Growing up as a stubborn Nintendo loyalist, I dismissed any kart racer not named Mario Kart. Why bother with the rest when you already know the best? That ignorance would come back to bite me.
During my 2nd go-around in college, a classmate of mine introduced me to Crash Team Racing. With her PlayStation at the ready, we argued over which kart racing series was better while leaving me in the dust. Though this argument continues to this day, that classmate is now my wife and I guess you could count that Crash Team Racing session as our first date.
Mario Kart may still rule the roost, but there’s a segment of gamers who share a deep love and nostalgia for Crash Team Racing. And rightfully so, as even I have to acknowledge that Crash’s kart racer was a solid game. Decades later, Crash Team Racing gets the remaster treatment in Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled.
This remaster isn’t a straight-up port. While the original is used as a basis, it also rolls in characters, tracks, and other content from later games in the series, such as Crash Nitro Kart and Crash Tag Team Racing. In all, you’re getting 31 tracks and 26 characters, which is a lot to work with.
Besides that, an incredible amount of care went into revising the visuals. Long gone are the blocky graphics of the original. In its place are gorgeous graphics that are sharply-detailed and look better than any kart racer out there. Not sure how it ports down to the Nintendo Switch, but I have the PS4 version and it looks incredible! Having said that, loading in all of its gorgeous visuals takes an inordinate amount of time. For a game about speed, these loading screens have a way of grinding things to a halt.
Based on my recollection of the first game, it plays a lot like that. I recognize the tracks and the weapons. However, it seems like the game has a power slide mechanic that didn’t work the same way as in the original. This time, as you’re in the midst of a power slide, you can hit another button to trigger mini boosts. However, you have to time your boosts just right, as the window to boost is really short.
It’s an interesting touch that does add a bit more depth to the action. That said, I’m personally struggling to come to grips with the core power sliding mechanic. Chalk this up to me having the Mario Kart technique burned into my skull. Unlike Mario Kart, where hopping into a power slide locks in your direction the moment you jump, you don’t commit to a direction in Crash Team Racing until your kart hits the ground. What this means is that you can hop facing left but end up sliding towards the right because you switch directions mid-air. This isn’t really a critique against the game, but it’s certainly something that requires some time to grasp.
Of course, you get access to your standard Grand Prix races, but the game also comes with an adventure mode. Similar to the format of Diddy Kong Racing, you’re dropped into a hub world, where each race is a point on the map. You’ll need to finish first in every event to progress, so make every attempt count! Beyond standard races, you’ll also come across different race types, including modes where you have to collect specific items while also finishing first, to boss fights. I appreciate the variety, even if it’s proving to be quite the challenge for me. Even on easy!
Throughout the course of play, there’s a ton to unlock. From different characters, skins, cars, decals, wheels, and more, there’s a lot of incentive to push forward. There are specific things that need to be unlocked through in-game currency, but thankfully there are no loot boxes as of writing.
If you thought you were the best at Crash Team Racing back in the day, now’s your chance to prove it through online play. It’s pretty basic, as you can play public or private races or battle mode. From the bit I played, I didn’t seem to run into any major lag or other technical hiccups. That said, queuing into battle mode didn’t really work for me, probably due to the lack of players wanting to play it.
Save for the game’s brake-screeching load times, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled feels like the loving tribute that this kart racing classic deserves. Gorgeous graphics and lots of content make this one a contender to the kart racing throne, even if I’m not quite ready to knock Mario Kart 8 Deluxe off the mantle. Nevertheless, getting to relive my wife and I’s first date in HD makes it worthwhile. Even if I still lose every time.