In the aftermath of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, an evil elemental mask named Uka Uka is freed from his underground prison, and is revealed to have been the true mastermind behind Dr. Neo Cortex's schemes. Seeing as Crash had already collected all the crystals and gems on Earth and the planet is left without a proper power source for Cortex to use for his next scheme, Uka Uka decides to recruit a scientist by the name of N. Tropy to create the Time Twister, a time machine which Cortex and Uka Uka can use to retrieve the crystals from past and future eras. With the help of Uka Uka's counterpart, Aku Aku, Crash and Coco race to the Time Twister to collect the crystals again before Cortex and Uka Uka get a chance to do so.The game built upon the strengths of the first two games and added more vehicle-based levels (with the player taking control of a bi-plane, jetski or tiger at any given time), new abilities that could be earned by beating the game's bosses, and a Time Trial mode to keep players coming back to the levels to see how fast they could go.
Tropes Used In This Game:
Action Girl: Coco joins Crash in the gameplay for the first time. In practice, this means she tackles most of the Unexpected Genre Change levels, but still, riding a tiger, a jetski, a space fighter, and a World War One plane along with fighting N.Gin all by herself (well, Pura helps out too) is a definite step-up from being a simple computer hacker genius from the last game. See also Took a Level in Badass.
Airborne Mook: Floating carpet enemies in Hang 'Em High drift eerily in your path.
And of course, enemy planes in the warplane level.
Anti-Frustration Features: As with the prequels, if you start losing too many lives, the game takes pity on you and you respawn with an Aku-Aku mask for protection. Lose a bit too much times, and you'll get a nearby crate turn into checkpoint when it originally shouldn't be one. It should be noticed that such policies never work during time trials, however…
Arch-Enemy: Crash has Dr. Cortex, but now there is also the rivalry between sentient voodoo mask twin brothers Aku Aku and Uka Uka.
Coco also develops a rivalry with N. Gin, Cortex's right hand, starting with this game.
Backtracking: Dispatched from 2 once and for all, but with several really minor exceptions. Tomb Time, for one, has a fork for a normal path and a path that is only available with the purple gem, and both paths have crates; you get the idea.
Beam-O-War: Aku Aku and Uka Uka have one of these during the final boss fight.
Beard of Evil: Cortex, of course, sports one, but Uka Uka has an impressively ragged version and N. Tropy has an Asian-styled one.
Bears Are Bad News: Averted with Polar, who is Crash's friend. He only makes two appearances in the entire game - the beginning and the end.
Bewitched Amphibians: Getting hit by a wizard's "energy blast" in Medieval stages turns Crash into a frog, costing you a life. The frogs in the other level are mooks transformed into frogs, and if they catch Crash they kiss him and turn into princes.
BFG: One of the abilities Crash can unlock is pulling a bazooka that fires wumpa fruit out of hammerspace. The only downside to it is that he can't move while it's out.
N.Gin's Humongous Mecha is also armed by equally humongous gatling guns on its arms.
Big Good: In response to Uka Uka's release, Aku Aku steps up into this role, guiding Crash and Coco through their adventure.
Blackout Basement: Surprisingly, only two levels qualify for this - the first being the Bug Lite level at the fifth Time Twister area,note which is an Ancient Egypt level set at night time. It is essentially identical to the Blackout Basement level in Crash 2 except set in a different level theme. Fireflies are the light source once more, and you have to hurry past the enemies to the next firefly before the current one flies off, or you're left stranded in the dark. and Area 51? at the secret Time Twister areanote A motorbike racing level set at night, the only lights are your headlights, the police cars, and your enemies, which are flying saucers..
Bonus Dungeon: In the secret warp room, there are three levels which are more difficult than the standard levels.
Bonus Stage: On occasion, Crash can find '?' platforms which take him to bonus stages. These are quite forgiving; there are no enemies, no lives are taken if you die, and whether you fall or are blown up, the player is plonked right next to the platform to start again. A few 'Skull Route' platforms exist, which are considerably harder; not only do you have to get past the level up to that point without dying, but the stages themselves are tougher, can feature enemies, and generally play out like the regular levels Up to Eleven. Hidden 'Gem' stages also exist, which appear only when Crash has found the relevant coloured gem. They vary in their difficulty, but otherwise are much like Skull Routes.
