“Countless unfair deaths, mostly caused by a horribly haphazard jump.”
July 14, 2017 4:43 AM   Subscribe

Crash Bandicoot: An Oral History [Polygon] “Naughty Dog released Crash Bandicoot [YouTube] for Sony's original PlayStation in September 1996. In it, the team took an old idea and changed its point of view, redesigning the idea of a 2D sidescroller and planting the camera behind its protagonist's back for the majority of the game. To learn more about what happened along the way, we recently spoke to the entire development team, contractors, musicians, marketers and others, hearing a story of long nights, groundbreaking technology, unbearable crunches and expensive parties. However, not every story lines up the same way, with some feeling that Naughty Dog discredited their contributions by burying who actually created the flagship character. One thing rings true throughout: The tales culminate in the creation of a game that redefined the platformer genre and laid some of the early cornerstones for making Naughty Dog the juggernaut development studio it is today.”

• Crash Bandicoot is gaming’s ultimate nostalgia act, and that’s okay [AV Club]
“We so often get hung up on assigning importance to innovation and influence that we forget that cultural context is just as, if not more, relevant to a work’s legacy. From reading all the jubilant appraisals of the N. Sane Trilogy and talking to our own William Hughes, the closest thing to a Crash fan on our staff, one of the big reasons these games are so fondly remembered is that they filled a huge Mario/Sonic-shaped void in the lives of young PlayStation owners. The console’s early years were flooded with iconic games, but Crash was the first real kid-friendly mascot it ever had. His games were more goofy and vibrant than any of his polygonal contemporaries, and when you throw in the fact that they were difficult and secret-filled enough to require tons of replaying, you get a series that resonated with a lot of people at a very specific time and asked them to invest so much of themselves in it.”
• The (re)making of 'Crash Bandicoot' [Endgadget]
“In trying to understand what Naughty Dog was going for, and how it achieved so much with so little back in 1996, the team found itself constantly referencing a wealth of original concept art, audio files, level geometry and the legacy games themselves. With two decades' worth of advancements at its disposal, a simple touch-up didn't excite the team. "We felt the standard remaster approach, of moving geometry over and raising the resolution of textures, would not be the right course for such an iconic character," said Dustin King, the game's lead artist. "We're fans. We've spent a significant amount of time -- the previous six months before joining the Crash project -- working on the franchise, working on what makes Crash Crash," said lead level designer Leo Zuniga. "When we joined [this] team, we had plenty of lessons learned but were still thinking, 'How are we going to emulate [the originals] and do Naughty Dog justice?'"”
• Crash Bandicoot: The Game That Loves to Rub Your Face in Failure [Kotaku]
“Punishing stages that stretch on and on, grinding down your enthusiasm with cheesy padding and crummy tricks. Terribly explained one-off mechanics that briefly surface, bemuse, infuriate, then slink back underground just as your blood is reaching boiling point. (I’m looking at you and your frustratingly random blackouts, Light Outs level). It’s not that Crash is always necessarily super difficult — the first set of stages on N. Sanity Island serve up a fairly gentle introduction to the pit-jumping, crate-smashing action. The problem is, even when you’re succeeding, there’s a sense the game forever wants to take you down a peg or two. Example? Every level ends with a completion screen that literally brings Crash to his knees unless you break 100% of the crates lying around a stage. Considering how taxing the core meat-and-potatoes platforming is, you’ll often miss a bunch of hard-to-reach crates in favour of pushing onto the next checkpoint. In most levels, I was lucky if I even smashed half of these apple-filled boxes — cue a 10 second stage-closing segment where Crash is pelted with every single crate he missed. Joy.”
• Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review [Slant Magazine]
“What, then, does Crash Bandicoot have to offer audiences in 2017, on a platform that currently plays host to no shortage of creative miracles as far as platformers go? Yes, the video-game compilation Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy does breathe new visual life into Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back, and Warped. The slipshod, ancient polygons of these games have been given a top-to-bottom overhaul for the 21st century. Jungles are lush, vibrant places, and the textures and movements of every enemy live and breathe with realistic textures, while maintaining their trademark cartoonish animations. Water is crystal clear and inviting. But the gameplay throughout remains nothing short of bafflingly difficult. That fact is in sharp contrast with the actual mechanics of these games. The playing field is a limited-view corridor, with no way to get lost, and the controls are one small step above those of Super Mario Bros.: one button to jump, another to do a spin attack against enemies, and, starting with the second game, a third that let's you slide and crawl. A younger player wouldn't be wrong comparing Crash Bandicoot to Temple Run.”
posted by Fizz (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Cortex Strikes Back

posted by Fizz at 4:48 AM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Boo Yah Grandma!
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:19 AM on July 14, 2017

