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Crash Bandicoot and the return of 3D platformers

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Crash Bandicoot was released on September 9, 1996. In the heyday of 3D platformers. With the likes of other contenders like Spyro, Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, Sonic the Hedgehog and Banjo Kazooie. A great question to ask now is where have all the 3D Platformers gone? Well, to answer, here are a few examples. Spyro now resides in Activision’s Skylanders. A beat-’em-up/toy-creating hybrid. Sonic is, uhh…  Donkey Kong now resides as a 2D platformer along with Rayman. And Mario is still at his roots but has not seen an authentic 3D platformer release since Super Mario Sunshine released in August 26, 2002, so nearly 15 years have passed without a return to form. Along with Donkey Kong now residing as a 2D platformer along with Rayman. 

The 2D landscape is flourishing, but why isn’t the 3D? Well, to put it simply, times have changed and memory has expanded. 3D platformers have moved on and evolved into mass open world games such as Grand Theft Auto, Mafia, Watch Dogs or Just Cause. The next question is why do people want them back if open world games are better?

Open world and 3D platformers are two different beasts. In an open world game, there is not really a goal in mind and you can just do whatever you want. But in a 3D platformer, there are things to collect, places to explore and each place you find has a purpose. For example, in the hub world in Super Mario 64, when you go through the window in Peach’s castle and find the giant slide or look up in the main room at the sun and you warp to an area where you can use the wing cap. Each area has a purpose and you feel rewarded for finding them. Whereas in a open world game, everything is there to fill space. There is also a sense of novelty when it comes to 3D platformers. They have been gone for so long that playing them again brings back a sense of nostalgia. I feel like a kid again when I’m playing as my childhood heroes.

One of my favorites still is Crash Bandicoot. I feel he and Spyro have been some of the hardest hit. Crash was created and developed by Naughty Dog studio. Where they made Crash 1-3 and Crash Team Racing. After that, however, Universal Entertainment took the IP back from Naughty Dog, and since then Crash has jumped from developer to developer with mixed results in each game. Finally, Crash ended up in the hands of Activision who, for ten years, have done nothing with the IP. Until now. Crash Bandicoot Remastered was announced last year at E3 along with a playable appearance in Skylanders. Now Crash Bandicoot Remastered is set to launch on June 30, 2017, and I, along with many, are thrilled. Another announcement lately has been Super Mario Odyssey set to launch in winter 2017 as a return to form of the days of Super Mario Sunshine and 64. Another new contender is Yooka Laylee set to be the spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie.

The next question to ask is why the sudden rise in platformers? I believe it is because fans have been clamoring for them long enough, that they have been gone for too long and a lot of people miss them. So I decided to go around my school and ask some people about their thoughts on new 3D platformers and why they love them. Here are there results.

CHS Sophomore Alex Sanders has loved 3D platformers since he was little. Here he is sharing his experiences with us.

Alex Sanders:  

Stefanick: What is your favorite 3D platformer?

Sanders:  Without a doubt, it has to be Rareware Banjo Kazooie for the Nintendo 64.

Stefanick: Why is that?

Sanders: It was one of the first video games I have ever played. I love how quirky the characters are and there is always a balance between not enough collectibles and to many collectibles. Which I think Banjo Kazooie gets down. There are ten jiggy’s for each world and 100 notes and that goes for all the levels.

Stefanick: What are some other 3D platformers you have played and enjoyed?

Sanders: Donkey Kong 64, I also love all of the 3D Mario platformers, Banjo Tooie was also fantastic, but the only thing I would say which keeps it from being better than its predecessor is the constant frame dropping. Which they fixed in the Xbox version, but I don’t have an Xbox.

Stefanick: Have you played any Playstation platformers?

Sanders: I have not owned any, but I have played Ratchet and Clank and Crash Bandicoot.

Stefanick: Why do you think 3D platformers have disappeared over the past few years?

Sanders: It’s not what people want nowadays. Video games were built to be an adventure. That’s what 3D platformers get you a hard adventure. A sense of progression with lots of collectibles and upgrades and power ups. But now the demographic is teenagers of today. They just wanna play games where you shoot people. There are classics that people still like but it can never be prominent again because people don’t have the patience these days.

Stefanick: What are some differences between a 3D platformer and an open world game.

Sanders: Well a open world game would be like Skyrim, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In those games you’re not confined to getting one thing. When you’re playing Banjo Kazooie you know you have to get this jiggy and so on. But when you go into a game like Skyrim you’re like “Wow, I have so many quests to choose from.” It’s more linear in are collectible platformers then it is in are open world games but you know, that’s never bad.

