11 Facts About Crash Bandicoot
This September, the Crash Bandicoot franchise turns 25 years old. Everyone’s favorite cartoony marsupial has been in dozens of wacky adventures over the past two and a half decades, and to celebrate this milestone, we're looking back at some lesser-known facts about the original Crash Bandicoot game on the first Playstation.
1. Crash Bandicoot was originally designed as a wombat.
The 1990s saw a flood of video games hit the market starring talking animals packed with attitude—you had Sonic the Hedgehog, Bubsy, and Battletoads, just to name a few. So Naughty Dog, the team behind Crash Bandicoot, knew they needed their own signature furry creature to be their new game's mascot for the debut of the original PlayStation. Their original idea: Willie the Wombat.
If that name sounds silly to you, the creators agreed. It was more or less a temporary placeholder as the title went through development. Eventually, the team settled on making the character a bandicoot—a tiny marsupial out of Australia and New Guinea—named Crash. (Though one member of the marketing team did put names like Wuzzle the Wombat and Ollie the Otzel into contention.)
2. Early versions of Crash Bandicoot were much more talkative.
Crash Bandicoot isn't known for being much of a talker. However, according to the game's official production bible, the character originally didn’t know how to shut up. His early backstory saw series villain Doctor Neo Cortex attempt to evolve Crash’s mind by subjecting the hapless marsupial to countless hours of media. Instead of it making him more intelligent, Crash became a wisecracking goofball who spoke in constant non-sequiturs and movie references, like a TV constantly flipping between channels. This is similar to Gex, another PS1-era platforming icon. His vocabulary was drastically reduced in the final game.
3. Developer Naughty Dog originally wanted sunken ship, snow, and mine cart levels in Crash Bandicoot.
It’s natural for a game’s development to feature far more ideas than the developers can reasonably fit in, and level tropes are no exception. Sunken ship, snow, and mine cart levels were all planned and sketched out for Crash Bandicoot, but there just wasn't enough space to fit them all in. A lava level even got to the demo stage, but Crash's orange color clashed too much with the design. Thankfully, that’s what sequels are for. Crash got his snow levels in Crash 2, but other unused level types wouldn’t be featured in the series until original developer Naughty Dog stopped working on the franchise years later.
4. Another cut Crash Bandicoot level did see the light of day ... more than 20 years later.
One of the original game's cut levels—a nightmarish, rain-soaked climb called "Stormy Ascent"—was actually finished and ready to go, but it was given the ax at the last minute.
"It was playable, but just too damn difficult, and we ran out of time to make it easier," Taylor Kurosaki, who worked on the original game, said in a 2017 interview. "It remained on the disc as it was less risky just leaving it rather than trying to remove it. It was basically hidden, but it was there."
Intrepid fans could actually get access to this deleted level using a Gameshark cheat system, but it wasn't a part of the standard, over-the-counter game when it debuted. However, the level was actually remastered and released as extra downloadable content in 2017's Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which featured a remake of the first game.
5. Crash Bandicoot's movements used to be more varied.
Crash’s move set in the original game is fairly simple. You run. You jump. You spin. But those weren’t the only ideas the developers had. The production bible reveals that Crash could originally pick up and throw coconuts at enemies. And if the player jumped and then hit the jump button again, Crash would pick up an enemy and slam it into the ground. He could also climb ropes, scale ladders, and go for a swim.
6. The crates in Crash Bandicoot were created purely for technical reasons.
By the time the developers had gotten the game's visuals and characters up to snuff, they realized there wasn't much memory left for anything else, leaving the world looking gorgeous but empty. To inject more flavor into the levels without taxing the polygon count too much, the developers came up with the idea of adding crates into the game. In addition to filling out the world, these crates would be used for puzzles, to hold items, and as explosives. They've since gone on to become a series staple.
7. Crash Bandicoot's Aku-Aku was supposed to be able to fight.
In the final game, Aku Aku is basically just a shield that protects Crash from damage. But the original documents show that the character, known at the time as “Witch Doctor,” was supposed to be able to attack enemies from a distance. The more powered up he was, the farther he could attack, and eventually he would make Crash invincible for 10 seconds.
8. Crash Bandicoot visited Nintendo Headquarters (in a commercial).
In order to capture the game's manic, off-the-wall tone, Sony developed a marketing campaign that involved someone in a Crash Bandicoot suit driving up to Nintendo's headquarters in Seattle and taunting Mario from the parking lot with a bullhorn in a commercial. Well, it wasn't quite Nintendo's actual headquarters, but as Ami Blaire, the game's marketing manager, revealed years later, that was all part of the plan:
"[It] was the building next door. It was a Nintendo building, but it wasn't their main headquarters. ... But it also aligned with the fun of the campaign. This guy was so crazy, he would do pretty much anything and he kind of was a very spur of the moment kind of guy. So it would totally make sense that this guy hadn't had done his homework and [had] mistakenly gone to the wrong building."
9. The father of PlayStation hated Crash Bandicoot.
Sony executives wanted the Crash Bandicoot character to be Sony's answer to Nintendo's Mario and Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog. The original designer of the Playstation, Ken Kutaragi, disagreed. He hated the idea of the system even having a mascot, much less a goofy cartoon animal that might give off the impression that Playstation was just a kid's toy. Thankfully, his fears ended up being unfounded.
10. Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO fame produced the Crash Bandicoot soundtrack.
When it came to the sounds of Crash Bandicoot, the higher-ups at publisher Universal Interactive Studios originally wanted the music to be an assortment of sound effects, such as bird noises, car honking, and farts. Instead, Naughty Dog tapped the services of music production company Mutato Muzika, run by none other than DEVO founder Mark Mothersbaugh. Mothersbaugh ended up producing the soundtrack, composed primarily by in-house musician Josh Mancell.
11. The original Crash Bandicoot had many cut items.
The cutting room floor for the original game was full of unused item ideas. Instead of the fictional wumpa fruits, several ideas included limes, pineapples, mangoes, strawberries, and coconuts, each worth different numerical amounts. Players would have to collect 100 for an extra life. Flowers empowered Crash to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder. And different masks allowed him to scare enemies, stop them in place, and one silly mask even caused him to laugh continuously, which attracted enemies (because, of course, laughter transcends all ideological differences). Items called yin yang yuks hidden in each level would grant the player a bonus game if they found them all by game’s end.