I was disgusted today to see that the remaster no one asked for, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, had sold out of pre-orders at some stores. As someone who played a lot of video games in the late 90’s, I can tell you that these three games are shit. Outside of Japan, there were precisely 20 days when Crash Bandicoot was relevant as a fun, 3D platforming game. But then Super Mario 64 came out and shat all over not just the original Crash Bandicoot but all future Crash Bandicoot games.
If you’ve never played the original trilogy, consider yourself lucky. The titular hero Crash meanders down extremely narrow corridors collecting fruit by smashing open crates. Sometimes a bottomless pit might be in the way. It’s as entertaining as it sounds. Occasionally the game would turn into a 2D platformer by keeping the camera perspective constant but turning Crash 90° degrees. These sections were the highlight because there were the only ones where you felt you had any real control over Crash’s jumping. And that’s the core of the game’s problem; the jumping never felt good, it was extremely difficult to change Crash’s trajectory once you’d left the ground. For a game where 50% of the gameplay is jumping, this is a critical error of design. One that in 3 games over three years, was never rectified.
To be fair, Crash Bandicoot 3 was a decent game because they threw in a lot more variety in the levels and adopted a hub world layout. The variety came in the form of motorbike levels, jetski levels and my favourite; riding a cute baby tiger along the Great Wall of China. This variety hid the appalling and boring level design and the hub layout meant you could avoid the disgracefully disgusting scuba diving levels.
I started writing this last night but the thought of the scuba diving levels made me nauseous so I went to sleep, only to be wracked by nightmares or Crash Bandicoot in a scuba suit. I think at the time it was some weird reference to a sexy Lara Croft render in scuba gear.
Anyway what was I getting to? Oh yeah, idiots with bad taste. I took to social media to gently inform people that these games are complete rubbish. You can follow that link but I’ll screencap it here.
We seem to have entered some sort of twilight zone where mere criticism (as shallow and blunt as my criticism was) is interpreted as some sort of authoritarian action against people’s ability to waste their time. I’m labeled the Fun Dictator, The Fun Police and it was suggested that I wasn’t letting people enjoy things or that I found it unfair. Also Jake accused me of sour grapes. I’m not stopping anyone from desperately trying to relive a time when they were too young to know better. I’m not barricading game stores to prevent people wasting their scarce government handouts on frustrating games. I’m merely letting people know that they have appalling taste. I might have to explore this elsewhere but people don’t seem to be able to disagree anymore, even over something as simple as tastes in games, instead critics are dismissed as oppressors.
The point stands though. People are only interested in the N.Sane trilogy remaster, because they’re between the ages of 25-30 and want to relive their carefree days as a kid. That’s fine, but anyone who claims that these games are still fun, or had any influence on the development of 3D platformers, other than illustrating what not to do, is deluding themselves. The original Crash trilogy only serves as a curio to show that even Naughty Dog, an acclaimed game studio of the highest pedigree, can have a few rough and raw games in their catalogue that they no doubt learned from. Naughty Dog’s executives made the best decision of their lives when they shed Crash and his baggage to develop new intellectual property. This decision set them on the path to their place of respect among game studios.
The reviews are coming in now and Crash is getting the same middling scores now that it got all those years ago. I recommend a quick read of those. First they demonstrate how far professional game journalism has come and secondly, the Wired author correctly identifies that limited three dimension movement would’ve been a novelty in the 90s, which is pretty much exactly what the ancient Gamespot and IGN reviews say.
Now I’m going to slog my way through the broken and archaic mechanics of Pokémon Red to relive 1999.