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Crash Bandicoot Retrospective: Cortex Strikes Back

RK128

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Thread Links: Crash Bandicoot

Crash 2 continues our run through the series history and this one came out only a year after the original came out. With such a short development period, the game must of suffered, right?

Nope, it ended up being on of the strongest games in the series and lets see how it compares to the original PS1 classic.

Development History

The game started development not long after Crash 1 released; October 1996. Naughty Dog got a budget of 2 Million and had 13 months to get the game out the door. If that sounds like a short development period, it is, but the interesting thing about Naughty Dog and their friends Insomniac Games....they did this long after the release of their Crash & Spyro franchises.

Both the Ratchet & Jak series on the PS2 had short development periods (at least the sequels did) and they still ended up as strong titles in the end. So that indicates that Crash 2 was still in good hands.The concept art for the game's environments was mainly created by Naughty Dog employees Bob Rafei, Eric Iwasaki, Erick Pangilinan, Charlotte Francis and Jason Rubin. The jungle levels were originally to have featured ground fog, but this was abandoned when the public began to criticize other developers for using fog to hide polygon count. Sunlight and depth accentuation was experimented with for these levels. Naughty Dog created the sewer levels as a way to work some "dirty" locations in the game.



Color contrast was added to the levels to show depth and break up the monotony of sewer pipes. The character of Coco Bandicoot was created by Naughty Dog as a counterbalance to Tawna (Crash's girlfriend in the first game) that would appease Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, who weren't comfortable with a "super sexy" character being alongside Crash. Character designer Charles Zembillas drew the first sketches of Coco on March 18, 1997.

That is interesting to hear, considering Tawna ditches Crash after the events in the first game, so Coco replacing her makes sense in a lot of respects.



One thing that Andy Gavin did to help the games development was create a game engine called 'Game-Oriented Object LISP 2', which allowed the game to get a massive upgrade over the original in many ways.

The game's engine was three times faster than the Crash 1's engine, with it handling ten times the animation frames and twice the polygon count. A flat plane z-buffer was created for the game; because the water surfaces and mud in the jungle had to be a flat plane and be exactly flat on the Y-axis, there could be no waves and the subdividing plane could not be at an odd angle. The effect only worked on objects in the foreground and was only used on Crash, some enemies and a few boxes at the same time.

Essentially, the game got a huge graphical overhaul and it lead to the game not only running better but looking better as well. The title released in Fall 1997 and was a hit on many levels. High review scores and people calling it one of the stronger platforming titles of the year.

The team behind this game includes the following:
Director - Jason Rubin
Producer - Mark Cerny
Programmer - Andy Gavin
Artists - Charles Zembillas, Erick Panglilinan, Bob Rafei
Writer - Jason Rubin
Composer - Josh Mancell

Before we move on, I must address the marking push Crash had back then. Well before Crash 1 released, Sony heavily marketed the game across Japan and Western markets. One of the most famous ads was one of Crash literally going in front of Nintendo of America's building with a megaphone and telling them off with how great Crash 1 is.

Japan also got its own commercials and this was major, as it was the introduction to the infamous Crash dance that we see in both this and future Crash titles. There is a lot more to find here, so hope you enjoy watching this road to advertising history.

We also have some differences across the various regions too. From the Crash Wiki Page:

Japan
  • The title screen music is completely different.
  • Crystals are localized to "Power Stones".
  • (as seen on the right) When Aku Aku is collected, he will sometimes inform the player about various aspects of the game in a tutorial-like manner. This is similar to the first game, but features facial animations and audio rather than on-screen text.
  • The "TNT" label on TNT boxes has been replaced with an image of a bomb.
  • A death animation was slightly altered. When Crash is hurt by a crushing object in the American version, Crash is shown to have his body compressed into a head and shoes. In the Japanese version, this image is made completely flat. According to Andy Gavin's blog, this was done to avoid a striking resemblance to a serial killer's actions in Japan at the time.
  • The cutscene that plays when you collect your 25th Crystal in the US and European versions now plays when you collect your 24th Crystal. A very short cutscene with Coco Bandicoot plays at your 25th Crystal instead.
  • A hidden bonus video can be accessed by holding Left + Circle + L1 + R1 at the PlayStation logo when booting the game. You must reset your console after the video has finished playing.
  • Crystals give you 1% instead of 2%. Colored gems give you 2% instead of 1%. Bosses give you 4% when beaten. Cortex gives you 6% instead of 3% when beaten. Secret warps still give the same percentage, but discovering the hidden easter egg in the warp room gives the last point.

