With the rest of GameFan nestled mesmerized in front of overheating Nintendo 64's, I set out to play ND's soon-to-be-legendary platformer, Crash Bandicoot. Today, the final copy has arrived (minus a crate or two) and therefore I am not only mired in my element but happier than a turkey the day after Thanksgiving. While I agree whole-heartedly that Super Mario 64 is the decade's most innovative title and a perfect game in every way, I cannot put aside my undying love for brilliant, character-driven platform games. They are and will always be my favorite games. I'm not talking characters in general, but dead-on, researched, guaranteed hot ones. Nor do I speak of platforms in general, but pinpoint accurate down to the nose hair timing ones amongst moving and or disappearing platforms and hoards of enemies. It's the jumps and maneuvers that a novice gamer can't do (and by the time he has, is no longer a novice) that make me quiver with joy. When I began playing Ninja Gaiden on the NES I was a full blown rookie but when I finally finished I was a platform demon. These games are few (very few) and far (very far) between as they are the hardest to successfully conceive, balance,and finally market. But when it happens, which is a rare occurrence, it is truly an event.
With Crash Bandicoot I not only get pulse-pounding, edge-of-my-seat platforming along with burning hot level design, but the most eye-poppin'est visuals ever seen in a video game, period. There can be no arguments. These are the best graphics that exist in a game. As for Crash himself, well, it took expert cartoonists, and designers from ND and Universal months just to perfect him. His animations, his weight, his control in the air, his mannerisms, his look, and his idles are all 100% perfection. Interestingly enough, Crash was originally to be placed in a go-anywhere environment similar to Mario 64's, but in the interest of non-stop action ND decided to re-invent 2 & 3D gaming instead. It's funny, in pledging my allegiance to this title that is the one argument everybody has. "Sure the graphics are cleaner," they say, "but you can't go anywhere." Well, maybe I'm having so much fun right here I don't want to go anywhere else. I am of course referring to my fellow editors/critics who base so much on this premise. So then, am I saying that Crash is a better game after scoring Mario a perfect 100%? Well, no. I'm saying Mario 64 is a perfect action/adventure and that Crash is a perfect action/platform. I like them equally... Is that legal? Let the E-mail begin!
By now I'm pretty sure you know what Crash Bandicoot is all about. It's a platformer in every sense of the word. Sure, there are hog rides (I could write a whole separate article on those) and boulder dashes (ditto) and gouraud shaded polygonal bosses in rooms that make you cry (double ditto) but there is also a high quality, excellently produced PCM soundtrack which heightens the experience by matching each scenario perfectly. When you hop on the hog you'll wanna squeal "yee-haw!" and when you're in the middle of Castle Machinery you'll feel like friggin' George Jetson. So then only one question remains to be answered... how long is it? Well, that all depends. Are you like, super coordinated, or do you have trouble clapping? The best players may finish Crash in a day. But finishing with a perfect 100% is another story. So I'll tell it. Breaking every crate, and earning every crystal will unlock hidden pleasures like you have never seen. But doing so is no easy task. Even you pros will find this a worthy quest, and you newborn gamers (welcome) will be better for having achieved it.
I could ramble for days about Crash Bandicoot but if these screens (which depict only the third island) and this blazing testimonial don't get you to the check out counter, well, then nothing will, unless you fancy pipe wrenches and butt cracks.