it became the fastest selling Nintendo Switch game in the UK this year, trailing the Xbox One sales by just 250 units. Crash clearly has cache in the current market, with fans longing for the days of the regular releases throughout the 5th and 6th console generations.
Whether Activision is using this data to gauge the future of Crash remains to be seen, but the Kart racer is the first missed opportunity of a brand-new instalment in the franchise. The last new Mario Kart game was released in 2014, the last Sonic racing even earlier than that at 2012. Next year could have been the perfect time to bring the Crash world into the new era, combining modern racers with that signature Bandicoot style. Maybe after this one sells gangbusters, Activision?
Don’t get me wrong, the remaster is a step in the right direction. Acknowledging the sub-franchise is good to see, and continues to show that the publisher hasn’t forgot everything aside from Destiny and Call of Duty. The huge budgets those two games wield makes you think, why not Crash?
The visual step-up seen in the trailer for Nitro-fueled could be matched by the same improvements made to gameplay. A unique spin on alternate kart styles with the ride-able polar bear or tiger from the original game perhaps? Or maybe bikes introduced in a new mode akin to a Trials game, based on Crash 3’s Hog Ride level? Sure, the controls for these leave much to be desired in their original form, but built from the ground up in a brand-new Crash Kart game, they could provide the distinct charm needed to set a new release apart from the plethora of Kart racers on the market. The changes seen in the industry since could also affect an upcoming Crash game, with the games-as-a-service model becoming popular. Public events such as Kart meets or team races? Sure, why not.
Activision has a goldmine on their hands. The trilogy remaster performed very well commercially and critically, showing the demand for the cutesy Bandicoot in 2018. Hopefully Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled does well enough for the publisher that the next thing we see from Crash Bandicoot, is a brand new video game.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled releases 21st June 2019.