Boss Arena Idiocy: Dingodile is defeated by exploiting his surroundings. He is protected by a barrier of crystals, which Crash can't yet jump over. There are no gaps until Dingodile starts blasting through the barrier with his flamethrower. N. Tropy also leaves Floating Platform trails from one side of the arena to the other, leaving Crash free to attack him. Seriously, this reeks of Tactical Suicide Boss as well.
Bottomless Pits: Forget Cortex, the bottomless pit is Crash's arch nemesis.
Brains and Brawn: Coco and Crash, respectively, in character. For gameplay purposes, the distinction is nullified.
Bragging Rights Reward: Platinum Relics, which are so hard to obtain that before the Internet came along, they were assumed to be myth. A lesser-known gimmick of the Time Trials is that breaking all of the Time Crates will give a bonus subtraction to your final time - not only is this extremely difficult on its own, especially in stages where you are stuck constantly going forward, but you still need a very good time on top of that. Thankfully they aren't necessary for 100% Completion, as they offer no different bonuses than the Gold Relics they replace.
Brick Joke: N. Tropy's defeat leads to concerns over whether the Time Twister will start acting erratically. At the very end of the game, the machine gets engulfed in a super-sized warp ball and does indeed fall apart. Possibly an inverted Chekhov's Gunman.
Cat and Mouse Boss: Tiny Tiger begins the battle by chasing after Crash, trying to crush him with his leaping.
Changing Gameplay Priorities: The running shoes awarded for defeating Cortex change everything. The first main chunk of the game consists of reaching the end of levels and obtaining crystals. After obtaining the running shoes, however, the game becomes all about completing challenges and time trials for 100% completion.
Chekhov's Gunman: In a sense, N.Tropy. By defeating him, Crash receives an urgent message from Uka Uka and Cortex berating him for incapacitating the only person able to maintain the Time Twister. After the final boss battle on 100% Completion, the Time Twister goes haywire. In Aku Aku's own words: "The Time Twister machine could not hold itself together." Might count as a Brick Joke or as a bit of Take Your Time.
Chekhov's Gun: The Time Twister machine's core which Cortex falls into at the end of his boss fight will become useful later.
Check Point: If Crash opens a crate marked with a 'C', it becomes the new checkpoint in case he dies.
Clone Army: The Lab Assistants are revealed to be this in the Secret Warp Room, where the production of them is shown.
Collection Sidequest: At first, the gems and relics appear to be this, since you don't need them to reach the final boss, but to complete the game, and to complete the story, they all need to be collected.
Collision Damage: It's traditional, and so much as touching an opponent will trigger a death animation.
Composers: Mark Mothersbaugh and Josh Mancell (of Mutato Muzika) compose the level themes for this game, too.
Continuity Nod: The destruction of Cortex's space station is what frees Uka Uka, and some of N.Gin's dialogue refers to his boss battle against Crash in the previous game.
Convection Schmonvection: Crash can get surprisingly close to the lava pools in the dinosaur levels of the game without so much as sweating.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: Some of Crash's 'death' animations count, such as being kissed by an enemy frog who turns into a prince. Crash also gets to dish this out on those Goddamn Bats Egyptian monkeys in the tomb levels, by jumping on their heads for extra fruit. Cortex and N.Tropy get turned into babies and sent to an unknown location when subjected to the Time Twister's malfunction at the end of the game. Uka Uka ends up being caught in a painful-looking tug of war between them.
Cosmetic Award: Completing the game by gathering all the Crystals and Gems and scoring either the Gold or Platinum rank from all the levels in Time Trial mode (including the two super secret levels) earns the player an extra gem and a snazzy fireworks display along with a 105% mark on their save game. That is all.
