Meet Crash Bandicoot. You know him, of course; he’s the anthropomorphic marsupial that hailed from Naughty Dog in ’96 who would, through time, go on to become one of the foremost gaming mascots of the PlayStation ecosystem. Not bad for a character that used to go by the name Willy the Wombat.
Now that we’ve commemorated the anniversary of PlayStation One, for our latest episode of This Day in PlayStation History, our attention shifts from hardware to software, for September 9 is also a day that will go down in Sony’s history books as the moment when Naughty Dog unleashed its spritely bandicoot with the release of Crash Bandicoot in ’96. And not a moment too soon.
Sonic’s Ass Game
When Sony’s PSOne hit store shelves in 1995 with its CD-based architecture, the Japanese giant faced strong competition from both SEGA and Nintendo, who had established bona fide icons in Sonic and Mario, respectively, at a time when 3D platformers were still all the rage. PlayStation was in need of a poster child, then. What it got in return was three cracking exclusives from Naughty Dog, and a wacky kart racer spinoff to boot.
Indeed by October of ’98, the prestigious studio had rolled out three entires into the Crash series in only two years. Such an accelerated production cycle ensured that not only were early PlayStation owners spoiled for choice when it came to platforming action, it also meant that Crash Bandicoot was all but a household name by the time Crash Team Racing made a beeline for the PlayStation in ’99.
But if the ’90s proved to be a defining era for the Crash Bandicoot we know and love, Sony’s popular marsupial fell by the wayside after the turn of the millennium. Moving on to pastures anew (read: the Uncharted series), Naughty Dog later passed the keys to Wumpa Islands over to Vicarious Visions, Traveller’s Tales and later Radical Entertainment, leading to a string of spinoffs and deviations from the core formula that, frankly, offered little but diminishing returns.
From Crash Bash to Radical’s Crash: Mind Over Mutant, if Naughty Dog’s series hit the ground running in 1996, infusing addicting gameplay loops — man, them time trials — with a kick-ass protagonist in Crash, the IP looks to have gone out on a whimper soon after rights were jettisoned to Activision in 2008.
A Skylanders cameo notwithstanding, Activision effectively placed the gaming mascot on ice after churning out a series of divisive titles. It’s disappointing from a consumer standpoint, of course, but the mere fact that, as of 2007, the Crash Bandicoot series has amassed more than 50 million sales worldwide is a pointed reminder of the franchise’s decorated legacy.
Because make no mistake, Naughty Dog’s creation still holds tremendous resonance with the PlayStation community even to this day, and thanks to a brilliant cameo in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End — something ND managed to keep under lock and key amid excitement for Nathan Drake’s swan song — along with the announcement of a PS4 remaster at E3, 2016 has witnessed something of a homecoming for Sony’s bandicoot.
It’s not an official homecoming per se, of course, given Activision is still in possession of the license, but at the very least, long-time fans of that marsupial can take solace in the fact that Crash Bandicoot is headed for PlayStation 4 via Vicarious Visions.
Through time, the real question will be whether Sony is angling the re-release as a litmus test, potentially using sales of Vicarious’ PS4 trilogy as the deciding factor in whether it should pursue a full-fledged reboot further down the line. Indeed once the dust settled from E3 in June, Sony conceded that it had perhaps underestimated just how important gaming memories and nostalgia can be (didn’t they witness the Internet implode after lifting the lid on the Final Fantasy VII Remake?), so even if it reads as wishful thinking in 2016, a franchise revival isn’t exactly off the table. We’ll be keeping an eye on that one regardless.
Twenty years on from the moment Crash Banidcoot spun onto PSOne, cementing his status as one of the early PlayStation mascots in the process, what are your favorite gaming moments from the series? You can also drop your hopes for the future in the comments, particularly now that Vicarious Visions is working on that fabled PS4 remaster. It’s happening, folks! However, time will tell whether Sony is really gauging interest ahead of a potential full-fledged reboot.
This Day in PlayStation History is a new and recurring feature here on PlayStation LifeStyle that will be acting as your window into the archives of all things PlayStation — birthdays, anniversaries, milestones and more.