Before they had huge success and critical acclaim with The Last of Us, before they hit a cinematic stride with Uncharted, before they nailed the tale of Orange Lightning and his “sidekick”, Naughty Dog was ironically known for a simple Australian mammal. A bandicoot, to be exact.
This was no ordinary bandicoot, though, but a failed experiment by a deranged scientist who wanted to make an army of super-animals to show the world he was actually worth something to the scientific community. As someone who has multiple friends in various realms of science, I can say that this is actually somewhat true, except the army of super-animals just glow in the dark instead of throw a bunch of boulders, and none of them have an ecotastic N on their foreheads. So, does Crash Bandicoot stand the test of time? Let us rewind to find out.
First of all, we must talk a little more about the story. As a game that was supposed to rival Sega’s Sonic and Nintendo’s Mario, Crash would need to have some originality, especially in the story department. One thing I actually respect Sonic for is having great motivations against his enemy instead of the usual “princess-castle” routine that Mario has been through.
Crash seems to combine both Sonic and Mario in terms of story with his own little twist. As stated before, a scientist, Dr. Neo Cortex, wants to make an army of animal soldiers using an Evolv-o-ray. Crash didn’t make the cut, so Dr. Cortex dumps him on an island, though not before Crash catches a glimpse of the glorious bandicoot Tawna. This prompts Crash to travel through the three islands to find his love and destroy Dr. Cortex’s evil lair.
This tale of revenge and love is a pretty good one, considering other mascot stories at the time. Of course, later on, Tawna would become just a glimpse in time because her physique was very… feminine. I am not sure how I feel about a bandicoot having the body of an attractive female, but anything that makes Crash happy is good enough, right?
Other than that, the graphics in the game hold up fairly well. Yes, it was extremely boxy, but this was when polygons were first being developed. I didn’t notice many glitches or hang-ups, and some of the graphics are still great even today. The Wumpa fruit that Crash collects to get an extra life (classic) are well-done, and even though the characters and enemies look a bit goofy to today’s standards, it doesn’t look bad. Compare the graphics or Crash to, let’s say, Super Mario 64. The winner is clear.
The score ranges from the amazingly stuck-in-your-head tracks to the almost forgettable. The little voice acting is fun, and all the sound effects match the bright and colorful world. Later on, some of the music doesn’t stick well and the graphics get a bit gray, but it doesn’t matter much because you will have the intro theme or Ripper Roo’s theme in your head for a long time.
The gameplay, however, is meant to be a standout. Crash Bandicoot was meant to showcase something that hasn’t been done before in gaming and, since the Nintendo 64 wasn’t released in North America until a month after the game came out, it succeeded in doing so.
Even though it was innovative and it worked most of the time, it still had room for improvement. The majority of the levels had two forms: side-scrolling wall climbers and what I like to dub the “Sonic’s Ass levels” for reasons I’ll explain later. These side-scrolling levels are great in variety and still retain the 3D elements, with hidden crates behind pillars and such. This is also a problem with falling off of the level. The bonus rounds in the game, which is something else I’ll explain later, are usually thin and side-scrolling. I can’t remember how many times I fell off of the level because I accidentally hit a button and went into the background.
The second type I called “Sonic’s Ass” because the developers thought it would be funny to dub the game the “Sonic’s Ass” game before settling on a name. This is because, well, the perspective is behind the character, getting a good look at his behind. The way it is done is terrific. It feels natural now, and I experience no camera hang-ups or anything that hindered my experience. The sections where Crash is chased by a boulder Indiana Jones-style and the parts where Crash rides a hog (after looking at the camera with a humorously creepy look on his face) really stand out and break up any monotony that the levels had. It was great, and showed the potential of this type of gameplay.
The saving system and bonus rounds get a special mention as they also bridge the game from traditional saving systems and classic password-based systems. Players can only save after getting through a Tawna Bonus Round, which players get to by getting three tokens in crates along the level. This is both interesting and fun when tokens actually have a purpose in gameplay. Dr. Cortex and his partner, Dr. N. Brio (be prepared for tons of puns in the Crash Bandicoot games) also have bonus rounds and tokens throughout the levels, although these are much harder and harder to find.
Rewind Verdict: 8.5 out of 10
This game is a classic. It deserves to be played again. The humor is great, the gameplay is amazing even if it is sometimes frustrating, and the graphics are bright and colorful even though they are showing their edges a bit. Sure, the game’s story isn’t the most original or interesting, but the games were never known for the story, but instead for the characters, which are great here except for the damsel in distress. If you are a fan of Naughty Dog or PlayStation in general, I am shocked you don’t already own this game. May the bandicoot with jeans live on in our hearts. Now, if we can just forget about his last two games….
Sidenote to Activision: I know that you own the licence, but if you ever, EVER, give Crash the Skylanders treatment and ruin him like you did his dragon brother, I will personally destroy your main office like you destroyed my heart and bury all of your Call of Duty games and any potential that you have of becoming successful again. Have a nice day. 🙂