The duo's fifth release was the moderately successful Rings of Power, published by Electronic Arts for Sega's Genesis in 1991

I can forgive Naughty Dog for many things, since they gave us the wonderful Rings of Power. One of my all-time favrourite games. It kept my housemates and I occupied for weeks trying to solve its puzzles together.
posted by faceplantingcheetah at 5:21 AM on July 14, 2017

My husband bought the N.Sane Trilogy and kindly set up his console for me. I suspect he is now regretting it slightly as I sit on the sofa yelping/swearing as I misjudge that one jump and fall into a pit repeatedly/ride a hog through a obstacle course and smack into a revolving spike/get electrocuted by an eel. Not being a regular modern game player, he had not realised that I am a verbal gamer.

That said, I am thoroughly enjoying myself, even if the game does still set you up for failure constantly with the precision jumps/wonky controls.
posted by halcyonday at 5:26 AM on July 14, 2017

Forgot one other really good excerpt from this article: A chance to reconsider Crash, maybe [Retronauts]
“At the time, there was also a suffocating sense within the media and the tiny little online gaming community that existed in 1996 that game design was a one-way journey: Progress or nothing. If a game didn't shatter the bounds of technology and design, it wasn't worth your time. S.T.U.N. Runner ceased to be fun once DOOM came into being, and Super Mario 64 mooted any game that restricted action to a mere two axes. This, of course, is nonsense, but it would be a few years before I became dislodged from that way of thinking and found a happy medium between that mindset and its "hardcore" USENET opposite, which posited that the value of a given game was directly proportionate to its age. Now that I'm older and wise enough to recognize that a game can be great without pushing any particular envelopes, I want to go back and reconsider Crash.”
posted by Fizz at 5:41 AM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

There is a fun scene in Uncharted 4 where you are forced to play a "competitive" level of Crash. This came to me totally by surprised and I was really excited to play as the countdown ticked down ...

... and I was barely able to finish the level. I have great memories of Crash (pre-ordered the 2nd and 3rd games as well as Crash Team Racing*) but boy howdy, I did not have fun playing that one level emulated in UC4. So I think I'll sit this one out.

Likewise, like, I was a huge Crash fan. I didn't have an N64 so Crash was my dude but whew, I do not understand the insane levels of enthusiasm for this re-release. Not telling anyone what appropriate levels of joy are or should be, I guess I just didn't realize there was a deep and untapped reservoir of unadulterated bandicoot joy.

*greatest cart-combat game of all time fight me
posted by Tevin at 5:49 AM on July 14, 2017

Tevin, I agree with what you're saying.
but whew, I do not understand the insane levels of enthusiasm for this re-release.
I both do and do nut understand this sentiment. I say that, as someone who loves the hell out of Dark Souls-esque games and I know plenty of people who would look at me and say, why would you choose to play something so insanely frustrating or difficult. So who am I to criticize someone who has fond memories for an insane platformer.
posted by Fizz at 6:09 AM on July 14, 2017

Mario 64 and the entire N64 library felt more like a tech demo. The richness of the jumps you had to make in Crash made it feel more like a real game to me at the time.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:02 AM on July 14, 2017

You know, the recent trend for various pop culture artifacts to be described through oral histories is fascinating, but I feel sort of disconnected from how the trend came about.

If only someone would go to great lengths to track down the key people involved in the genesis of the oral history phenomenon, to interview them in an informal setting, and then to compile those interviews into a single document that preserves the authentic voice of each person.
posted by gurple at 8:30 AM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Jason Rubin: ....So I had a dog on the backlot of Universal. She was an amazing dog; my daughter is now named after this dog.

posted by ZaphodB at 9:34 AM on July 14, 2017

I really do not remember these games being as difficult as these articles say they are, although I never played the first one, which sounds like it might be more punishing than the later two.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:27 AM on July 14, 2017

...one of the big reasons these games are so fondly remembered is that they filled a huge Mario/Sonic-shaped void in the lives of young PlayStation owners

On the Sonic end of things, the Saturn, with a few shining entries, otherwise crapped out. I'm sure Mario folks took issue with the N-64 controller.

I wanted a Saturn for Christmas '97 but instead got the PlayStation, and the subsequent introductions to role-playing games, with Chrono-Cross being the final one I'd play on that machine. There was also Crash, which I frankly have an affection for, running through jungles and ruins and tundras and temples. It was really a cool experience.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:44 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I spent hours and hours and hours playing the Crash games. Especially 3, getting all those goddamned gems for each level. I did not realize until now that it was considered a difficult game... huh. I guess I feel kind of vindicated. Not sure if I have the fortitude to go back and play them again now though. I shudder at the thought of the time trials.
posted by catatethebird at 4:14 AM on July 15, 2017

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