1998 signalled the last of the Crash Bandicoot platformers that Naughty Dog released, but by playing this you knew they put everything they could into that that the original Playstation could manage.
Alongside Tomb Raider 3, I received Crash 3 at Christmas of 1998. Once again, I discovered both the games through GamesMaster magazine when they were doing an ‘E3 Special’ in May, and in one corner of the page was one picture of the first warp room. I was excited and looking forward to playing it after only just completing Crash 2.
A direct sequel to the previous years’ ‘Cortex Strikes Back’, this time Cortex has found the crystals scattered across time, and is on a mission to collect them all before Crash does, with the help of an evil mask.
With this story, Crash now travelled across different time periods, from Egyptian times to the distant future, each with their own style and gameplay unique to the series.
There are five warp worlds, each with five stages, and a boss at the end. There’s also a secret warp room below the main hub, which can be found by collecting the gems or by hitting specific objects in certain levels, transporting you there.
New levels were abound, with underwater and Egyptian levels increasing the difficulty level, with traps that harkened back to Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.
The controls were expanded this time, with every defeated boss giving you a new ability. You could double jump, glide with a faster spin, a powerful bellyhop, a dash, or, an wumpa bazooka. Some helped, some were a hindrance, while one was a difficulty-breaking tool for many levels.
Another character was playable in a couple of levels involving a jet ski and riding a tiger across the Great Wall, called ‘Coco’. The tiger run especially was fun to play, and it felt even more refined than the polar bear run from Crash 2.
There were also a couple of racing levels, which were essentially a prototype to ‘Crash Team Racing’, released a year later as the epilogue from Naughty Dog on Crash. That game was great fun, but these levels were not. Very stiff controls, and every corner had to be turned with total precision, otherwise one wrong turn and you’ll be starting the stage again. Fortunately there were only two of these, along with a secret exit to the sixth warp room, so it wasn’t a great detriment to the game.
The boss stages were still as fun as before, with each one becoming more challenging than the one previous, with the final boss being much more difficult than the previous games. You could also replay them as much as you wanted by warping to the stage this time, instead of pressing a code in the previous game to replay the bosses. ‘N-Gin’ was a favourite, as it harkened to a ‘Star Wars’ scene in the future which worked great, and would have been a great game in its own right as a mini-game space shooter.
Alongside the gems to collect, there were also ‘Relics’. This was a time trial mode that could be completed in any level when you collect the stopwatch at the beginning of a level. Certain crates turn into seconds, from 1 to 3, and dependant on your time, you either obtain a sapphire, gold, or platinum relic. It added to the replay-ability greatly, and kept you coming back to beat the times to obtain the platinum relics.
Out of the three Crash games, I always flip between this and the second one as to which is best. Last year when I wrote of Crash 2, I said of how ‘Warped!’ lagged behind, and seemed to be losing steam. But I now see them on an equal footing. Compared to platformer games of now, and what came after, You could easily play this trilogy over and over, as I have in seventeen years, and never tire of its fun replay-ability.
“But for me, Crash 3 slightly faltered, with it being bigger and better, it lost some of that charm, with the loss of the snow levels for one, and a wumpa bazooka that was one feature too many for me.”
As I said above in my piece about Crash Bandicoot 2 the year before, it’s a good game overall, but compared to the previous entry, it seems that there was no where to go after Crash 2. The powerups after each boss are pointless and don’t add much to the gameplay, especially the bazooka, which I barely ever used. This power-up particularly made the game much easier, as you could aim and fire at enemies and nitro boxes in the far distance, allowing a bare path to run across with no challenge present.
But it’s amazing how much was added in only ten months of development time. Jet-ski, planes, racing. Three completely new engines to cater for these levels, along with the standard levels of Crash running and spinning across the 20 other levels, is an applauded feat. In a time where the new entry is cranked out on a conveyor belt every year with huge amounts of advertising for a slightly changed weapon or an updated team roster, something like this would be welcome to see. Some was more of the same, but the high standard of this was something that we didn’t mind to play. Different locations resulted in different ways of replay-ability, form the gems to the time trialled relics. I could see the gems and relics be expanded DLC if it was released in this generation.
The Crash series went on a downward spiral soon after Crash Team Racing was released in 1999.
There was to be a fourth entry, with the producer of the trilogy and more recently, the chief designer of the Playstation 4, Mark Cerny, basing it to have Crash warp to different worlds across a galaxy instead. But with licensing issues it wasn’t meant to be, and the disappointing ‘Wrath of Cortex’ released in 2001 with its incredibly long loading times set it off on a downward spiral.
Especially since mid last year, rumours have been abound of the series being bought back by Sony or Naughty Dog from Activision, depending on which article you read from one week to the next. Hopefully it rings true, and it could be rebooted. Andy Gavin once said of the trilogy being rebooted, and having the three games become one. But even having them as a remastered version on my iPhone 6 would be welcome in itself.
But for now, the trilogy is available on the PS Store as a classic, available on a PS3, Vita, PSP, and I hope soon to be PS4 as well. Enjoy the trilogy before it’s long awaited return/reboot by Naughty Dog hopefully occurs, and brings it back to the glory times of 1996 to 1998.