Europe
  • The radius of Crash's bodyslam attack is greatly increased in the European version, fixing an issue where players can get stuck inside a stack of steel bodyslam crates.
  • A bug exists in the waterboard level time challenges where a player can enter the bonus round and commit suicide to reset the timer. This bug is partially fixed in the European version (the timer disappears, but only graphically).
  • During the Tiny Tiger boss fight, the pause menu correctly displays the boss name as "Tiny Tiger". This was incorrectly displayed as "Taz Tiger" in the American version.
  • TNTs take exactly 3 seconds to explode, as opposed to slightly more than that.

Story & Plot Elements

The story of this game is after the events of Crash 1, where Cortex lands in a cave after being blown up by Crash but finding an odd glowing crystal. He laughs and we cut to a later point where him and N. Gin are trying to use the crystal to power their space station.



Brio comments on not having enough Crystals to power the main cannon, so Cortex thinks of a plain to get more....with his eyes locked on Crash. He thought using Crash to get the crystals would be a smart move, as not only would his enemy be helping him but would give Cortex a chance to take him out after he gets the Crystals.

Cut to Crash and Coco (Crash's sister) relaxing in the Jungle, with Coco waking Crash up to look for a new laptop battery for her computer. Crash spins into action and we run though a mini-jungle level before we are warped into space. Crash sees a holographic Cortex asking him to get the Crystals to help save the world and Crash like a dummy listens to him, even despite Coco telling him via intercepting the messaging that something is wrong. Even N. Brio tires using him, telling him to find the gems to use the cannon in destroying the space station to the point where most of the bosses you fight are from HIM trying to stop you getting the Crystals for Cortex.

What makes this different from Crash 1's plot is the fact more is going on and we have a decent reason to continue through the game, but we get a lot of personality in every character. Cortex is voiced by Clancy Brown, none other then the voice of DC's Animated Lex Luther; he adds a lot to Cortex's character and his line delivery is great. Just for the fun of it, replay the first stage and not get the crystal a few times. Try it, you will be treated to a fun cut-scene of him starting to lose his temper!

The characterization being stronger extends to Crash as well but we will touch on that in the presentation portion.

Gameplay

Gameplay is more Crash Bandicoot, but stronger. Naughty Dog does a fantastic job with sequels to original IP and we saw this clear with Uncharted 1 too Uncharted 2. That kind of leap is present her and it does a lot to elevate Crash 2 into the classic it is today.



Crash still has his core moveset from the original; jumping and spinning. But we get a few new moves to play around with, like sliding, crawling and even digging into special patches in the levels to hid underground. The slide jump is one of the best moves in the series, with it making you move faster and have a higher jump. One interesting addition is of Nitro Crates and they are insta-kill if you run into them unless you have a Aku-Aku mask on. Crash also has the spin-slide, which is a faster way to spin into foes.

The game also adds more gimmicks into the mix that add into the platforming action. Crash can now hang on ceilings for different kinds of navigational challenges and use two kinds of rides; a Jet Board and a Jet Pack. The former is used a few times and allows you to move over water, with you being able to dash and use ramps to fly higher. I like this gimmick as it pushes you to be careful with your movement but give you a bit of 'speed' in some ways.



The later is used in only two levels and a boss fight, with the Jet Pack being interesting. You have a button moving you forward and backward but you use the stick/D-Pad to move up/down/left/right. Interesting control style that takes a bit to get used to but once you get it, man is it fun.



Level design in Crash 2 is ace, with the game feeling tighter and in some respects a bit more fair compared to Crash 1. You have similar tropes from Crash 1 like temples, jungles and darkness sections but Crash 2 has more tropes to explore.

Running around in toxic sewers, flying around in outer space and running across snowy planes & icy caves; these add visual verity that Crash 1 lacked at points. But these do more then add visual gimmicks. The jet pack is exclusive to the space levels, the ice stages have the animal riding returning (using a polar bear this time out; jump in its head when you reach the second/third warp room a few times for a lot of lives) and the toxic sewers use the ceiling navagation heavily.

