retr0spective: Naughty Dog (Part Two)

When we last left the company with the red paw, they had just emerged from what seemed to be their darkest hour, and had just begun discussing ideas for the first game in their deal with the fine folks at Universal Interactive Entertainment. Upon coming to the realization that action platformers had yet to make a full transition into the third dimension at the time, they had decided that they would be the ones to attempt to pull off what seemed to be an impossible concept at the time, and soon, production of the then-untitled game began. Due to the fact that the player would have to look at the character’s rear for a majority of the game, Rubin and Gavin jokingly gave it the code name of “Sonic’s Ass Game”. Dissatisfied with underpeforming consoles such as the Sega Saturn & 32X, the 3D0, and the Jaguar, they decided to develop the game for the Sony PlayStation due to its’ “sexy” nature.

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Keeping in line with many other mascot platform games at the time, the main character was set to be an animal – which one he was going to be however, had yet to have been decided. In a similar fashion to what Sega did with Sonic and what Warner Bros. did with Taz, Rubin and Gabin wanted to find an animal that was “cute, real, and no one really knew about”. They looked into various Australian mammals, such as the potoroo, the wombat, and the bandicoot. While the wombat was the animal chosen initially, they ultimately shifted over to the bandicoot. They had also planned on changing his name, “Willy the Wombat” as well, as they believed it sounded “dorky”. The fact that there was another fictional wombat of slightly different spelling but same pronunciation on, ironically, a cartoon starring Taz himself, might have also been a factor. Universal themselves actually gave them suggestions, such as “Wizzy”, “Wez”, “Wuzzles” and “Ozzy the Ottsel”. While all of these names ended up being rejected by Rubin and Gavin, one of them was refitted for a character in another one of their games, which we’ll get to in the third part.

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Wanting to truly give the game a distinct and alive look, ND turned towards several cartoonists and artists such as Butch Hartman, Joe Pearson, and of course, Charles Zembillas, to help develop the overall feel of the game, as well as to help finalize the design of Willy. During the process, the game’s jungle environments had begun to come into play. In addition to this, Rubin and Gavin, with the help of Cerny and one of Gavin’s friends, were inspired by the Animaniacs skit turned spin-off Pinky & The Brain, and looked to creative a more malevolent Brain – an idea that would soon give birth to the character of Doctor Neo Cortex. However, ND had yet to come to the conclusion of one little thing; that little thing being what exactly the main character’s name, and the game itself’s offical name, would be. After going through several names once more, they had finally reached a deduction, and the game from that point was to be referred to as Crash Bandicoot.

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Released in 1996, the game’s story revolved around the titular character, as he must make his way throughout several serene but treacherous islands, in order to rescue his girlfriend Tawna from the devious clutches of Cortex and his partner in crime, N. Brio. While it wasn’t quite as successful or acclaimed as Super Mario 64, ND’s hard work still paid off immensely, as the game received good reviews and sold plenty of copies. Upon realizing they really had something on their hands, ND decided to make the two other games of the deal (and eventually third, as the contract was soon extended to a four game deal) follow-ups to the original. Fortunately, it was a decision that would prove to be a very wise move, as the sequels and spin-off, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, and Crash Team Racing, released in 1997, 1998, and 1999 respectively, were even more successful than the first. But as the old saying goes…all good things must come to an end eventually.

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(NOTE: I did not draw, nor do I own this picture. It belongs to DeviantArt artist King-Sorrow.)

After the release of Team Racing, ND, wanting to focus more on their relationship with Sony and feeling restricted by Universal, decided not to renew their contract any further, a decision that unfortunately meant that they had no other choice but to leave their crate-smashing marsupial behind. But although their days with their original flagship series were over, ND’s “legacy” had only just begun…

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To be continued…

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3 thoughts on “retr0spective: Naughty Dog (Part Two)

  1. Very interesting read! I’m actually not too familiar with the history of Crash Bandicoot, so it was great to read about his origins. It’s a shame that they left Crash behind, but they went on to do bigger and better things. It’ll be interesting to see if Crash Bandicoot gets rebooted like so many seem to think will happen at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I would love to see the Crash franchise make a huge comeback, especially since it’s going to turn 20 in September. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen as long as Activision has their hands on it. But then again, considering what Spyro went through, I wouldn’t mind the series staying dormant.

      Liked by 1 person

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