It isn’t a difficult thing to accuse gamers of nostalgia. Here’s a community which backed Mighty No. 9 to the tune of almost $4 million, and were left disappointed as much by their elevated expectations as by the eventual quality of the game.
Last month they were thrown an extra bone at E3, when Sony announced that returning to PS4 would be an HD remastered version of the first three Crash Bandicoot games.
This in itself doesn’t seem so surprising – Crash was a popular series at the time. But when it managed to take one of the top five spots in our contributor poll of games of E3, I was surprised. Because, you see, Crash Bandicoot was never really that good.
I know that’s basically grounds for a public stoning, but it never really managed to appeal. It wasn’t true 3D platforming in any meaningful sense of the word, with the titular bandicoot proceeding along linear tracks and dying easily due to a lack of proper depth perception.
“Now, Robin” you’ll be saying in a more profane manner into the comments section – “just because it wasn’t to your taste doesn’t mean it was bad. It made a big impact on gaming history”. This I dispute.
In the mid-late 1990s the platformer was king, and Nintendo was emperor. Not only did they have the erstwhile Mario series to keep them plodding along after the fairly lacklustre performance of the Nintendo 64, they also had the high quality Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo Kazooie by Rare to sate the hunger of platformer fans.
So it was only logical that Sony would want something for themselves. They had Tomb Raider (albeit not exclusively) but Lara’s low-polygon dinosaur battles didn’t quite capture the same audience as the cute cartoon characters Nintendo (and Sega, working on Sonic Adventure) could boast. Spyro the Dragon was still two years off, so Crash benefitted largely from being ‘the other one’ for those without access to the acrobatic plumber.
But how far did its influence actually extend, beyond informing nostalgia for current 20-somethings who grew up with it? No other noteworthy platformers have taken on the linear corridor 2.5D style of level design, while plenty have adopted the collectathon open worlds of Banjo and Mario 64. It would seem then like the bandicoot really was a one-hit wonder.
And though it’s still popular with those 20-somethings, I’m still very fond of my first game, Shrek: Hassle at the Castle. That doesn’t mean it’s particularly outstanding in its own right. Crash’s later instalments, like his stablemate Spyro, began to suffer once he entered the new millennium, and never really recovered.
Because the real question that Crash: Remastered raises is if Crash was so good, and remains such a favourite, why not make more? Fans would surely appreciate extra adventures more than a general rehashing of the originals. The answer they don’t want to give is that the world has moved on, and that primitive style of 3D platforming doesn’t work very well if it ever did.
Crash served his purpose as a way to introduce millions of children to the world of gaming, and for that has been wonderfully valuable for a great industry. But we have to stop wearing these rose-tinted glasses when it comes to games we used to love. At some point, we have to accept that the ways of the past were important stepping stones, but now we know better.