The switch crate was introduced to this game. The crate switches back and forth between two or three icons. When Crash gets close to it, the changing quickens. Depending on when Crash opens the crate, the effect will differ - so, for instance, if it shows a '?' icon when he spins it, he'll get a goody, whereas if it shows a 'TNT' icon when he spins it, it behaves like a TNT crate and explodes. If Crash doesn't open it before the switch acceleration reaches its peak, the box turns to steel and cannot be opened, thwarting any attempt to break all the boxes and get a gem.
Also introduced are the time crates. During time trial mode, several boxes except Nitro, steel and TNT crates are transformed into yellow boxes with either a '1', a '2' or a '3' on its face. Break the box and the timer freezes for however many seconds were indicated by the box. This feature was later reused in Crash Team Racing.
Creative Closing Credits / Credits Gag: During the final credits, baby Cortex and baby N. Tropy are locked in a tug of war for Uka Uka's mask. Uka Uka is not enjoying it, but neither side get an advantage for the whole credit sequence.
Cyborg: N.Gin makes a comeback. The Lab Assistants are revealed to be this in the secret Warp Room.
Death Trap: The Egyptian levels are chock full of them, including flooding rooms, walls that fire darts when you walk through a sunbeam, retracting spears that pop out of the floor, walls that abruptly snap shut and crush you...
Degraded Boss: Tiny Tiger is relegated to first boss, like Ripper Roo before him. Now he can also be hurt by Crash's spin and jump attacks, which were useless against him in the previous one. Armor Is Useless, indeed.
Difficulty By Region: Several enemies were made harder in the European version: Wizards have two hit points, Missile Robots shoot four missiles at a time instead of three, and various others attack faster. In addition, dying repeatedly on a level will only ever get you one Aku Aku mask, not two (see Anti-Frustration Features).
Besides that, the time requirements for relics were changed, and the Crash Dash gives a greater speed boost. This makes getting Relics easier in on-foot levels, but harder in other levels.
In the American version, the two hidden levels give you Platinum Relics no matter what time you get. In the European version, they have time requirements like any other level.
The levels with Pura have fewer enemies in the Japanese version and extra enemies in the European version.
Difficulty Spike: The game gets noticeably harder in the fourth warp room - the first level in it, Sphynxinator, is positively evil for first-time players. Four boxes are hidden in the unlikeliest place, and the blue gem platform is filled with oil.
Disconnected Side Area: There are two levels that require an alternate entrance to get the gems. Fortunately, unlike the previous game, the alternate entrances are easier to unlock (or at least it's clear on how you unlock them; having the appropriate amount of relics, to be exact).
Down the Drain: For some reason Crash still has Super Drowning Skills in the Tomb Wader level. Here, the entire level was set in an Egyptian tomb, the waters in the passageways of which rose and fell at various points. In the lower sections, the floor is flooded, but fluctuates between being knee deep for a few seconds to being raised up several feet for another few seconds, and then back again. Part of the challenge was to find higher ground, such as a cube of steel blocks or a floating platform, to stand upon and wait for the water level to drop to a manageable level.
Double Jump: One of the perks of Crash 3 is the upgrade feature. By defeating each boss the first time, Crash Bandicoot earns a new move which either enhances his existing abilities or gives him completely new ones. In the case of the Double Jump, Crash earns this by defeating Dingodile for the first time. Combined with the slide and Super Spin, Crash can go almost anywhere.
Dumb Muscle: Tiny has improved slightly from the previous game - not only can he speak, and speak eloquently enough to warn Crash (albeit in Hulk Speak), but his tactics are no longer restricted to just leaping after Crash; instead, he tries to spear him on the end of his trident, and when that fails, he releases hoards of lions on you. Even when he falls for the same trick three times, he gets notably faster in pulling out his trident as the battle progresses.
In the Final Boss battle, Aku Aku and Uka Uka does a lot of spins in their battles. It could be bad for Crash, though, as they're the main obstacle of the fight.
Everything Is Even Worse With Sharks: While Crash explores the ocean bottom, sharks are patrolling certain areas and if he blunders into one, it eats him. Coco also has to avoid sharks patrolling near the surface during her jet ski levels. Sharks were originally billed to appear as enemies in the first Crash game, but they were cut from the final product and had to wait for this game and its appropriate water levels before they were introduced.
