I've been in a nostalgic mood lately, and for me, you can't get much more nostalgic than this. So, let's revisit a piece of my childhood with Crash Team Racing.
I was one of the lucky ones who got a PS2 around the time when it first came out. I was 6 years old, and felt like a king. Look at me with my PS2, everybody! Now, while I did get some PS2 games with it, they were still selling PS1 games around this time, and in my early days of playing it, that was generally what I played. Among these was Crash Team Racing - my first video game, and what an introduction. I was captivated by its speed and control, not to mention the fact that I was hopeless enough at gaming that I would spend whole days (literally, whole days) just playing it and trying to win for once. I don't think I ever beat it fully, but whatever, I was never a 100% Completion type.
Long story short, the disc got all scratched to hell so the music would glitch out and it frequently wouldn't work, and I think I lost it sometime around 2006. But now, having got an emulator and acquired the game through totally legal means, let's finish what my six-year-old self started.
Side note: I am intentionally avoiding all walkthroughs and spoilers for the sake of this liveblog. I've forgotten a lot of stuff, so if I miss something obvious, that's why.
Let's start with the opening cinematic. We're in the Ghibli Hills, and there's a sign advertising a kart racing tournament. Now, we all know what that means - it's all gonna get disrupted. And indeed, it is! We cut into space, and meet our antagonist, sitting in a spaceship. This here is Nitros Oxide (ha ha, I get it!), the self-proclaimed "fastest racer in the galaxy", i.e. racing punchbag for our protagonists. He "travels the stars looking for creatures to test his skills", and then proceeds to call it "survival of the fastest". Come on, Oxide, bring us a third Incredibly Lame Pun and bring it on home! His "game", as it turns out, involves Oxide challenging the best racer on the planet, i.e. you, to a race. If you win, he leaves the planet alone, but if he wins, he makes everyone his slaves and turns the whole planet into a concrete parking lot!
OK, hold up. How does that even work? Is he just going to dump concrete all over the planet, or use some kind of alien magic science voodoo whatever, or what? And what about the inhabitants of Earth who get in the line of fire, or whatever it is he uses? Is he going to abduct everyone beforehand? Does he expect them to work in a concrete parking lot for him afterwards? That can't sustain life! And the spaceship... yeah, that's not going to hold six billion people and/or talking animals. So the story barely holds itself together, but hey, it's an Excuse Plot. Let's just have fun racing... in the next installment.
And just as an aside, I always thought Oxide was incredibly annoying. For one thing, he's just ugly (or maybe it's the late-90's 3D graphics) - his green skin and purple clothes do not match, and because his mouth is kind of on a trunk, it flops around when he speaks. Oh, and I'm going to avoid the obvious jokes about the phallic shape of his head, but... his voice! It sounds like someone who smokes fifty cigarettes a day inhaling helium and talking through a vocoder at the same time. Yeah, I want to beat this A-hole even more now, so that I never have to look at him (or listen to him) again.
So after Oxide gargles out "get ready to race for the fate of your planet!", we get a montage of our characters preparing for the race, set to a nice jolly marimba. Y'know, because that fits with a fight for the very survival of your planet I'll just run through that:
- Coco has her laptop plugged into her kart (wait, can you even do that? Damn Coco, you really are a genius) and is tapping on it randomly while Pura just lies there. My guess is she's doing some Hollywood Hacking with her kart to make it go faster. Ooh, cheater! I don't like you any more, Coco. Then we get a first-person view of someone driving through a sort of desert valley type track. Looking forward to racing there - I dunno, I just always like the desert tracks in racing games for some reason.
- Tiny Tiger roaring and destroying his kart with a hammer. Um, you're not going to win like that, dumbass. And how's he even going to fit in that kart? It's like the size of his foot! Another first-person shot of someone driving through an ice track. Oh god, that one looks like a pain - those big patches of ice should be murder for my steering.
- Polar sitting in his kart and reading How to Drive upside down. Sorry mate, but that probably won't help you very much. Especially because you're a bloody polar bear and you can't read. Or for that matter, drive. First-person shot of a track which has a sort of "lost Aztec ruins" vibe, but this one tilts around a lot and goes so fast it kind of gave me motion sickness. Also, given the size of most of these racers and where the perspective is, this guy must be driving three feet in the air. I'm... not sure you can actually do that in this game.
- Dingodile tinkering with his cart, when the exhaust goes off and blackens his face. Because we all knew one of those was coming. Although Dingodile's angry eyes at the camera did amuse me, I must admit. First-person shot of a track suspended in the sky with blimps. Not looking forward to that, because if I've learned anything from Mario Kart, sky tracks are always the hardest.
- Dr. Cortex giving us a lovely Evil Laugh and zapping his kart with electricity, to... presumably make it go faster, but my guess is it's one of his opponents karts and he's blasting it for sabotage! Man, you are an even worse cheater than Coco! It is a nifty shot, though, and an awesome Evil Laugh. First-person shot of someone driving through an Absurdly Spacious Sewer. Not much to comment on there, so it's probably one of the early ones.
- Crash... napping in a field next to his kart. Come on, Cortex, run him over before he can compete! You won't get a better chance than that!
OK, let's skip over the menu screen because there's not much to comment on there, and go straight for Adventure Mode. You get eight racers to choose from here, so let's scroll through them.
- Crash would appear to be The Mario (yay, another Mario Kart parallel!), because he's described as "intermediate" and has average speed, turning and acceleration. He's playing with a yo-yo.
- Cortex is the same as Crash. Come on, differentiate them a bit! He's tinkering with his kart (and the electricity gun from the opening) and shooting dirty looks at the camera. "Hey! What're you looking at! I'm not sabotaging anything at all here!"
- Tiny Tiger is roaring and lifting a 500-pound dumbbell like it's nothing. But apparently, he can't put that strength into steering, because his steering and acceleration suck. He is fast, though. And surprisingly, his kart isn't completely destroyed from the opening! He's described as "advanced". Which is funny, because I was about as "beginner" as you could get and I played as him all the time. Maybe that's why I always lost.
- Coco is typing gibberish into a computer of some kind. She's got awesome acceleration and... OK speed, I guess, but she can't turn. Not picking her, because she doesn't know how computers work.
- N. Gin... hey, where was N. Gin in the opening sequence? Well, apparently, where he was was hitting a rocket with a hammer. I don't know why he hasn't killed himself yet. Anyway, he's the same as Coco, and they're both "intermediate".
- Dingodile is pumping his kart full of flamethrower fuel. OK, so the dev team doesn't know how computers or cars work. He's the same as Tiny.
- Polar is just sitting in an ice cave, which is almost certainly freezing his kart's fuel. I suppose reading How to Drive upside down didn't work for him, surprisingly - he's got good turning, but a low top speed and average acceleration, and is described as "beginner". So he's driving a student-driver car and hoping to face Falsetto Alien Tom Waits for "the fate of the planet"? That's it, not picking you.
- Pura is running around in a circle next to his kart. He's the same as Polar. How do these animals learn to drive a car, anyway? It sure as hell isn't by reading a book upside down.
So, what we basically have is four models of character, in eight bodies. I tend to go for the "speed" characters, because I'm a reckless idiot, so let's play as Tiny. Wait, I Lied, I just want to see how he gets in his kart. Since I'm hoping to get Jah on my side for this race, I named my file "RASTA" (which is what I will be calling Tiny from now on).
First few tracks, coming up in the next installment!