Why Do We Still Get Excited over Crash Bandicoot?
The internet held its breathe this week at the news of a potential Crash Bandicoot reboot. News stories emerged that a NECA Toys director had all but confirmed the gaming bandicoot was set for a big return – setting fans up for excitement that finally there was something coming their way. But then came the crushing news – it wasn’t happening and yet again the rumours tailed off. What is it about Crash that makes gamers still get so excited all these years on?
To be fair to Activision, it’s not like they’ve been deaf to the calls for a reboot. Two years ago they came out and clarified the whole situation when rumours swirled then that the franchise was set for a return to Sony. They told Game Informer;
“Activision owns Crash Bandicoot and we continue to explore ways in which we could bring the beloved series back to life.”
Beyond this it’s not like Activision hasn’t been trying to retool the franchise. In the 2000’s it released a trilogy of games that each tried to bring new spins on the popular bandicoot. Crash Twinsanity, Crash of the Titans and Crash: Mind over Mutant all came and went with very little reaction from the wider gaming community – most of whom simply didn’t care for them. And so Activision did what most developers would do – it took the franchise away and hasn’t gotten back round too it. Yet here we are in 2016 with people getting excited at the prospect of a return. What gives?
The biggest problem for any Crash Bandicoot return is that platformers aren’t really in the AAA domain any more. Gaming’s moved on and 3D platformers aren’t the money-spinners they once where. Back when Crash Bandicoot: Warped landed on the PlayStation 1; he was the unofficial mascot for Sony’s console but these days he’d struggle to gain traction on a console bursting with different personalities. And if you don’t believe me; take one look at what happened to poor old Spyro The Dragon.
Spyro got a reboot a few years back in the original Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure game. Very quickly it became apparent that people were more interested in the Skylanders characters and that Spyro was playing a bit-part in his own adventure. By the time the sequel rolled around Spyro was shunted off the box and became just another face in the games bulging line-up – turning his second coming into a sad case of the iconic character being overshadowed and left in the dust.
So how should a reboot be handled? Activision’s president spoke back in 2012 on the issue, making clear that he felt the fundamentals of franchise had to change, stating;
“Crash needs a total reboot. There’s an opportunity to reset the history, and go back to his creation story and the original conflict with Cortex. In that context, you could reprise classic Crash 1 and 2’s settings and villains. It would make sense to use a more modern, free-roaming style. I would concentrate on Looney Tunes-esque animation and really addictive action. That’s what we did with the original Crash, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be done today. Given the current Crash games, people forget that he was once cool. Our Crash had a certain whimsical edge to him. Sure, it was goofy – but it wasn’t dumb.”
Yet looking round the internet, many fans feel different. In fact there’s a strong groundswell of support for a return to the series roots. This is why the idea of Sony “rescuing” the franchise holds such appeal. The reality is Sony had very little to do with making those original Crash games so special – that would be Naughty Dog. Since leaving the franchise behind the developer has gone on to establish a number of top-tier Sony franchises – including Jax, Uncharted and Last of Us. The truth is the developer wouldn’t be interested in returning. Josh Scheer of Naughty Dog told Cinemablend;
No, I don’t, because we’ve got an amazing team of people making some really expressive performances with our current stable of realistic characters. I mean, animating the stylised stuff is a lot of fun, but the stories that we’re trying to tell right now are a little bit more grounded and a little bit more grown up than they were back in the Jak and Daxter days.
So what next for Crash Bandicoot? HD-re-releases are an option for the series. The original games came out when analogue controls hadn’t been prevalent on the Sony console – meaning the first game in particular suffers from twitchy controls. Recreating the magic might help re-introduce Crash to a new generation – similar to how it worked for the New ‘n Tasty HD re-release. That game brought a classic PlayStation One game to prominence which went underappreciated in its original release but made enough tweaks to keep the experience fresh.
We doubt this would be enough though. The fact is fans want the franchise to return to the peak of its popularity and somehow returning to Sony will achieve this – we just don’t see it. Sony didn’t include Crash in their ill-fated All-Stars game a few years back and if they really wanted the franchise; could bring it back any number of ways. The simple truth is Crash would probably never be anywhere near as big as he was in his heyday – and fans have to realise this. Where Mario evolved and adapted; Crash’s fortunes mimicked that of Sonic – falling into a cycle of depreciation that’s undermined its credibility.
Put simply, we don’t even think whatever the franchise does next could ever match expectations. Those have risen in recent years to the point where Crash is more known for his teasing than his gameplay. Images, t-shirts, tweets – unless it leads somewhere then there’s no point in teasing.
It’s time to let fans know what the plan is.