It helped define a platform and an era of gaming. It found new ways to innovate in the face of hardware limitations by smartly using its controlled camera. It was rough in some aspects of its gameplay design, but ultimately helped influence future titles in its genre. A remake has since been released, overhauling the graphics and refining certain aspects for a new generation to experience it.
There's a few titles that this description could be used for. I'd argue Resident Evil is probably the most successful example, with the GameCube remake frequently regarded as being just as good, if not better than the original. As you probably guessed from the title, there's two others I'd like to focus on -- Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, and the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Unlike RE, these two remakes are ultimately inferior when compared to the originals.
Rather than starting with something negative, I'd like to point out how the Crash Trilogy improves on the originals -- developer Vicarious Visions deserves some praise for the work they've done here. The analog controls, time trials, and the total crate display from Warped are now present in all three games. Crash 1 got a proper save system, while Crash 2 allows you to easily revisit the secret warp room and each boss fight. The camera and controls in the vehicle segments have also been improved. They even made the game easier to complete by implementing bonus checkpoints and Aku Aku masks if you die a bunch of times in the same spot.
While I'm not completely in love with the revamped visuals, clearly a lot of work has gone into this aspect of the remake. Stylistically, it's the best attempt at nailing Crash's look since Naughty Dog left to work on Jak and Daxter. The remade soundtrack and cutscenes are also a great homage to the originals. And while it wasn't necessarily integral to the experience, being able to play as Coco in most of the levels (with a funny canonical explanation to boot) is certainly welcome. Three platinum trophies and online leaderboards for the time trials doesn't hurt either.
But here's the thing: from a gameplay perspective, the Trilogy is ultimately inferior to the originals. As the Crash community quickly found out, the mechanics from Warped have been grafted onto the first two games. I'm not referring to the power ups they introduced in that title, and Crash 1 still doesn't have a slide. But the speed at which you move, how momentum builds for a jump, how quickly you fall? These aspects were unique to each game, but Warped is now the template for how every level plays. Unsurprisingly, this change wasn't revealed prior to release.
Now this isn't inherently a problem. I get the desire to unify the mechanics across all three games, both for those new to the series and those who haven't played them in ages. The issue with that is how they built the levels -- or more accurately, how they didn't. Sony and Naughty Dog couldn't provide VV with the source code for the originals, but they could give them the geometry mesh. In terms of their size and scale, the levels in the Trilogy are identical to the PS1 titles. A good point of comparison here is the Halo Anniversary remasters, where the original game is running under the hood with a new graphical layer running over it. Unlike the mechanical changes, retaining the geometry mesh was at the forefront of Activision's marketing push for those who grew up with these games (ie: me).
But when you take the geometry from a platformer and throw new mechanics into the mix, you're asking for something to break in the process -- and that's exactly what happened. The platforming segments of Warped are literally the only aspect of this remake that works correctly. There are numerous jumps in Crash 2 which are nearly or actually impossible now. I did a 100% run on the PS1 games not a week before playing the Trilogy, yet I'm struggling to get through the harder levels now. Nothing is "broken" in Crash 1, per say, but a reliance on precision for the original mechanics makes this altered remake absurdly difficult. The bridge levels have been a frequent point of frustration for those making their way through the game. And don't even get me started with how many things I've slid off due to the use of a spherical hitbox (which also wasn't in the original).
Which brings me to Twin Snakes. Yes, the game looks way better than the PS1 original. Yes, there are a number of conveniences and design changes that try and modernize things. Yes, they bring in aspects from Sons of Liberty for consistency. I'm sure you've noticed the parallels to the Crash Trilogy by now, and I imagine those who haven't played it could guess that this remake has a similar problem -- it's inferior to the original. While Twin Snakes (luckily) isn't really harder than MGS1, the game design breaks down with the introduction of MGS2's mechanics. Those levels and bosses were never meant to played in that design sandbox. There's a reason Kojima's basically shunned Twin Snake's existence and we've never seen it released outside the GameCube.
Is Twin Snakes a bad game? From what I played in an emulator a couple years back, I didn't think so. I don't think the Crash Trilogy is necessarily bad either. But for now -- at least until they patch the mechanics and hitbox -- from a gameplay perspective the N Sane Trilogy is an objectively inferior title. Now that I own it, I can't help but be disappointed by that.
The good news? PS1 emulators aren't going anywhere and neither are my ROM dumps.