You also have the 2D and fully 3D stages returning but we also get Death Courses. These are accessed if you get through a level without dying and hit a specific point in the stage. Once you land on the platform, you can go back to it as many times as you need until you lose all your lives. They are harder platforming challenges and normally end with you getting a grey gem.



The gem system is back and in some cases, its more fair compared to Crash 1. You do NOT have to fully reset the game when you die now; the check-point boxes mark how many boxes you broke now. That is a huge plus and makes going for 100% fair now. You can even retry bonus rooms now and a few small things help streamline the design/flow of the game.

You have the warp rooms having save stations for your progress, each warp room has icons telling you what is in each place and you even have a secret warp room to visit! The check points also save the amount of boxes you smashed this time out as well. Also try jumping on the polar bear in Warp Room 3 a few times; will get 10 extra lives for jumping on the poor thing.

Gem collection is really clever this time out, as the colored gems ask you do some 'what?!' actions that you would have never expected. See those piles of Nitro crates on the side? Hop on them and climb up to the top set of them. The first level? Don't break any boxes and head to the goal. One of the Jet Board stages? Rush to a specific point in a time limit.



That happens for every colored gem and it makes going out for all of them so rewarding. The big issue with Gem collection is back tracking through levels and some were not built for this in mind. Thankfully, you get lots of lives and the game is generous if you save frequently.

The save system in this game is much better compared to Crash 1 as well, with it being very simple; walk up to the wall that says 'Save' and wait a second. Pick your file and done, game saved. Much better then trying to hunt for icons in stages and beating an extra level.

Boss fights was something I glossed over for Crash 1 but that was from them not being that special.

Here, they are a bit better, with Ripper Roo having a new fight with Crash and it being more rewarding to get through. Same thing (hop on TNT creates to blow him up) but easier to do with the tighter controls. You also fight a boss inside a little space ship and how do you take him out? Toss Wampa Fruit at it! Not only is that a nice change of pace but also hints at a special power Crash will be getting on his third adventure.

The final fight with Cortex is a Jet Pack level that is very short, but its nice seeing a gimmick we were introduced to in two stages being used for the final boss.



Presentation and Musical Score

Visually, Crash 2 looks leaps and bounds better compared to the original PS1 Classic. Thanks the new engine Andy put together for the game, we have so much added life to everything.

The animations are crisp and smooth, everything looks like it has higher poly-models and the game really pushed the PS1 to its visual limits. Love the useage of color in this game, with every place having such a sense of identity and location.

Before going to the music, we have to touch on the death animations. They are really funny and here is a video showing that off.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrjK7op_EsI

The music in the game is also great, with it having the same 'sound' as Crash 1, but some of the tracks playing with more unique beats. You have the space level 'Rock It' being a great case for sound design, as it gets faster and faster the more you get through the stage the track plays in.

Here are other tracks I really enjoyed from the game:
Warp Room
Forest
Snow Go
Hang Eight
Bear It

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This game is a fantastic sequel that takes what the original Crash did but does that style of platforming better. It really is a classic and a game many love a lot. Many consider this the strongest game in the Naughty Dog line of Crash games they worked on.

Next up we have Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped and I hope you all look forward to my thoughts on that PS1 Classic!

 

Creaking

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The hell kind of first post is that? Great write-up OP. Looking forward to reminiscing.
 

RK128

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The hell kind of first post is that? Great write-up OP. Looking forward to reminiscing.

The Crash hate is strong on NeoGaf :l.

Was honestly debating if I should have even posted this here, but I would be breaking my word to the people looking forward to this :).
 

PaulloDEC

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Best of the three mainline Naughty Dog Crash games for me. While the original was a bit simple gameplay-wise and Warped went a bit far in the opposite direction, 2 struck the perfect balance for me. Add in the superb presentation and the expected great mix of level styles and you've got a platforming classic.

Still regularly replay this one to this day.
 

psychotron

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My first Crash game. I fell in love and got 100% completion. It's one of the best games ever made.
 

Sponge

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Crash 2 is my second favorite PS1 game, right behind PaRappa. I have so many fond memories of this game.
 

Voost Kain

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Just a few things my mang.

You forgot the spin slide.

You forgot to mention the secret warp room, and the kinds of weird things you have to do to acess it for all 5 secret levels.

