Games go through several stages during development, with the final release being the only one commercially available to the general public. Unfinished game prototypes are sometimes leaked onto the Internet, and even though that isn't supposed to happen, it makes it easy for anyone to distribute illegal copies of them.
Researchers got a hold of a Crash Bandicoot prototype some 13 years after the game was released. Featured here are many removed or changed elements found in that prototype.
You can view an extensive side-by-side comparison of each level in this YouTube playlist by dessertmonkeyjk.
Naughty Dog ScreenThe Naughty Dog logo screen is static and completely different, featuring some information regarding the company.
Title Screen/Tawna(contributed by drx)
- The title screen looks nothing like the final one. It shows Cortex and Brio about to give a smiling Tawna the old Cortex Vortex treatment. This scene never actually occurs in the game, as the intro ends before Cortex and Brio start making preparations for Tawna.
- All characters are animated sprites. Cortex types on the computer and looks at the player. Brio pulls the lever, which makes Tawna's seat go up and down, occasionally looking at the player as well.
- Despite the text "LOAD GAME", this button actually leads to the password menu. There is no way to load or save the game onto a memory card.
- Tawna's color scheme is very different from the final one: blue mascara instead of grayish purple, brown fur instead of orange, a pink shirt instead of a red one and a green skirt instead of a blue one. She appears like this in every instance of the prototype, including icons. There actually is a leftover of this color scheme in the final version, where she's waiting for Crash at the end of The Great Hall.
Loading Screen(contributed by psx-collector)
Game OverA placeholder Game Over screen. The letters are static, but you do get to see Crash fleeing from Cortex like in the final version.
Audio(contributed by psx-collector)There is no music in the game and many sound effects are missing, such as most characters' voices.
Map Screen(contributed by drx)The level select screen wasn't always done in 3D. The prototype version had a top-view 2D map, which was actually rather neat. It also shows a nice Aku Aku icon that isn't seen anywhere else in the series. You could zoom in and out to see the three islands or choose one to visit. Boss fights were represented by their respective icons, but no levels were named at the time.
Gems(contributed by psx-collector)Gems aren't present in the prototype. It's unknown if they were planned from the start or added later for replay value.
Level designAll levels have different designs in the prototype. Some of them are pretty close to what you see in the final version, while others, such as Sunset Vista, are quite a bit different. Additionally, due to the absence of Gems in this version, there are no secret passages.
Fonts(contributed by psx-collector)The fonts used in this version are quite different.
Boss Bar(contributed by psx-collector)An early, simpler boss bar was used at some point. The final bar has the boss's icon and his name written on colorful clusters, and it's also displayed on the top-left side of the screen, as opposed to the bottom-right.
Mask Sparkles/Tawna Mug(contributed by drx)
- Aku Aku had little sparks of various colors dripping from him. In the final version, they're all yellow and pop out rather than drip, and they're only present when Crash gets two masks.
- The Tawna icon had different colors, to match her appearance in this version.
Warp Vortex(contributed by psx-collector)Warp vortexes looked very different in the prototype. Rather than bright, yellow, swirly lights, they used to be a bunch of colorful, rotating sparkles, which looked much simpler.
CONTINUE(contributed by psx-collector)Checkpoint crates usually let out the words "CHECK" and "POINT", with the letters from each word floating off-screen in one direction. Here, however, the word "CONTINUE" appears instead, and the effect is rather different, with the letters floating up in a swirly motion. The sound effect is exclusive to the prototype.
POWShown here is the removed POW Crate. When broken, colourful sparks come out and all the crates in the vicinity are broken by them. This doesn't always work perfectly as some crates are randomly left intact.
TNTThe TNT crates don't display a visual countdown when they're set, and the audio countdown's speed is a bit different, but they're identical otherwise.
Aku Aku modeThe invincibility you get from picking up 3 Aku Aku masks lets you break Crates by touching them as usual, but it won't do the same for running under them. This makes it harder to break floating crates placed above trampoline ones, since these last ones get broken as soon as you jump on them.
Whoa!Losing a life doesn't make the screen go black or zoom in around Crash. This only happens during boss fights in the final version.
Gate spinnersThe spinner platforms in gate levels are more finnicky with collision detection. You have to specifically touch them while spinning to make them work, making this type of ascent much harder. The final version is a bit more lenient and makes the platforms spin if you miss them by a short distance.
Bonuses and Passwords
- All bonus rounds looked like Brio's, and they all had Tawna at the end.
- Upon reaching the end, Tawna doesn't present you the completion percentage like usual. Instead, she gives you an early type of password that used character icons. These passwords are 6 characters-long and don't have a screen of their own. There is also no text regarding completion percentage.
