Downloadable content can be a contentious topic among gamers. Originally seen as an opportunity to expand our digital adventures, DLC is now often lamented and treated with suspicion. Whether it’s pay-to-win items in a freemium game or currency to open a loot chest, gamers are resistant to having to pay more money on top of already purchasing a game. Yet some games, like Vicarious Vision’s Crash Bandicoot remake, are finding creative ways to not just make DLC palatable, but actually exciting.
I don’t generally like HD remasters all that much. Rather than create a new IP, developers often remake a previous game of theirs, creating nostalgia cash-ins rather than new immersive play experiences. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy turned me around with the promise of a faithfully recreated and oft-forgotten piece of gaming’s past. The original triad of games were excellent platformers featuring crisp controls and a steep, but reasonable challenge. For the most part. There are times where the games are difficult, even legendarily so.
When developing the original game in the 1990s, Naughty Dog cut a level from the game for being unfairly hard, deciding it wasn’t worth hashing out the bugs. Lead programmer, producer, and co-creator Andy Gavin, replying to a question on his blog, wrote, “Stormy Ascent was just cut because it was too long and too hard and we ran out of time. I wish we had put it in as some kind of easter egg, as it was an awesome level, one of my favorite in the game. Long, a bit brutal, but it looked great, and had a real rhythm to it.”
So what a surprise it was when Vicarious Visions brought back the level in its entirety (minus the game-breaking glitches) as free* DLC. The developers personally working on the game had to play a hacked copy of Crash in order to study the level. Completing the level also increases your save file’s completion beyond its max, granting 102% and 27/26 gems. Vicarious Visions took the time to not only bring back Crash Bandicoot, but bring back an icon of content cut from games before their release.
Crash Bandicoot isn’t the only game to have “lost levels,” however, and the Stormy Ascent DLC might hopefully set a trend for future games to bring back unfinished levels. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords was another game notorious for having a large portion of its content left on the cutting room floor before it was released. Although modders have since restored it after much effort, I know I would’ve paid $5 to get them to bring back a planet and new storylines. That’s what downloadable content was originally intended to be: after a game is completed, the developers can continue to add content, increasing longevity and revenue. Benefits for both player and business, now that’s something never considered before!
Maybe this will be an incentive for developers to work on bringing back other things cut from previous games. From Shadow of the Colossus to Persona 4, Ratchet and Clank to Darksiders, remakes can be more than cash grabs aimed at our past. They offer an avenue to explore games the way they were intended to be played. That, and the addition of downloadable content providing opportunities to return and add to a game, allows developers to correct previous mistakes and make up for them by bringing us what we want: more great gameplay in the worlds we love.
*Stormy Ascent will be free through August 19, after which it will cost $2.99. Get it while you can!