All the bosses (save cortex and N.Gin) and most enemies and traps are all due to N.Brio trying to stop you from getting the Crystals.

You unlike crash 1, can retry bonus stages.

You forgot to mention the firefly levels.

You forgot that 10 live bonus if you jump on the polar bear in warp room 2 a few times.

The doors in the Warproom tell you what's in a level. The first game you went in blind, especially for colored gems.

You can hold triangle between moving into warp rooms to re-fight bosses.

The gate at the end of the level tells you how many boxes you got and the total. Something Crash one never did.

One of the boulders that chases you ends up being a Giant polar bear in warp room 3.

Checkpoints save your boxes now.

The 100% ending actually is the correct one this time.
 

Creaking

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If nothing else come of the Crash Bandicoot hullabaloo, I hope the original trilogy (and CTR) get remastered for PS4. I'd love to play these using the analog sticks.
 

RK128

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Just a few things my mang.

You forgot the spin slide.

You forgot to mention the secret warp room, and the kinds of weird things you have to do to acess it for all 5 secret levels.

All the bosses (save cortex and N.Gin) and most enemies and traps are all due to N.Brio trying to stop you from getting the Crystals.

You unlike crash 1, can retry bonus stages.

You forgot to mention the firefly levels.

You forgot that 10 live bonus if you jump on the polar bear in warp room 2 a few times.

The doors in the Warproom tell you what's in a level. The first game you went in blind, especially for colored gems.

You can hold triangle between moving into warp rooms to re-fight bosses.

The gate at the end of the level tells you how many boxes you got and the total. Something Crash one never did.

One of the boulders that chases you ends up being a Giant polar bear in warp room 3.

Checkpoints save your boxes now.

The 100% ending actually is the correct one this time.

Will edit this in later :). Thanks for the help!
 

Drago

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Best in the series, it took a decent first effort in CB1 and made it amazing. Improved on literally everything. The improved controls and physics made it feel much nicer to actually play, the majority of the levels were actually 3D rather than how Crash 1 had a significant amount of 2D levels (I'm pretty sure 2D is relegated to bonus rooms only in Crash 2 onwards) and the presentation got a huge boost making it even more like a cartoon. The animations in this game (and 3) are so good. Funnily enough it was the only PS1 Crash game I never had as a kid, but playing it for the first time a few years ago it pretty much instantly became my favorite. No nostalgia required :)

If Ape Escape didn't exist it would be my favorite platformer on the system. Though I still have many PS1 platformers I've yet to play...
 

Voost Kain

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You know, I find it odd Cortex says give the Crystals to N.Gin and N.Gin comes in a large attack robot. I mean who wouldn't be suspicious?

Also wonder why Tiny went to work for Cortex in Crash 3. I mean yeah he's chained up so you would think he was captured, yet in the message he basically says he's getting the crystals for cortex.
 

RK128

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You know, I find it odd Cortex says give the Crystals to N.Gin and N.Gin comes in a large attack robot. I mean who wouldn't be suspicious?

Also wonder why Tiny went to work for Cortex in Crash 3. I mean yeah he's chained up so you would think he was captured, yet in the message he basically says he's getting the crystals for cortex.

Maybe he just wanted to travel back to Rome/Greece and thought 'Eh, working with Cortex to go to a cool place sounds nice :D'.
 

Wowfunhappy

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I really wish there was a way to make PS1 emulators render in stereoscopic 3D. I feel like this series would benefit a TON from a bit of extra depth perception. I've tried to force it without success. :/
 

Voost Kain

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Maybe he just wanted to travel back to Rome/Greece and thought 'Eh, working with Cortex to go to a cool place sounds nice :D'.

No he was chained up though. Remember that cool unnecessary cutscene of tiny breaking those pillars? With Cortex pretending to be Caesar?

Also it may have been cut but I wish they did more with N.Trophy, they say after you beat him the time device is crazy but nothing happens. Outside the 100% ending.
 

RK128

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No he was chained up though. Remember that cool unnecessary cutscene of tiny breaking those pillars? With Cortex pretending to be Caesar?

Also it may have been cut but I wish they did more with N.Trophy, they say after you beat him the time device is crazy but nothing happens. Outside the 100% ending.

That is a good point, so it could be likely they cut something out during development. Take into consideration that they made the Crash games rapidly (9-13 months per game), so I could easily picture a case where they had a bigger story planed but they cut it to focus on making more levels or something.