Stefanick: Couldn’t you consider all 3D platformers as open world games with limitations? 

Sanders: Say you go into the first world of Super Mario 64, Bob-omb Battlefield, there is a very clear defined area of what you can do and where you can go. You can go all the way around the island and you can go up the mountain and down in the trench. But in Skyrim you can pretty much go everywhere you can imagine. There are some places in Banjo Kazooie that you physically cannot get to. The Ice key, for example. So that’s what I mean by limitations.

Stefanick: With the announcement of Crash Bandicoot on the PS4 and Yooka Laylee, why do you think there is a sudden resurgence in 3D Platformers?

Sanders: So, Banjo Kazooie was a amazing game, and Banjo Tooie was almost as amazing, but Nuts and Bolts was just awful. So when RareWare stopped being a prominent company for Nintendo or Microsoft . A Lot of developers moved from RareWare to Playtonic. I think it is just coincidence that Crash Bandicoot and Yooka Laylee are being made at the same time. But I think the main thing was Playtonic just wanted to make a game they know for their old fans.

Next, I spoke to Jonathan Palermo, a 2015 CHS graduate who is currently attending Ohio University.

Stefanick: What is your favorite 3D platformer?

Palermo: There are two that stick out in my mind. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped and Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage. Both the series, I believe, are pioneers in 3D platformers. When you think about the genre, I mean for the exception of Super Mario 64, after that Crash and Spyro kind took that genre and ran with it. The made it what it is today. For me those are also my favorites within their own franchises. Warped I think is great because it takes what the previous Crash Bandicoot games did and built upon it. There’s new modes, new things you can do, there are vehicles, there is a lot of fun stuff and the atmosphere is really great. Spyro two is so much better than Spyro one. it has a more immersive world, it is longer, it has more characters and the soundtrack in Spyro two alone is so good. I think the main problem with Spyro one is there is not a lot of variation between the worlds. Whereas in Spyro two it fixes that issue.

Stefanick: Now when you are playing a 3D platformer what do you expect out of it? What do you think the goal is of a platformer and what do you get enjoyment wise out of it?

Palermo: A good 3D platformer has to be… whimsical. It can’t be too serious, it has to have a cartoony feel, it has to have fun characters in it and there has to be fun challenges, too. Good level design is number one. If you’re playing a video game with crappy levels that aren’t any fun, then it’s not gonna be a enjoyable experience.

Stefanick: Now over the past ten years 3D platformers have seemed to fizzle out with new types of games coming out. Why do you think that is?

Palermo: Because I think people got bored of them. Im and old school guy. I like old school things. Retro stuff. But i’m not the majority of all people and the majority want sandbox games, they want RPGs, they want games they’re gonna get their money’s worth from. 3D platformers are becoming a thing of the past as you said because they don’t offer that same immersive style of gameplay that others do.

Stefanick: Could you explain the difference between a 3D Platformer and an open world game?

Palermo: So a 3D platformer is something that has levels – think of Crash Bandicoot – Level one, level two, level three. You’re in a 3D game and you’re jumping on platforms. A open world game would be like Grand Theft Auto. You’re going around, you don’t have levels, and you can do whatever you want in the world. You’re not jumping on stuff to get from one level to the next either.

Stefanick: With announcements like Yooka Laylee and Crash Bandicoot Remastered coming out, why do you think 3D Platformers are coming back now?

Palermo: I think there is still an audience that respects and enjoys that style of game, I know I am one of them. But I wouldn’t say they are necessarily coming back into existence. I think that Crash Bandicoot Remastered is almost fan service. I don’t think you’re going to see a big resurgence of 3D platformers. I think that you’ll see a couple of remakes along the lines of Crash Bandicoot. Hopefully they revitalize the genre. But again, I think this is more fan service and it is not as large as it may seem right now.

So through these two different students, we see the different sides. One of optimism and one with doubts. We see Playstation and Nintendo respectively, and we see how 3D platformers have affected childhoods and the gaming landscape. 3D platformers have and will always be apart of my life and I have high hopes for them in the future. Through the spiritual successor of Yooka Laylee or the remakes of the Crash Bandicoot trilogy which will hopefully lead to future games that return to form. 3D platformers are some of the bones of gaming history and hopefully one day soon they will be at the top once again.

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Crash Bandicoot and the return of 3D platformers