Kart racers have a fairly hardcore and dedicated audience that flock to each new release with anticipation and hope that anything outside of Mario Kart can live up to the standards Nintendo has set for the genre it created. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch is arguably the best iteration in the series to date. Team Sonic Racing came and went with a sputter back in May, but now, we’re witnessing the return of the only franchise that was able to really give Mario Kart, and to an extent, Mario himself, a run for its money. Crash Bandicoot baby.
Title: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: June 21, 2019
Game Provided By Activision for the Purpose of This Review
Like the original from 1999, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a kart racing game featuring the characters and world from Crash Bandicoot games. Not only is this a full remake of the original entry, but it also includes content from 2003’s Crash Nitro Kart, the original sequel, and 2005’s Crash Tag Team Racing.
In all, there is a hefty amount of content to be explored. 31 tracks, 26 characters, and a plethora of customizable content are just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by fans of the series. In fact, the customizable stuff is a new addition to the franchise and very reminiscent of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, allowing you to change up your racer with different skins, the kart itself to give it a personalized touch, and of course, the wheels. It’s all completely optional so you don’t need to dive too deep into it if you don’t want to, but the added hours of fun unlocking new pieces of gear for your kart is an enjoyable one.
Adventure mode is back and insanely fun to play through, featuring new cinematics added throughout the journey and the ability to play in either the Nitro-Fueled style or Classic style. Classic style will lock you into the character and kart you originally select, while Nitro-Fueled style will allow players to mix and match in between every race if your heart so desires. Classic style is also locked to one difficulty level, whilst Nitro-Fueled style you can pick between Easy, Medium, and Hard. More on the difficulty levels in just a minute.
Fans of another classic kart racer (which, let’s be honest, needs a revitalization Microsoft), Diddy Kong Racing, will immediately sense the similarities between the two Adventure modes. You start out with your select character in a kart sitting in an overworld setting. You are free to drive around this area and explore, and when you want to compete in a normal race or a boss stage, you simply drive up to the platform and enter in. There are secrets to uncover in this overworld in the same style as Diddy Kong Racing, and it really just made me realize how much we need Nintendo and Microsoft to come together to produce a new entry in that series.
Gameplay wise, the racing is fast and frantic, which makes Mario Kart feel almost slow in comparison, which is insane to think about. The controls didn’t feel overly loose or slippery, and are kept tight and precision based. For example, drifting will take some time to get used to, as it’s handled differently than it is in other games from the genre. Players will need to pay attention to the color of the smoke in order to knock when to let go and when the boost is at its maximum. Mastering the controls and truly understanding the mechanics will go a long way in Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled.
Okay, the difficulty level. Let me be perfectly clear. I consider myself to be an above average gamer, bordering on the levels of great at times. I’m not hardcore by any means, but I do love a good challenge and have successfully finished some of the more brutal games in history, including Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, the Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is easily the hardest kart racing game ever produced. Every time you enter into a race, you honestly have no idea what is going to happen and how the events are going to play out. Even on the standard difficulty (Medium/Normal), it’s like playing the original release on the PSOne on Hard. And don’t even get me started on the new difficulty that’s labeled as Hard. That’s not Hard.. it’s more Nightmare than anything else. The times it didn’t feel like I got lucky in a race, I truly felt as if I was slowly learning the mechanics all over again and getting better. But other than that, I spent many a races aggravated and ready to throw my Pro Controller through the damn TV.
When you don’t feel like partaking in the Adventure mode, there are other classic arcade mode styles to enjoy, including different battle arenas. There is also new content scheduled to be added regularly via free updates known as Grand Prix Events. Each free event will add a new race track to the game while players compete in special challenges to earn Nitro Points. These points can be accumulated and used to unlock new characters, karts, and customization options. If players cannot earn enough currency to unlock the items during the event itself, everything will eventually make it’s way into the Pit Stop, an in-game item shop where things can be unlocked using Wumpa Coins earned through gameplay means.
Split-screen multiplayer is always a welcome addition to a kart racer, and thankfully all the tracks are unlocked from the get go when playing with friends. The game itself is beautiful and runs quite smoothly. Even the soundtrack has been completely reworked for the remake, and sounds better than ever. A nice option to change the tracks back to the original does exist (just like in the N.Sane Trilogy collection), if you’d like to hear the original compositions from Josh Mancell. But, I must say it’s fun to hear his remakes since he’s back as the composer. Crash Bandicoot music has always been fun and cartoony, and this is ramped up to eleven for Nitro-Fueled.
Outside of the punishing difficulty, the load times are a bit longer than I was expecting, especially on Nintendo Switch, where I’ve been enjoying the game. When compared to other entries in the genre like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, it’s almost inexcusable. Loading screens can last up to a full minute before getting into a race, but I do know it’s slightly less than that on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Still, that’s just too long. Restarting a race is quick thankfully since you’ll be doing that often, and you won’t need to sit through the load times more than one per each new race.
Casual audiences might be scared off from the talk of how insanely difficult this game is, but don’t be. It’s perfectly fine (and recommended as a starting point) to place Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled on easy until you begin to learn the ropes. Once you get a good feel for the mechanics and understand that sometimes you’re just going to lose because the AI is insane, you’ll have a blast with the only other kart racer to give Mario Kart 8 Deluxe some serious competition. Crash Bandicoot’s resurgence into modern culture is a welcome breath of fresh air. Now, let’s get both a new entry in the kart racing series that has never been seen, but more importantly.. a brand new platforming game. Crash is back!