I like to imagine that the decade that we grew up in, will always be the most important to us. Decades are just a collection of years when you really examine them, but they still manage to define our culture and our identity to an unprecedented degree. For many, the 1980s were the years spent dreading conscription, living in an era of fear and waiting patiently every night for David Hasslehoff to crack wise next to KITT on Knight Rider while the threat of the Cold War loomed overhead.
For me, the 1990s were a marvellous decade to grow up in. It was a time of hope, reconciliation and with an eye to the future. I was just a child during and after the 1990s, but it was a phenomenal time to be young. To see your country back in the hands of all the people, to spend a Saturday morning watching X-Men and being lucky enough to learn how to use Windows 95 properly.
It was also one of the most important eras in video game history.
While the Cold War might have ended with Glasnost and Perestroika, the battles of one-upmanship between SEGA and Nintendo were just getting started. The Big N may have had the better console and games in the long run, but SEGA was still brash enough to declare that their Megadrive system would do “what Nintendon’t”. It’s that healthy competition which would eventually usher in the reveal of one of the greatest video game consoles of all time.
The TurboGrafX 32. No wait, sh*t, not that one. I meant the PlayStation.
A console that shipped games in CD-ROM format, taking the best of PC and essentially making it mainstream. The PlayStation was a fine machine, but it needed games that would appeal beyond the usual install base of the video game industry. It needed appeal, widespread love and adoption of the device with games across all manner of genres. Crash Bandicoot was that game, that heralded a renaissance in the industry alongside several other legendary titles.
Imagine where we would have been today if Naughty Dog hadn’t flipped the platforming genre to a new perspective. Imagine a world without WipEout’s incredible fusion of beats and speed or Final Fantasy VII rewriting the rulebook on delivering a story that rivalled the greatest efforts of cinema. There’s a pattern that you can follow here with those examples above: They’re all coming back with a bang.
While WipEout has already shipped and been hailed as one of the finest examples of nostalgia done right, it’s Crash Bandicoot that is winning new hearts and minds with an audience that grew up with it and are eager to drop a few spin-attacks once again. It’s not hard to see why, as Crash Bandicoot was a game that everyone played when it first launched.
Sony was clever in the early days of this franchise, setting up booths with playable demo everywhere and making certain that PlayStations shipped with a taste of the goofy marsupial when they purchased a PlayStation and slapped in the demo disc that came with it. The end result? A franchise that shipped a solid trilogy’s worth of games (and even more spin-offs) out of Naughty Dog, before the studio bid a fond farewell in 1999 with the superb Crash Team Racing.
Eurocom, Traveller’s Tales, Dimps, Radical Entertainment and Polarbit would all take a crack at the series between 2000 and 2010, while Vicarious Visions would return for the present day remake of the first three games after having experienced some success from 2002-2004 with the Australian mascot. So what’s the big appeal in Crash Bandicoot at the moment? Why are people going mental for the 90s icon?
I think it comes down to family. For those of you who grew up with Crash Bandicoot, you’ve seen the world changed. You’ve changed with it, surviving high school and graduating from a university if you were fortunate enough to pursue a tertiary education. You’ve gotten older, you’ve pursued a career and maybe you’ve even got a family.
A family that you don’t want to expose to today’s games, which tend to be a bit more violent.While the indie side of gaming has plenty of charm and nostalgia crafted within its slice of the industry, larger budgeted family friendly games are a bit hard to find. Sure, you could grab Skylanders or LEGO Dimensions, provided that you’re willing to sink even more money into the extras for those titles, but finding something more indicative of one of the greatest gaming eras is sometimes rarer than an undercooked steak.
Maybe Crash Bandicoot represents a purer time in the industry. A time where the game you got was complete and didn’t badger you for credit card details so that you could add a season pass to your shopping cart. With the N. Sane Trilogy, you’re getting just that multiplied by three and reimagined with fancy new graphical technology. The core gameplay is still the same underneath all of those shiny new visuals, barely tweaked and with only a handful of modern conveniences thrown at players.
I like to think that on an even simpler level, Crash is just a great character. Someone who you can introduce to your kids and know that they’ll love to play as just as much as you did. In an age where the world is scary and filled with all manner of paranoia, Crash is a reminder of a simpler time. A time where being a doofus in a video game wasn’t frowned on or generated 10 million responses about intelligence-shaming.
“I think Crash himself and now Coco, I think they’re maybe timeless characters but also very much a character of our time,” producer Kara Massie still explained to me at E3.
We can all be Crash, our nerdy selves all relate to him
He’s an everyday hero but not particularly heroic in his ways. He’s a little bit of a doofus in some ways. We can all be Crash, our nerdy selves all relate to him. I can relate to the nerdiness and cheek of Coco as well. So I think that the lovable cartoon, the playful and joyful character, it’s nice to have something that’s not so serious right now and I think that the humour of all of it and the silliness is something that we all need right now in our lives. I think it’s timely and maybe timeless as well.
The 90s bubble will eventually pop, but I’m enjoying the ride until it does. One Crash game at a time, as I can’t wait for a chance to jump back in. If there’s one lesson I’ve learnt from this post, it’s people don’t want remasters of games from a previous generation, but rather from a decade that actually mattered to them. Seeing your formative years reimagined is magical stuff. Leave the slightly-old stuff to those gamers who’ll appreciate it when they’re older, wiser and a bit greyer.
Last Updated: June 27, 2017