Both the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon video game series were a hit throughout the nineties, becoming iconic games for Sony’s first home console. Their memorable characters were considered to be Sony Playstation’s mascots back in day. These games received excellent reviews and were considered must-haves for owners of the Playstation.
However, much like other technologies, these games have aged with the passing of time. Unfortunately, if you grew up in the late 90’s, you too grew up in an awkward time for games. Developers had just entered the “3D world” of gaming. 3D games were just arriving on the scene, and many developers had to learn how to make 3D games for the first time. What seemed ground-breaking at the time now looks like an unpolished mess of sharp polygons. Clearly, out of any generation, the Nintendo 64 and Playstation have aged the worst (well… maybe excluding Atari).
That doesn’t mean they’re bad games anymore. In fact, ugly games can still be fun, right? Some companies had a harder time figuring out how to make a solid 3D game. Both Crash and Spyro are 3D platformers, but they both take a different approach. The Crash Bandicoot series can be described as a “hallway platformer,” meaning that Crash plays pretty much in a narrow hallway for the majority of the game. There’s really never any room to explore because you can see exactly where everything is in any given direction. It almost played like a literal translation of a 2D game into 3D. Spyro, on the other hand, pretty much plays like Super Mario 64 or any traditional “collect-a-thon” platformer that came about during that era. Unlike Crash, you couldn’t see what the world offered you all at once. You had the explore the areas around you and go in multiple directions to find and collect items that would help you progress through the level. This is how we can tell if a game stands the test of time.
The Crash Bandicoot series was definitely unique, and I have yet to play a game that plays similar to the original series. Unfortunately, because of its many quirks and ideas for how a game should be played, the Bandicoot series has aged more than Spyro. Remember how I mentioned that Bandicoot feels like a 2D game being translated into 3D? This because of the clear lack of thought behind how a 3D game should play. For instance, jumping in Crash Bandicoot can be horrendous at times: the precision required to land a jump in this game is one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had with a 3D platformer. This is because the developers at the time lacked an understanding of depth perception. There are many times in the series where you can over or undershoot a jump, because it’s very hard to tell where exactly you need to land. There are even cases where players can’t see a pit until they accidentally fall into it and die. Later, game developers gained a better understanding of depth perception – and yeah, it’s a bit unfair to compare early games to modern games, but there were still better platformers that had mastered the mechanics on how depth perception and jumping works at the time Crash Bandicoot was made. A few examples: Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and even the Spyro series. These games have better mechanics and highlight how badly Crash Bandicoot has aged.
The reason Crash has aged so poorly is the initial design of the game itself. As a result, I can’t see a brand-new crash game in the style of the original trilogy actually working in today’s age. Gaming has changed quite a bit since the late 90’s: it has become more mainstream and thus has appealed to people who like to play games casually. I’m not saying hard games don’t appeal to gamers anymore (ahem… Darksouls), however, Crash games can be hard in an artificial way. Deaths can happen because of the way the game is designed rather than the way the game is played. This makes the game unforgiving and frustrating at times and could turn off many newcomers to the series. Additionally, Crash’s linear gameplay is totally out of touch with where the gaming industry is headed. More games today are becoming “open-world” and encourage the player to explore that world. Crash, on the other hand, has none of that. Its gameplay doesn’t work in today’s age, and if the developers tried to slightly alter it to make it work in modern times, it just wouldn’t be Crash anymore. They have already attempted to change gameplay in games like Twinsanity and Clash of the Titans, but fans and critics complained that it veered too much off course from the original formula.
The Spyro series on the other hand has a lot of breathing room in today’s age. Yes, the game has aged as well, but most of the aging come more from aesthetics and sound design. There is nothing really notable in the way the gameplays have aged. The Spyro series was designed to be an actual 3D game and that’s why I think it has aged better. I’m not saying a brand-new game with the same style as the original game would 100% percent work. However, Spyro has already implemented open world elements in the game itself, the hub world, and even the levels had some exploration. If they were to use the same formula and simply expand on it then it wouldn’t feel like a completely different game. However, just like Crash, the Spyro series have had games released after their original trilogies, and just like Crash, those games also received bad reviews from fans and critics: the only difference is that the games received complaints because they were bad on a technical level (long loading times, bugs/glitches, etc.) and made some poor design choices.
Looking back on these games is pretty funny, in a way. Both Spyro and Crash were popular mascots, but Crash was more popular than Spyro. However, times have changed and not only have the Spyro games aged better, but they’re more popular now than our Bandicoot friend. Even though Spyro isn’t technically in his own game anymore, he’s still a main character in the Skylander series and even though I wouldn’t touch those games with a 5-foot pole, the games have made Activision a butt-ton of money and received decent reviews. Crash was recently added to Skylanders, but it was pretty obvious that this was done to help promote the N Sane trilogy that was announced at the same time. Next week, both remakes of the trilogy will be out. Activision has stated several times that they want these remakes to appeal to both veterans and newcomers to the series. I’m not sure if Activision is testing the waters to see if they want to continue both series after releasing the remakes, but I have a feeling that if one series was planning to continue after the remakes the Spyro series would work better than the Crash series by a landslide. I strongly believe the new remake will do better in review scores and in sales.
Brandon De Aguiar is a fifth year Computer Science student and Co-Coordinator of Axe Radio