I was never a Nintendo fanboy. The NES, the N64 and so many other incredible consoles passed me by as a youngster. I've no idea why my family never picked them up, but I do know which device served as my intro to the world of console entertainment:
While the PlayStation itself marked the beginning of my infatuation with gaming, its impact on me personally would have been dampened were it not for Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. And I'm clearly not alone.
One fan recently demonstrated their love for Spyro with a stunning remastered level in Unreal Engine 4, while another took on the responsibility of recreating all of the original Crash Bandicoot with the same engine. It's clear that these two PlayStation franchises struck a chord with millions of gamers. But if you'll permit me, I'd like to bring it all back to one; myself.
In the hopes that you'll do the same, let me run you through why I feel these gaming icons have endured so long and what personal worth they both hold for this nostalgic Irishman.
The success of Crash Bandicoot came as an absolute shock to its creators. They knew they had a successful IP on their hands, one brimming with charm, innovation and spectacular graphics. But what Naughty Dog didn't anticipate was that it would become the flagship series for Sony's PlayStation. Crash was their answer to Nintendo's Mario and it's something that a lot of us still care about, I mean people lost their minds when a remastered trilogy was announced at E3.
Crash Bandicoot was the second game I played on my first console. Its sound effects, art style and challenging levels are ingrained into my memory banks, as I'm sure they are yours. So in order to celebrate that legacy and Crash's meaningful impact, I'd like to share some of my favorite bits of trivia on the orange bandicoot:
- When designing the game, the developers felt that the lead character should either be a wombat, a potoroo, or a bandicoot. They wanted to emulate what SEGA did with the hedgehog and Warner Brothers with the Tasmanian Devil, by taking a somewhat cute animal that no one really knew about and turning it into a popular icon. They settled on the bandicoot. Obviously.
- Naughty Dog knew Sony lacked a mascot for their PlayStation brand so they put a great deal of effort into creating a character that could fill that gap. Looks like it worked, too.
- Crash got his name because he's a bandicoot that crashes into boxes. Amazing. However, the marketing director of Universal Interactive Studios insisted the character and the game that he was in be named Wezz, Wezzy or Wazzle the Wombat. Naughty Dog threatened to drop the project entirely after hearing the director's (absurd) demand and luckily they won out.
- The boss called Ripper Roo in the first Crash Bandicoot has a rather memorable laugh. It was actually the only way he communicated. But the laugh track isn't original, it's taken from Disney's The Lady and the Tramp. Remember this hyena?
If you have any personal stories of love for Crash Bandicoot, we'd love to hear them! Cause I'm about to fawn over the first video game I owned.
Spyro the Dragon
Who could resist such a trailer? An "original lead character" in a video game with "amusing animations"? I was sold.
Insomniac Games released Spyro the Dragon in 1998 to critical acclaim; it was only their second game as a developer. It became one of the more adored franchises on Sony's system and its originality, attractive art design, superb levels and charming lead character ensured that this little dragon's reputation carried several successful sequels. But on a more personal level, Spyro the Dragon introduced me to video game addiction.
It's No Holiday Without Spyro
Growing up in Dublin, Ireland, I wasn't accustomed to trips abroad. Our family vacations consisted of us venturing off "down the country" — essentially anywhere outside of the capital, regardless of the direction — in our motorhome, or camper van as you Americans call it, to chill with the wildlife, take in some startlingly beautiful scenery and enjoy a good 'ol scone. The life, people.
But I remember distinctly the holiday that followed the arrival of my PlayStation, because I was determined that it was coming with.
We stayed on a site that supplied our camper van with electricity and we used to suck them dry; my mother used to bring a microwave, for goodness sake. So, knowing full well that the electricity was there for the taking, I hatched a plan: We were going to bring the PlayStation, Spyro the Dragon and our massive, heavy and stupidly cumbersome CRT television on the holiday of my f&%$ing dreams.
And so, surrounded by the lofty hills of Ireland, the wildlife (by which I mean sheep) and all the scones I could scoff, I sat under the awning outside of our camper van and played the sh*t out of Spyro the Dragon till completion. Saying I love this game feels like a disservice. Here's to you, little purple dragon.