Over the weekend I picked up the Crash Bandicoot N'Sane Trilogy for Nintendo Switch and I got really annoyed with Crash Bandicoot rather quickly. The original game just demands such precise platforming, yet I don't feel like the jumping or movement are that tight. And I got to a level that just felt like it required rote memorization of where all the one-hit-kills were. It just wasn't fun. Having recently read through Hardcore Gaming 101's book of their top 200 games of all time, I feel like I should have just started with their suggestion of Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped instead of even bothering with the first.
The third Crash game seems like a pretty huge improvement. I mean, it very much shares the DNA of the first game but this one just feels better put together in a lot of ways. To be fair, I played about an hour and a half so far - thank goodness for the Switch handheld mode which allowed me to listen to the new Amityville movie with my wife at the same time as well, haha. So far, the game seems challenging - sure - but far less asshole-ish. Also the variety of levels has already topped that of what I saw in the first game. Along with the usual vertical stages (both in and out of the screen) and the almost 2D platforming stages, there are also combinations of both along with "endless runner" levels where you ride a galloping animal or even 2D swimming stages a la Donkey Kong Country. So far I've beaten the first boss, and while I still don't necessarily find Crash to be cool at least this third game seems to highlight the appeal of the series a lot more than that first game did for me.
I seem to remember back in 98 or 99 that a girl I was dating in high school had a little brother who was into this game. I think I maybe played a few minutes of it with him. Although I also had a Playstation at this point in time, I was "too old"/"too cool" to mess with animal mascots. Not only that, but A PLATFORMER? Hello!... Resident Evil was a thing. Platformers were for kids! Plus, I've never been a fan of 3D platformers to begin with. And I wasn't even sure what a bandicoot was. (I'm still not certain). I also think in hindsight that I was definitely more drawn to Japanese games at this period of time. It wasn't something intentional, as I don't believe I was hyper aware of which continent developers resided at the time.
The other thing is this - I always thought that the art STYLE of Crash was kind of ugly. And I still kind of think the same way, although many years removed I now find that Crash himself has some kind of ridiculous late 90's charm to him. Like... a certain stoner humor or something. I can't help but think that whoever designed this goofy looking dude was seriously baked. Maybe it's because I also remember those creepy live action commercials (that were years before BK did the same sort of thing w/ their King). So I don't know - now it's got a kind of "so stupid that it's funny" vibe going on for me.
Crash 3 is far more challenging than I recalled. Surprisingly (or not?) I find that even though the game is mostly in a 3D space, I find it works better with a d-pad than with an analog stick. I think this probably comes from the fact that it was released on PS1 prior to the controllers getting analog sticks. So the game was designed with digital input in mind. But damn, the platforming here is not super easy - in fact it's rather demanding. Even in some of the earliest stages I found myself surprised at how precise one needed to be. And it's not like Crash is the most graceful of jumpers.
That said, the game is clearly designed with trial and error in mind. I don't think that levels were intended to be blown through quickly on the first try. IE: This isn't actually the Sony console's Sonic. There were some frustrating moments, and I had to use one continue so far but it looks like continues are unlimited? I do appreciate the way that level structures are so varied. Some are 3D levels heading 'into' the screen, while some have you running 'out of' the screen with a big Indiana Jones bolder chasing you (reminiscent of the gazelle level in The Lion King), while others are pure 2D sidescrollers. It makes for some fun variety.
But honestly... Crash just isn't really all that fun to me. I got to a level that had a time limit to run through it and I was 2 seconds over. It wasn't particularly hard or anything but just the whole concept of a time limit to run through a 3D platforming level rubbed me the wrong way and I just sort of rolled my eyes and shut the game off. So far I feel like my hunch that the Crash games weren't my thing over the years has probably been correct. I'm not finding the game compelling. I just don't seem to be having a good time with this.