Evil Brit: Dr. Nefarious Tropy has a British accent when he talks to you via Time Twister in the third time travel area.
Expressive Mask: Aku Aku has a new game model to accommodate the facial expressions which would otherwise be impossible, for his standard gameplay model is essentially a block of wood with the bits painted on. Uka Uka is also an expressive face, but he does have a non-expressive gameplay face which appears during the Final Boss battle. That, and the two of them literally are masks.
Extended Gameplay: You can claim to have 'beaten' the game after collecting the crystals and defeating the final boss, but after that the player can go back and find the gems and relics as well. As usual, the best ending comes with getting the gems before fighting Cortex.
Fake Difficulty: Returning again after being absent from Crash 2, this time it rears its head in the form of the Platinum Relics that demand nearly frame perfect precision to obtain. That is the "true difficulty" - but it becomes unfair in the Relic stage Area 51?, which doesn't even have the decency to let you see more than three feet ahead of you.
Genre Roulette: Tiger riding, water skiing, scuba diving, races, aerial combat, and one spaceship-on-mecha fight break up the routine.
Genre Savvy: Cortex shows signs of this, reflecting on the pattern of gameplay events such as the defeat of the bosses and Crash's approach to the Final Dungeon. He even apologizes for not reacting appropriately when Crash has collected all the crystals.
Goofy Print Underwear: Several of Crash's death sequences reveal that he wears pink boxers with red hearts. The Wizard enemies in the medieval levels have white boxers with pink dots.
As an odd consequence of a re-used animationnote Specifically, the animation for when dies to a mine underwater, you can see Crash's underwear float away from him along with his scuba gear when he finishes an underwater level.
The Goomba: The medieval goat from the medieval levels is easily defeated. The frog enemies less so, as their leaps tend to be erratic and unpredictable, though like the medieval goat they can be defeated by any attack.
Gotta Catch Them All: The crystals are needed to reach the last boss, while the gems and relics are needed to complete the game.
Ground Pound: By beating the first boss, Crash gains a Super Ground Pound attack in this game, with enough force to smash several metal-enforced crates in one go and release a shock wave.
Guide Dang It: The secret levels in the third time travel area almost certainly needed to be performed either by accident, or with a guide. One had you crash into a specific sign in a motorcycle level, and another had a trigger where you had to get to a bonus gem level, and then die on a certain enemy, which - instead of killing you - would take you to a secret stage.
Missing four boxes in Sphynxinator? Look behind you at the entrance.
Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Tiny dons some customised Roman armour for his boss battle, but otherwise his apparel hasn't changed much. Dingodile wears only a pair of yellow trousers. Oh yeah, and that flame pack on his back.
Hammerspace: After getting his Bazooka, Crash keeps it in his back pocket, despite it being almost twice the size of him.
Heroic Mime: Crash, of course, but strangely Coco becomes The Voiceless as well, presumably because she is no longer an NPC, although she doesn't even have her own grunts unlike Crash (sans the Japanese version). Also, an inversion of the Suddenly Voiced.
Hub Level: A modification of the old Warp Room system - instead of six isolated warp chambers, five of which could only be accessed by a platform in the middle of each room, this one is a single large Warp Room called the Time Twister, with five chambers arranged around a central spoke within a roughly 180 degree arc. The central hub has a load/save screen and five gates which lead to a Time Travel area. In each Time Travel area, there are five levels (plus a boss level once it's been unlocked), and defeating one area's boss will unlock the next area. Also, there is a platform which appears at the centre of the hub which takes Crash to a secret Warp Room. However, the platform needs to be unlocked before it can be accessed.
Humongous Mecha: N.Gin as usual, and he claimed to have made "a few modifications" to it. This time, Rock Beats Laser of the previous game just isn't going to cut it.
Kick the Dog: Dingodile is about to fry an innocent penguin, but is distracted by Crash's timely arrival for a boss battle.
Killer Rabbit: Those nice monkeys in the ancient egypt levels kill Crash by throwing paint bombs on him. At least you get to jump on his head in retribution later.
