[Off the grid is a weekly column focusing on titles that may have flown under many people’s radar at the time of release, for whatever reason. Usually the titles have some redeeming quality and weren’t just overlooked because they were horrible games.]
Crash Team Racing didn’t sell horribly. In fact, it went on to become a PS1 Greatest Hits title. However, it still fell prey to being drowned out under that other kart racing title on Nintendo systems. While it borrowed a lot from Mario Kart – and as much was brought out in numerous reviews for CTR at the time – it did stand out because it was a familiar cast of Sony-specific characters. (Little known fact: CTR was developed by Naughty Dog who, of course, went on to develop the smash-hit Uncharted titles for the PS3.) Besides giving gamers a different mess of characters to race around tracks with, it offered a similar cart racing experience to what was, at the time, a thing only Nintendo had done right.
I owned a PlayStation, but did not own any Nintendo systems at the time, so it was cool to me to get my first kart racing experience, not with Mario Kart, but with Crash Team Racing. Of course, Mario Kart holds a special place in my heart, too, but that is a different discussion altogether.
What I enjoyed most about CTR wasn’t the characters, the graphics, the (lame) story or the genre. No, it was the fun my friends and I had staying up all night playing four-player co-op, laughing the whole way. It’s one of those things that seem like a lost art with most online-heavy games these days. Sure, you have so-called “couch co-op” games on occasion – many FPS titles, Borderlands, Sacred 2, the occasional racing title, etc. But, unfortunately, it seems most games are going online-only – at least, most games outside of first-party Nintendo games. You don’t know how disappointed I was that I couldn’t play split-screen co-op with friends in games like Burnout Paradise or Midnight Club: Los Angeles. (To clear the air, some games definitely do not need co-op – story-heavy RPGs [read: Dragon Age: Origins], for example – but what I’m speaking of here are genres that traditionally contained split-screen co-op and are dumping that feature in favor of online co-op only.)
Ahh, those were the days – playing Crash Team Racing for hours on end in front of my 19″ SDTV, incredibly tiny by today’s standards. Would I play the original CTR over, say, Mario Kart Wii these days? I doubt it. However, I would absolutely love a current generation sequel. But wait, you say! Wasn’t there a sequel to the game? Yes, yes there was, my observant friend. However, it was nowhere near as robust and fun as the original. It was called Crash Nitro Kart, and was released for every console under the sun at the time. It was also not developed by Naughty Dog, like the original (which was probably where things went wrong).
Kart racers these days are synonymous with Mario Kart, but that doesn’t mean it was the only kid on the block. “Was” being the key word there. Unfortunately, it seems other racers of the past have been thinned out this generation (and the latter part of last), allowing Mario Kart to hold a monopoly, for all intents and purposes. Was anyone else a fan of Crash Team Racing back in the day? Want to see it return? If CTR ever hits the PSN, I would buy it in a heartbeat.