I knew who Crash Bandicoot was before I knew what the PlayStation was. I was too young at the time to really conceive of what a console actually was, his quirky dancing and "cool" aesthetic was enough to pull me in from the get go. Starting with an entirely new, and for the time, innovative disc based console system, Sony knew they needed a hook. Classic icons like Nintendo's Mario and Sega's Sonic had showed the gaming industry just what a mascot can do in terms of selling consoles. It was not uncommon for customers to purchase the NES or the MegaDrive simply as a Mario or Sonic machine respectively, and Sony wanted in on that action.
Naughty Dog was developing Crash Bandicoot as an independent project at the time but were soon convinced by Sony to make the game a PlayStation exclusive, though this wasn't difficult. Its competitor, the Sega Saturn, was essentially a 2D console and did a horrible job of keeping up with 3D graphics, while the cartridge-based N64 would have been too expensive to manufacture for. So Crash Bandicoot and the PlayStation ended up being a match made in heaven.
A lot of thought went into his design as a quirky, goofy character. Naughty Dog cleverly decided not to let Crash talk, as they thought it would distract too much from gameplay. You only have to look at what Sonic has become to see what a great idea that was on their part.
Crash Bandicoot was immediately a huge success, with reviews scoring in the 80s and selling almost 7 million units worldwide. Not only was Crash Bandicoot one of the few western franchises to break the Japanese market, but Crash was a refreshing change from other consoles mascots. Crash was seen as a game for gamers. While Mario and Sonic could be picked up by anyone, even very small children, and enjoyed, Crash Bandicoot was a skillful game. A game where the more skilled you were the more tricks you could pull off, and ultimately the more reward you obtained. It was filled with secrets. It had difficult bonus rounds. It was not an easy game. And perhaps this is why people fell so in love with it.
The sequel Crash Bandicoot: Cortex Strikes Back built on the first by changing the way bonuses were handled, giving players an option of five levels instead of a completely linear path and crammed in a whole load more secrets. The third game in the series, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, expanded on this again, adding a sixth warp room and a new collectible, the relics, obtained through time trials, as well as new ways to move through the level including flying, motorbikes, jetskis, and underwater diving.
While Warped is arguably the best title in the Crash series, unfortunately this marked the last game in Naughty Dog's contract with Universal Studios and their relationship had not been reported as a friendly one. Rumors of extremely tight deadlines and last minute changes to the game caused a tepid atmosphere, and Naughty Dog threatened to stop development at least once. Naughty Dog of course went on to develop the Uncharted series, and the Crash Bandicoot IP was left behind.
Several spin offs were created and even a 4th game in the series, Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex, was developed by Traveller's Tales, but they didn't particularly add anything new or innovative to the series like all the games previously had. In the end, the experience was lackluster to say the least—bland and forgettable. The final game in the main series Crash Twinsanity added many new game mechanics, where we saw Crash in an open world adventure working with his arch nemesis Dr Neo Cortex. However, lack of tightening up on the game meant that several areas and deaths felt cheap. Jumps were too tight, challenges too difficult, and the save system not manageable. Overall, a gameplay disaster.
With not even a spin off being released since 2010, many thought of this as the death of Crash. Especially when in 2015 Naughty Dog's Josh Scherr claimed Naughty Dog didn't miss working on the series and had no intention of bringing Crash back to life. However, it was announced this year that the original trilogy would be coming back as a remastered version for the PS4 as soon as 2017, hopefully bringing Crash back to his former glory.
What do you think of Crash Bandicoot? Share your comments and found memories in the comments below.