Large Ham: Doctor Neo Cortex as usual, but Uka Uka upstages him. Also N. Tropy and N. Gin in their own ways.
Law of 100: As usual, collecting one hundred wumpa fruit will earn Crash a new life.
Luck-Based Mission: collecting relics (especially platinum) in jetski and motorcycle levels can be this, because 1) getting midair crates off-ramps sometimes require a precise jump and some crates are so close to bombs, and 2) the motorcycle levels are Auto-Scrolling Level. To some extent, the planes level as well, which depends on your accuracy.
Mad Scientist: Cortex, N.Tropy and N.Gin all qualify for this in some capacity.
The Many Deaths of You: Improved over 2 a lot. So much that you're more likely to see Crash being split to halves, kissed by a frog, scrapped to atoms, blown up like a balloon, bashed by a club right into the camera's direction and lots of death scenes like that, rather than him turning into angel.
Mascot Mook: Cortex's Lab Assistants, as usual. They come in a variety of forms and disguises depending on the time period of the level they're in, but are identifiable by their Opaque Nerd Glasses.
Meaningful Name: Dingodile is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a half-dingo, half-crocodile hybrid. N. Tropy's name is a pun on the word entropy, a physics concept which means, in layman's terms, disorder, especially in relation to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
N. Gin = engine and he likes making Humongous Mecha. Neo Cortex refers to a certain part of the brain, and he's known to have a really big head.
Mix-and-Match Critters: One of the enemies in the Bone Yard and Dino Might! levels is the Bandifish, orange-and-blue fish-like creatures with a distinct resemblance to Crash. They flop around and randomly perform Spin Attacks, and if Crash gets too close they eat him.
Dingodile is a mix of a dingo and a crocodile.
Mook Maker: Crash gets a glimpse of one in the secret Warp Room.
Morton's Fork: "And in fact, we're furious! But, it seems you have overlooked one small detail, you little orange delivery-boy! Now that you have gathered all the crystals, all we have to do... is take them from you!" Crash just can't win, can he?
The exception is the super secret level Hot Coco, which is a really large circular stage, and you start right behind the exit, barricaded by Nitros.
Nostalgia Level: Tiny Tiger's boss fight and N. Gin's mecha battle are thematically reminescent of their boss battles from the previous game, just cranked Up to Eleven now.
Nintendo Hard: Even despite it doesn't have secrets as Guide Dang It headdesky as 2, it's still pretty hard to get 100% Completion here, not even talking about extra 105%, thanks to the time trials. Yes, you can get ahold of the Fruit Bazooka and a faster dash. And yes, you can restart the time trial as much as you want. But that won't really make the amount of hours spent on getting all the Gold Relics less ludicrous. In part because Time Trials need pure skill as opposed to getting really lucky/reading a guide (as with the gems in the second game). And let's not even get started on the Platinum Relics...
Warped has the Egyptian levels being insanely difficult relics due to the doors. They open and close at intervals, and it ruins your run if you get trapped behind one with it closed.
"High Time" and "Flaming Passion"'s gold and platinum relics due to the fire throwing enemies, slow moving carpets, and monkey bar segments.
Many of the developer times are either extremely difficult or impossible to get. Most of these times were reached on a non-final version of the game.
Also, platinum relic in "Hot Coco" requires you go take a certain route where you had to make sure to get every single time crate. However, this was only in the PAL version of the game. Other versions had a much more lenient time limit and gives you a platinum relic even if you beat it in 4 minutes.
Obviously Evil: Uka Uka's very design. Cortex also decided to be less subtle than in the previous games - even getting to be Genre Savvy about it.
1-Up: Like before, the game's pretty generous on lives. After all, you may need every single one of them.
Infinite 1-Ups: the super secret level Eggipus Rex has no crates, just lots of floating wumpas and a Time Trial clock. Oddly, unlike in other levels, taking the clock will NOT make the wumpas go away. So you can just grab it, get as much wumpas as possible to the end, then die and go back to the start of the level - dying in Time Trial costs you no life. Result: repeatable life grinding.
