Make sure to read part 1 before reading part 2 today!
Crash Bandicoot 2 Cortex Strikes Back (1997):
I have to come clean with you all. This was actually the first Crash game I played as a kid. When I went back and played the first one, it made me appreciate it even more. Yes, the title may not be that original, but that’s a small price to pay for a sequel that improves off the original in every imaginable way possible, while still keeping what made the first one fun. In the first game, Crash could run, jump, spin, and in one instance ride a warthog. In Cortex Strikes Back, Crash can run, jump, spin, crawl, slide, super jump, body slam, occasionally ride his pet Polar, a sea doo, and a freaking jetpack. Not only that, everything improved. The music was new, but still just as charming as before. The developers were now more comfortable with the animation software, and Crash and all the old and new characters were looking better than ever. There was now professional voice acting too, including Clancy Brown as Dr. Neo Cortex. Some of you might recognize Clancy Brown as the voice of Lex Luthor in the Superman Animated Series, or more recently, Hades from God of War 3, whom even Mr. Pranger will admit was awesome. (Note from Chris Pranger: “Awesome but totally a rental title.”)
Fortunately, the plot this time around wasn’t “Tawna gets kidnapped again.” In fact, Naugthydog axed the character entirely, stating that she left Crash to be with Pinstripe (figures), and then replaced her with another female bandicoot that was actually interesting: Crash’s little genius sister Coco. And no, she does not get kidnapped either. Instead, it shows us Cortex immediately after his crushing defeat in the first game, where he “crash” and burns into a mine containing a power crystal. After a year of research with his new assistant Dr. N. Gin (who has an unexploded missile lodged in his head, just thought I’d throw that out there), Cortex discovers 25 remaining crystals still on Earth are needed to fully power his space station, the Cortex Vortex. So he teleports Crash inside a warp room and tells him that he has changed his ways and needs Crash to find the crystals so he can save the world.
The game also added the extra challenge of trying to find all forty-two Gems for N. Brio., who wants revenge against Cortex for replacing him after his failures in the first game. I’d say it’s up there with trying to find every last DK token in Diddy Kong’s Quest. Even I haven’t got 100% on this game yet. But once you do, I bet N. Brio gives you a hundred lives.
Just kidding. He needs them to power a laser beam to blow the Cortex Vortex to smithereens. Either way, this is a must play.
Crash Bandicoot Warped (1998):
After playing the first two, you might notice Crash frequently had an ally by his side, a spiritual witch doctor mask named Aku Aku who would protect him from enemies by taking a hit for him. Well, turns out Aku Aku has an evil twin, named conveniently Uka Uka, who was trapped by his brother in a spiritual temple to protect the world. When N. Brio shot down the Cortex Vortex at the end of Cortex Strikes Back, the shattered pieces of the ship plummeted down from the sky and crashed directly into the temple, releasing Uka Uka from his prison. After scolding Cortex for failing him twice now, the evil spirit then summons the master of time, Dr. Nefarious Tropy (that’s right, N. Tropy, what you gonna do) to create a time machine to find Crystals lost in time.
Crash Bandicoot Warped plays a lot like the last game. Aku Aku brings Crash and his sister Coco to the Time Twisting machine to collect the Crystals before Cortex’s minions do, and you progress through the levels accordingly. A lot of people will say that there wasn’t a whole lot that was original here, but I thought the level design was very new (for the series at least). We escaped the jungle and temple terrain from both the last two games and now moved across unique landmarks from history. Including Jurassic swamps, Egyptian temples, The Great Wall of China, Arabian Nights, some WWII action, even a stylized version of the future in which Neo Cortex rules the earth (the main city is called “Neo York.”) There’s also a new soundtrack, and yeah it’s still awesome. The voice acting and lip-syncing is the best it’s ever been. You get to play as Coco in a few levels. Oh, and did I mention Dingodile?
Crash Bandicoot Warped is often hailed as the highlight of the series. It was the last platformer of the franchise Naughtydog made before making an awesome cart racer Crash Team Racing, then moving on with the Jak and Daxter series on the PS2. I know graphics aren’t everything, but for what it’s worth, I cannot think of anything else on the PS1 that looked better.
Currently, all three games are available for download on the Play Station Network for $6.00 each. That’s $18.00 for three awesome titles. If you don’t want to play all of them, I say skip the first one. The sequels are just all out better games. It’s hard for me to say which one is the best though. Cortex Strikes Back feels more like classic Crash, and is also the most challenging to get 100%. Warped is easier because you get even more abilities, but it does have the most unique cast (not just Dingodile, although he is a big one-up for me!).
I say play the second one. By the end, if it doesn’t make you want to play Warped, then maybe it’s just not your thing.
Whether I have enlightened you, or simply brought up some nostalgic fever, I thank you greatly for your time. And thank you to my dear friend Chris Pranger for the opportunity to share a bit of my childhood as I am on the cusp of graduation.
Roger Gus Townson Jr.
Gus Townson also writes for his Avatar the Last Airbender fanfic site at: http://avatarleo.wordpress.com/