That cut-scene was cool though :). I guess it was for style and to intimidate Crash or something.
 

Tapejara

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Crash 2 is still my favourite of the series. Awesome level design, great art and hugely improved gameplay over the original. Also, Polar = <3.
 

N.Domixis

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Love all these crash bandicoot threads, shows there is still an audience for him awaiting his return.
 

Voost Kain

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Oddly, the ripper too 100% ending from Crash 1 is canon, Ripper Roos fight taking place at some library makes sense.

Odd the rest of the 100% ending was nothing.
 

NOLA_Gaffer

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I was actually just playing this moments ago on my PSP go (Connecting to a TV) and the game is a lot darker that I remember.

It actually makes some of the jumps a bit more difficult to make than they should be.
 

RK128

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Oddly, the ripper too 100% ending from Crash 1 is canon, Ripper Roos fight taking place at some library makes sense.

Odd the rest of the 100% ending was nothing.

I suppose once they gutted Tawna from the series (mostly; we get a picture of her in Crash 3), they figured "Lets start over in some spots".

That was a nice touch with Ripper Roo more or less being a more polished version of the original boss fight :).
 

Voost Kain

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I suppose once they gutted Tawna from the series (mostly; we get a picture of her in Crash 3), they figured "Lets start over in some spots".

That was a nice touch with Ripper Roo more or less being a more polished version of the original boss fight :).

Well they already had the story from crash 2 done before cutting her I recall so crash 1s 100% ending was still mostly noncanon, outside ripper too being in charge of a library.
 

Zebei

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Crash was the one I played the least recent (the only one I haven't replayed since childhood!) so my memory isn't quite perfect on this one.

Pretty much just a few snippets here and there.


The new save and gem systems are such an improvement and almost made the first crash (which I played third instead of first) a pain.


Even though I love Crash 3 more i'm pretty sure that is just nostalgia and i wonder how the two hold up in comparison (Maybe I will get to check this summer break?)


Regardless, the love for Crash 2 is really easy to understand because of how amazing the game is. The boss fights leave a little to be desired (Cortex :/) but every other level is pretty great. The polar bear sections are probably some of my favorite moments of the PS1 (prefer the great wall with the tiger though). In the end, it's one of the PS1's defining gems




The greatest dance of all time.
 
Sep 10, 2013
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Somehow this is my least favourite Crash of original trilogy.
I prefer variety in 3 to the difficulty of 2 (in regards of 100%). I think most of it had to do with locations – I just don't like them and they look mostly the same within their theme. The only one I liked was the snow area.
 

Roubjon

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Definitely my favorite in the series. It adds more to the formula of 1 and doesn't do too much like I feel 3 does. I love them all, but Crash 2 is my favorite boo.
 

VeeP

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OP, was that a jab at Jak 2 in the post? Something along the lines of with one exception, Naughtydog does sequels to the original IP very well, ala Uncharted 2?
 

pixelation

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OP, was that a jab at Jak 2 in the post? Something along the lines of with one exception, Naughtydog does sequels to the original IP very well, ala Uncharted 2?

Thought the same... and i love Jak II *rolls up sleeves*...
Crash 2 was my first PSX game and i LOVED IT, can't say if it's better than Warped as i never played that game. But Crash 2 is the shit!!!
 

RK128

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Thought the same... and i love Jak II *rolls up sleeves*...
Crash 2 was my first PSX game and i LOVED IT, can't say if it's better than Warped as i never played that game. But Crash 2 is the shit!!!

I'm allowed to have an opinion :l. But if that is distracting enough, will remove that from the OP to avoid people getting upset.
 
Jul 18, 2015
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Crash 2 is the best game of the series.

In my experience, Naughty Dog games are best during the first sequel.

The first game is often really rough but shows potential.Then the second game blows it out of the water. Then the third game comes out and it feels like they've got fatigue and it's not as good as the others but still worth playing for sure. This is true for Crash, Jak, and Uncharted (haven't played 4 yet, though).

Crash 2 is a classic game and one of my favorite platformers of that generation. The polar bears are adorable.
 

RK128

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Just want to say that I am happy many enjoyed this Retrospective! More are coming for the Bandicoot, so hope you look forward to them :).