Only Sane Man: N. Tropy is a completely evil bastard who creates time paradoxes for fun, but he is the only antagonist to not suffer from either chronic stupidity (Tiny and Dingodile), futile goals of taking over the world (Cortex and Uka Uka) or is N. Gin.
Pass Through the Rings: The level Rings of Power involves Crash flying his bi-plane through them in a race against three other planes. Spin Attack the rings to get a speed boost, but watch out for the Nitro crates on the balloons. The name of the level is actually a Shout-Out to a previous Naughty Dog title.
Plot Coupon: The game almost entirely revolves around collecting crystals and gems and relics.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Uka Uka was sealed away in a temple on one of the three islands a long time ago to prevent him from wreaking havoc on the world. He is released at the beginning of the game, by no less than a falling piece of Cortex's space station, which via a series of events was destroyed with Crash's help last game. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
Sea Mine: Blue bombs with skull and crossbones markings on them are floating around in the jet ski levels. Also appears (in different form) in the scuba levels as well.
Secret Level: There are three secret levels and two secret level sidepaths which can only be accessed by a secret Warp Room, which itself can't be accessed except via a secret platform. It's much easier to access this time around, though, compared to the previous game.
That said, there are also 2 super secret levels that are hard to find; you'd be guaranteed to find a guide for these ones.
Sequel Hook: Subverted - the ending pretty much makes it near improbable for the main villains to ever return, but return they did. Since none of the PS2 sequels address this point, it's pretty much left to Wild Mass Guessing. If you write them off as Fanon Discontinuity, on the other hand, then this is the canonical ending of the main series, with Crash Team Racing as a spinoff.
Shaggy Dog Story: Don't waste your time or lives trying to get either of Future Frenzy's gems the first time around.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Lessened between Crash and Coco as both are now Action Hero bandicoots, and Coco's genius with computers is not referenced. Aku Aku and Uka Uka, however, are polar opposites.
Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Ice Age arena where you fight Dingodile. That's it. It's not even a very big level. Given the heavy prominence of snowy levels in the previous game, this comes as quite a stark contrast with Crash Bandicoot 2.
However, one of the plane levels (Mad Bombers) appears to take place above a snow-covered field.
Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Played straight and subverted both at once. The fact that N. Tropy, who created the time twister vortex and is responsible for the whole mess, is before N. Gin, is rather odd.
Space Zone: The future levels and the fourth boss battle.
Spanner in the Works: Crash derails the villains' plans by simply having beaten up Tropy earlier, which lets the time machine go havoc.
Super Drowning Skills: Even though he can swim (with a heavy oxygen pack), Crash will still drown instantly in non-deep-sea levels.
Take Your Time: After beating N. Tropy, it's anybody's guess when the Time Twister machine will malfunction through lack of maintenance, since N. Tropy was the only one who could keep it under control. This has no effect on the gameplay urgency whatsoever.
Throwing Your Sword Always Works: A type of the Arabian swordsmen from the medieval Arabia levels continuously throw blades in a straight line, one after the other, even when Crash cannot possibly be hurt by them.
Took a Level in Badass: Coco Bandicoot, who goes from a computer hacker extraordinaire to a full-blooded action hero, like her brother.
Trampoline Tummy: You can do this with the double-headed Lab Assistants in Double Header.
Transforming Mecha: N. Gin's mecha, which combines with a larger ship and transforms into an anthropomorphic form for increased firepower.
Trick Boss: Doctor N. Gin starts in a robot not too different from the one he used in the game before (he even tells the player he'd "made a few modifications" to the old robot he used in Crash 2), which uses similar attacks to the old one. Needless to say, it goes down after you shoot the same areas, only for it to flee, and dock with a much larger spacecraft, complete with tougher weaponry and a new life bar.
The Unfought: Uka Uka is the Big Bad and you never get to fight him. Instead, while Aku Aku keeps him busy, you have to take out Cortex (who'll drag Uka Uka with him).
Vanity License Plate: Dr. Cortex's lab assistants in the motorcycle levels drive cars with license plates that read CRTX.