Hog WildAsides from the different level design, there is no curtain at the end of the level. You can see the boar simply disappear and Crash being transported to another level.
Road to BWAAAAGH(contributed by psx-collector)Like in the final version, the red planks in bridge levels collapse as soon as you touch them. In the prototype, however, they aren't marked with a hole in the middle, making them harder to distinguish from the planks you can step on.
Polygons Out(contributed by psx-collector)This is the level Lights Out, which is hard to tell because of the lack of certain structures and textures. Aku Aku doesn't appear in the white ghostly, lantern form like he does in the final version.
Cortex Power Entrance(contributed by psx-collector)As shown here, the door to Cortex Power used to be quite different. Walking past it reveals a second door with the Pinstripe safety warning usually seen in Generator Room.
Cam-bots(contributed by psx-collector)The cam-bots seen in Machinery levels look completely different. Their behaviour is still the same, though.
Slippery Climb monstersThese enemies behave the same, but look grayer and have different eyes.
BatsThe bats in city ruins levels still fly between hanging ones, but defeating the hanging ones won't prevent more from coming in, or turn the remaining ones into Wumpa fruits.
Switch BoxesThe switch boxes (those marked with an exclamation mark) keep their bouncy properties after they're activated, and they lack the animated effect of the exclamation mark disappearing.
Unwinnable bug(contributed by psx-collector)There is a bug in the Brio boss fight that prevents the game from being finished. After his health drops down to nothing, he keeps charging at Crash, and with every extra hit he takes, he charges a little faster (until he becomes impossible to avoid). This happens occasionally in the final version too, but here it seems to happen all the time.
Sunset Vista(contributed by psx-collector)The design for this level used to be vastly different and even harder than in the final version, with a lot of unforgiving platform placement and an overuse of rotating torches. Like in the final version, it's also the longest level in the game.
No free masksBoss fights in the final version give you two Aku Aku masks to help you, but this feature wasn't present in the prototype yet. The Cortex boss fight does feature a mask pick-up, though.
- Ripper Roo is a bit tougher to defeat. Not only does he jump slightly faster, but there are also random crates dropped into the floor tiles every so and then, including TNTs.
- Ripper Roo's laughter is slower than in the final version.
Koala Kong(contributed by psx-collector)The big coal lumps you need to spin back at Kong won't automatically target him. They always get sent to the middle, so if Kong isn't already there, you'll need to wait or else you'll miss the shot.
- The blobs are red and invulnerable when spawned. After chasing Crash for a while, they stop and become green and vulnerable. Waiting too long during this phase makes them turn yellow, before quickly shifting to the red phase again. The final version is much easier, since they're always green and vulnerable despite being able to move.
- The boss bar always corresponds to the number of blobs present on-screen (except after Brio transforms).
- The lightning actually flashes the room pitch black instead of making it bright.
- After Brio transforms, his health bar shows three remaining health points as in the final version, but you're supposed to hit him six times more to defeat him.
- Due to a bug, Brio is unbeatable and you can't play the rest of the prototype through conventional means.
The Cortex boss fight plays virtually the same, but the projectiles that are pink in the final version are orange here instead. Oddly enough, the last phase actually has the lone green projectile replaced with a pink one, which you're actually supposed to deflect. Maybe the initial idea was that the pink ones were meant to be the only ones that could defeat Cortex for good, but then they decided to make things less confusing.
There is also an Aku Aku mask you can pick up, as you don't get two of them automatically like in the final version.
Level orderThe level order is a lot different in the prototype. Each island has a self-contained theme, which makes more sense than in the final version, but results in a wonky distribution. The first island has jungle/tribal environments, the second one has ruins, and the third one has the industrial and castle settings, with the bridge levels connecting them to each other. See below:
N. Sanity Beach - Jungle Rollers -The Great Gate -Hog Wild -Upstream - Papu Papu - Rolling Stones - Boulders - Native Fortress - Up the Creek - Ripper Roo
The Lost City - Temple Ruins - Boulder Dash - Sunset Vista - Jaws of Darkness - Koala Kong
Cortex Power - Heavy Machinery - Generator Room - Toxic Waste - Pinstripe Potoroo - Road to Nowhere - The High Road - Lights Out - Slippery Climb - Nitrus Brio - The Lab - Fumbling in the Dark - Stormy Ascent - Cortex
Note that Whole Hog and The Great Hall are missing, and there is an unseen level named Stormy Ascent (find out more about this level here). It can be found in the final version through hacking, which reveals the exact same layout as in the prototype, suggesting this was as far as it was worked on.