The Evolution of Crash Bandicoot
Hello, and welcome back to Evolution! This week we’re taking a look at everyone’s favourite marsupial, Crash Bandicoot.
Unlike our previous entrants – Link, Ratchet and Yoshi – Crash is perhaps a little different; in that his evolution serves as a reminder that change isn’t always good.
PLEASE NOTE: There is a small Uncharted 4 spoiler at the very bottom of this article. If you’ve not yet played the game and want it to remain a complete surprise, don’t read any further than Crash of the Titans. Thank you.
Willy the Wombat (Concept Phase)
Way back in the early 1990’s, a little known video game developer, Naughty Dog, set out with a very big goal; to create a PlayStation mascot who could rival Sega’s Sonic and Nintendo’s Mario.
Taking a leaf out of Taz the Tasmanian Devil’s book, Naughty Dog decided to focus on a relatively unknown animal – either a Wombat, a Potoroo or a Bandicoot – and turn it into a superstar.
They came up with a character tentatively named Willy the Wombat. Due to potential copyright action from the TV show Taz Mania – which also had a wombat character named Willy – they knew this would eventually have to change, however, it was enough to spark this initial concept art.
The Future’s Bright (Concept Phase)
It seems Naughty Dog where at somewhat of a crossroads when it came to deciding which way the character should go; worried and pathetic or wacky and cool.
Fortunately for Willy, they chose the second option; figuring a cooler character would be much easier to market.
In order to lower his polygon-count, Willy was purposely designed with no neck, this made it easier for the PlayStation to render him in-game.
His colour palette was chosen simply through process of elimination. Orange stood out strongly against the games’ jungle-like environments, it was easy to see on popular TV’s, and it suited the marsupial theme.
The marketing director of Universal Studios insisted that the character’s name should be Wes the Wombat or Ozzy the Ottsel, however, after threatening to pull the whole project, Naughty Dog got their way, ultimately naming the character Crash Bandicoot; a reference to the fact he crashes through crates.
Crash Bandicoot (1996)
Crash’s debut PS One title was a massive success. The bandicoot himself had been polished beyond the crudeness of his concept art; his hair and facial expressions now much less zany.
The game was jokingly codenamed ‘Sonic’s Arse’ by Naughty Dog as, rather than the usual side-on view, the camera was pointed directly at Crash’s bandicoot behind.
Naughty Dog decided Crash should be a silent protagonist fairly early on. They wanted the player to identify with the character because they’d been on an adventure with him… They also thought voiced video game characters were lame.
Crash 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997)
Naughty Dog had achieved their aim of creating an unofficial PlayStation mascot, so would they sit back in their armchairs and admire their hard work? NO THEY WOULD NOT. In the blink of an eye, Crash 2 was hitting the shelves, bringing with it some damn iconic Crash imagery.
The design hadn’t changed all that much, but Naughty Dog now had a clear direction. They decided to market Crash as the ‘cool’ option when compared to the likes of Super Mario; hence the badass jetpack.
Crash 3: Warped (1998)
Arguably the best game of the series, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, highlighted 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.
Crash Team Racing / Crash Bash (1999/2000)
Crash Team Racing and Crash Bash would feature the bandicoot in a similar guise and, despite the latter being developed by Eurocom rather than Naughty Dog, it seemed Crash was still in good stead.
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (2001)
Traveller’s Tales took over the reins for Crash’s first PS2 outing and, to be honest, it wasn’t a complete mess.
Unfortunately, despite some pretty nice graphics and new vehicles for Crash, the new developers just didn’t quite capture the character of the old games well enough. Sure they didn’t mess around with Crash’s design, but the whole experience just felt off… plus the load times were ridiculous.
Note: is it just me or do Crash’s fingers look weird as hell?
Crash Twinsanity (2004)
Sierra Entertainment were the next to try their hand at a mainstream Crash release. It was called Twinsanity, and it was a glitchy, horrible mess.
It’s remarkable how a slight redesign can make a character go from cool dude to annoying little shit, but my word Sierra achieved it! Just look at those eyes.
In all fairness, I must mention this games’ soundtrack which was absolutely wonderful and a million times more enjoyable than the action itself.
Spin-off title Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto’s Rampage also released, featuring Crash in a never before seen, and rather weird way.
Crash of the Titans (2007)
One of the most recent attempts to rejuvenate the character since then came from Radical Entertainment who made the absolutely bizarre decision to give Crash tribal tattoos…
Uncharted 4 (2016)
After over a decade of hurt, Crash fans finally got to see the bandicoot back in his original glory in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4.
In perhaps one the most meta moments in gaming history, you play on your PS4 as Naughty Dog’s Nathan Drake as he plays on a PS One as Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot… is that clear?
Watch this Achievement Hunter video if you want to know what the hell I’m talking about:
Of course Naughty Dog had to make changes to the section of Crash that you play in order to make it work within the context of Uncharted 4; does that mean they own the IP again? Who knows? Either way, it was a lovely thing to see the developer give a nod to the bandicoot who started it all.