The Evolution of Crash Bandicoot
The latest character to feature in our evolution series – following on from Pikachu and Link – is the most famous marsupial ever to fall from glory, it is of course Crash Bandicoot.
After he came second in our top 5 games that need reboots list, I decided to delve deeper into the history of Crash and his changing appearance; which is perhaps a major part of his downfall.
Originally called Willy the Wombat, it’s clear from this concept art that developers Naughty Dog knew what they wanted their hero to look like from the start.
Drawing inspiration from Nintendo’s Mario and SEGA’s Sonic, Crash (or Willy) would be simple in design yet completely unique and instantly recognisable.
His first outing, simply entitled Crash Bandicoot, was codenamed ‘The Sonic’s Ass Game’ because – although the level designs were similar to 2D titles – the 3D nature of the game meant that the camera was focused on Crash’s behind.
From the front, Crash’s appearance had been polished beyond the crudeness of his initial artwork; his body elongated and his hair trimmed away.
With Crash 2: Cortex Strikes Back came possibly the most iconic Crash imagery. While the color scheme and design remained largely the same, the character was refined even further than before.
With the success of the first game, and Crash’s new status as the unofficial PlayStation mascot, Naughty Dog injected more personality into their frontman, making him the ‘cool’ option when compared to Nintendo’s Mario.
Arguably the best game of the series, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, highligted this ‘cool’ image even further, featuring the bandicoot with a cocky smile and a range of new equipment. Promotional artwork even pictured Crash as a rapper; complete with bling and a gold tooth.
Several spin-off games, including Crash Team Racing and Crash Bash would feature the bandicoot in a similar guise and, with the release of the PlayStation 2 just around the corner, it seemed as if Crash would live forever.
However, that’s when things started to go downhill. Under the development of Telltale Games, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex signalled the start of the decay. While not necessarily a bad game, it was essentially a reskinned Crash 3; in that it failed to add anything new to the series, there was no invention, no spark.
Yes, the levels were different and the visuals were better but, all-in-all, this was the same game we’d been playing on the PlayStation One. While the bandicoot himself looked as cool as ever, the title let the series down.
Sierra Entertainment took the reins for the next mainstream release, Crash Twinsanity, and it wasn’t bad at all. A more open-ended world replaced the old-style warp-rooms, the plot was completely fresh, the soundtrack was ear-tingling good, and the level design – for instance the Bear chase in Totem Hokum – was some of the best Crash had ever seen.
So, I hear you ask, what went wrong? Quite simply, the game was broken. Whole chunks of code were missing and glitches galore plagued what otherwise would’ve been a highlight for the series as a whole. Why didn’t Sierra push back release? I’m not sure, but, no matter what the reasons, it resulted in a missed opportunity.
Countless attempts to try and rejuvenate the character have been made since then – including the absolutely bizarre decision to give Crash tribal tattoos – but none have worked.
The demand for the bandicoot’s return is as strong as ever and, if Sony were to pick up the IP and reboot it in the right manner then it would pretty much print money. Unfortunately, developers seem to be absolutely horrified to go near him.
If you’re desperate for another Crash adventure, your best bet is to dust off the PS One and play through the original trilogy, it doesn’t look like he’ll be back for a long while yet.