TURN TO CHANNEL 3: While familiar, ‘Crash Bandicoot’ isn’t just another mascot game
When you’re a creative person, chances are you don’t like the status quo, even if it seems like the rest of the world is totally OK with it, and this is also true in the gaming world.
Today’s topic here on Turn to Channel 3 ushered in a whole new generation of games and gamers as well, shattering the status quo and turning the gaming industry upside down. As we conclude our “Game-Changing” month, we take a look back at the very first “Crash Bandicoot” game on the original PlayStation. We’ll get into the overall impact on the industry later on, but for now, just how does Crash Bandicoot’s grand debut stack up nearly 20 years later? Let’s fire up our old PlayStation and find out!
“Crash Bandicoot” (PlayStation)
A lesson I feel is often lost among many game developers these days – and this is especially true of the big budget firms – is that sometimes less is more, and in the case of Crash Bandicoot’s humble beginnings, you get an equally humble and simplistic soundtrack. In place of orchestral and ethereal- sounding tunes often synonymous with epic games, you have music that would feel right at home in any “Donkey Kong Country” spin-off, with jungle beats that obviously elicit the feel of your environment in the early portions of the game. Then it transitions into more of a tribal sound, followed closely by subtle, yet darker electronic and industrial tones.
There’s nothing here to shout out to the retro gaming community as one of the best songs ever composed, and that’s just fine because, in 1996, platform titles, while evolving, still had to carry one simple rule – the soundtrack has to keep you interested and coming back as you curse and swear at your controller, insisting to the gaming gods that you did indeed jump when plummeting to your doom into a pit somewhere.
Additionally, the sound effects and voice acting in this game are pretty good as well, in an era where this wasn’t the norm for platform titles. This definitely added another dimension to storytelling in a video game.
Look, I’m just as big of a fan of the era of polygons that were common with the N64 and PlayStation during this time period as I am of pixels, and a lot of the time, we can overlook it to some extent because nostalgia takes over to the point where we almost see past the obvious glaring flaws that are apparent in 2016. While, from certain angles, “Crash Bandicoot” appears to be smoother than most polygonal titles, this doesn’t mean it overcomes the many shortcomings that these now chunky looking sprites can showcase most of the time.
There are certainly games in 1996-1997 that suffer from the glaring eyesore that polygons often are in 2016, but “Crash Bandicoot” was the game that brought Sony into the seemingly endless war between Nintendo and Sega, so while I’m sure I was one of many who thought they did an excellent job of jumping right into the fray and succeeding, I feel the graphics of this game, years removed, looks rather plain. I say this in the sense that, in 1996, they were probably doing it better than Nintendo and Sega, but when looking at games from that time frame in the present without the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, they were dead even with their rivals in retrospect.
The folks at Sony and developer Naughty Dog had a tall task ahead of them, having to create a character that both had the attitude and personality of Sonic, yet also possessing the endearing qualities of a certain Italian plumber, and I must say that they definitely achieved that through the gameplay mechanics. Sure, they borrowed a lot of staples of the genre, but they truly presented it in a way that seemed fresh for the time. A prime example of this would be the use of a tribal mask for invincibility versus the never-explained Sonic the Hedgehog invincibility or the ever-popular Starman in Mario’s gaming universe. The bosses were fun and also had a personality and charm uniquely their own.
For me, “Crash Bandicoot” was a hybrid of styles that worked well together to create a successful formula that would definitely make a dent in the established dominance of “Super Mario” and “Sonic” titles. The fact that you could jump, flip, and spin to destroy boxes made it a good selling point for the company because it gave gamers the comfort of knowing they weren’t really diving into a completely unknown world – just a different way of looking at it.
While there were moments when controls didn’t seem quite as responsive as I’d hoped, this was a struggle that all of us growing up with platform games dealt with, so while it was troublesome at times, I never found it annoying enough to stop playing the game.
Often overlooked is the historical and cultural significance of “Crash Bandicoot” and the Sony PlayStation within the realm of gaming. In the same vein as when “Sonic the Hedgehog” shattered the expectations that gamers had of platform titles in the sense of speed and overall depth, Sony was faced with a similar task of changing things up and bringing attention to their product, which was new to the scene, and they did it by creating a game with personality, charm and, most of all, an ad campaign for both this game and their console that broke so many rules and was both humorous and pinpoint in focus. “Super Mario Bros.” and the NES brought the industry back from the dead, Sega added its own unique style and attitude, but Sony and “Crash Bandicoot” took gaming into a level of mainstream adult entertainment that it has never truly left.
Yes, to many, “Sonic the Hedgehog” was cooler and hipper than playing “Super Mario” titles, but “Crash Bandicoot” and an intense ad campaign from Sony made Crash’s debut and the console it would be played on the place to be as far as gaming was concerned.
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Turn to Channel 3, and as we turn the calendar to February, we will be covering nothing but “Final Fantasy” games for our “Fantastical February” month!
Until then, remember that any time is a good time to game on!
Note: All ratings for Turn to Channel 3 are based on a scale of 1-10.
by Nick DeMarco
Nick DeMarco is a blogger, retro video game small business owner, and lover of all things retro. Don't get stuck on an elevator with him, unless you know who Ace Harding is and why Crystal Pepsi deserves just as big a comeback as Surge.