Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex needs a proper, mainline sequel.
Very few games are bouncing around in the hearts of those of us who grew up in the 90’s as much as Crash Bandicoot. Sure, there are the Sonics and Marios out there that are seen as the real kings of the platformer genre, and while Crash might not out-do them in the eyes of most, it is without a doubt one of the most beloved franchises in the entire genre and also paved the way for many 3D iterations of the genre that came after it.
Whether it’s Crash Bandicoot’s style, characters, or it’s gameplay mechanics, many of the 3D platformers we know and love today owe at least a little something to Crash as it was one of the very first games to do the 3D platforming thing totally right. As such, what most people think of when the world of Crash is brought up is the original three games on the Playstation 1. While there are other games that came out much later in the series and we will mention how they factor into today’s topic, there is no denying that the first 3 mainline games are the bread and butter of the series.
That said, with a series so successful and popular, that is still hailed as many gamers’ favorite games even today well after several years has passed for them, we still haven’t seen a new entry in the numbered series. There are plenty of theories that have been speculated on over the years as to why, but today we’ll take a look at just what has happened to the Crash Bandicoot legacy.
The original Crash Bandicoot was the real trailblazer of the series as well as the genre. Very few 3D platformers existed before it, and even fewer were very good. Naughty Dog pulled it off it though. By nailing the controls, the sense of depth, and creating a fun, classic group of characters in Crash, his friends, Dr. Neo Cortex and his henchmen, the world of Crash was perfect for it’s time and extremely digestible even today as it’s linear style keeps the experienced close and focused, so it avoids many of the issues that befall other 3D games of that era. The second game followed suit with tighter controls, more abilities, and a little more story that helped us get to know the characters a little better.
The third game pushed even further in the same areas and introduced the most variety that the series had seen yet by quite a margin, but also perhaps started to show the limitations of the franchise in its current form. Where else do you go with this concept? The games had already explored ice levels, time traveling to the past and future, running towards the screen away from various terrible things, racing levels, under water levels, and a litany of different types of boss fights.
What else is there? Well, after Crash played the Kart-racing card and tried something fairly interesting with Crash Bash, Universal Interactive made a decision shortly after this that made sense on paper but would not end well for fans of the original three games; Taking Crash and farming it out to different developers. While this did free up Naughty Dog to try new things with Jak and Daxter and eventually The Last of Us, it also handed control of the rest of the series to other parties with very different plans for Crash.
As such, we got some very different types of Crash games. Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is considered to be the 4th game in a technical sense, as its story does acknowledge the events of Warped, and takes place not too long after said events, but the development was left up to Traveler’s Tales and not Naughty Dog. Traveler’s Tales certainly had some experience with developing games, but most of them were mediocre to put it gently. Their portfolio before Crash includes the likes of Sonic R and Puggsy. You can argue for or against the merits of those titles but it’s fair to say that they certainly aren’t on the level of the original 3 Crash games.
That said, as far as Traveler’s Tales games go, Wrath of Cortex could have been a lot worse. And to be fair, it does follow suit with the previous games in a lot of its gameplay. There’s a hub world that you select levels and unlock new ones in and the levels themselves are heavily inspired by the ideas of the original three games. They’re largely linear, the boxes and abilities generally work the same way, and there’s even a lot of the level types from the original games present here.
The game did mix in a few ideas of it’s own but most of the best parts of Wrath of Cortex were the ones they lifted from 2 and 3. Even still, the game was by no means a failure at the time. Most reviewers gave it something between 5 and 8, which indicates a game is above average, although many would remark on how it leaned too heavily on the ideas of its predecessors. Despite that, some bland levels, and a ho-hum Crash Bandicoot story, the series was considered viable and would continue on with more games of average overall quality for the next decade.
Given that history, it would make sense that fans started clamoring for the series to get back to basics, as it has become a bit of a mess at this point. In a way, it ultimately sort of did, though, in true modern gaming fashion, the original three games as well as the kart racing spin-off have been remastered on just about every platform possible. This is why a brand-new Crash Bandicoot will probably never be a thing.
The market has clearly spoken when it comes to Crash, and it is saying, in a nutshell, that it wants remade versions of old games, not new ones. Activision isn’t going to make a game they don’t think will sell gangbusters. Especially when they know that some new polygons on 20 year old games will sell just as well as a new game, yet cost them a fraction of what a new game would to produce?
Rumors of a remaster of Wrath of Cortex have been swirling as of late though, so perhaps that could, in essence, be “the next game” to coincide with Vicarious Visions’ previous remastered collection of the original trilogy, but outside of that, if you’re still waiting for a true, brand new continuation of the Crash Bandicoot series, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.