Crash Bandicoot. Anyone who played the original Playstation will instantly recognize this orange-furred marsupial in denim capris as the PS1's first "unofficial" mascot.
Despite a string of memorable games that, alongside Super Mario 64, helped launch platforming games into the third dimension, Crash eventually faded into obscurity.
Other memorable platformers, like Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank, would come along and carve out their own beloved place in Playstation history, but my love for Crash never subsided.
To me, Crash is to Playstation what Mario is to Nintendo, or what Pikachu is to Pokémon. While he may not have as wide or impressive a resume as the Mushroom Kingdom's favorite plumber or the world famous lightning mouse, Crash is still an enduring part of my childhood.
So, what happened to Crash and why did his games slowly phase out of relevance?
As with any good mystery, the answer to the above question is multilayered, made up of equal parts fact and speculation. To understand this, we need to peel back some of those layers.
New toys are shinier
Something needs to be said first; this isn't sour grapes.
Ratchet And Clank, Jak and Daxter and Sly Cooper are modern day Playstation icons for a good reason. Each franchise has delivered fun and memorable characters and gameplay and thrived as Sony drove the Playstation brand further and further into the future.
Heroes like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon are frequently overlooked when thinking about iconic Playstation characters, often in favor of more relevant and "shiny" characters, like the ones mentioned above.
Jak and Daxter took the platforming that Crash games did so well and did it even better, adding new mechanics, better visuals, and more expansive game worlds.
Jak II also introduced something that Ratchet and Clank would absolutely master; the joy of combining good platforming and good third-person shooting mechanics.
I still think Ratchet and Clank does this better than almost anything else. Highly variable platforming, combined with tons of upgradable weapons that do everything from blowing the bad guys up to turning them into hilariously animated chickens.
Sly Cooper would also create a unique impression of its own, blending fun stealth mechanics and cel-shaded graphics with, once again, great platforming. (Noticing a pattern here yet?)
At the end of the day, I think it was simply easier to charge into the future with these shinier and more well-rounded characters than it was to teach an old dog new tricks.
A loss of direction
The original series of Crash games were the bread and butter of my PS1 days. Crash Bandicoot was the very first game I ever played on that humble gray rectangle and it blew me away. I found I enjoyed the visuals on Crash Bandicoot more than I did on Super Mario 64 (a crime punishable by death, I'm sure) and the game had the perfect balance of challenge and ease.
The game was simple to pick up and play but actually mastering its increasingly tricky platforming challenges (and the classic array of borderline cheap enemies in the later stages of the game) was another story.
I recall taking nearly a full week to beat "Toxic Waste", one of the first levels on the game's third and final island.
Don't let the simplistic nature of the screenshot fool you; those barrels (and their unforgiving hit detection) were an absolute nightmare to plot my way around. And before you judge me, please keep in mind that I was an impatient elementary school kid when I was experiencing this.
The next two games in the series, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped were equally fun.
Cortex Strikes Back introduced an expanded arsenal of moves, like the Super Jump, the Slide, and the Body Slam, which allowed for a much greater variety of gameplay, and, like the first game, contained an alternate ending for completionists who were diligent enough to collect all of the game's hidden gems.
Warped took it a step further, once again expanding the selection of moves available and adding a time trial mode for speed runners.
But as technology grew and the PS2 began exploring new franchises and characters, Crash lost his way. As more sequel-friendly games like Ratchet and Clank began truly upping the ante, it became harder and harder for the original Playstation mascot to keep up.
Following Warped, the franchise changed hands several times and ceased to be a Playstation exclusive by going multiplatform. The next game in the series was Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, which received mixed reviews because of its failure to innovate. While Wrath of Cortex was fun, there really wasn't much of anything to set it apart from its predecessors.
From there, Crash seemingly descended into a full-blown identity crisis. The main series received three more lackluster sequels that introduced a varied array of mutant bad guys and attempted to play strange bedfellows with Crash and Cortex by forcing them to team up in Crash Bandicoot: Twinsanity.
Crash would end up starring in several less memorable spin-off games and dabbled in the party and racing game genres (though Crash Team Racing was a critically acclaimed success) before a string of cancelled titles derailed what little momentum the franchise had.
Is there a future for Crash Bandicoot?
2016 marks 20 years since the first Crash Bandicoot game, a fact I still find hard to believe.
Rumors have been swirling for quite some time now that Crash Bandicoot might be making a comeback, either with a full reboot or even just a remastering of the classic games.
Those rumors were bolstered by the Playstation Middle East Twitter account, which posted this interesting little tidbit on the social media platform back in February.
Adding to the hype surrounding Crash potentially leaping onto PS4s is this bit of footage of a fanmade Crash Bandicoot game project made using Unreal Engine 4.
So, now we know that a PS4-era Crash game can happen. But should it? I'll let you be the judge of that.