Author’s Note: I am only discussing Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, and Crash Team Racing, since these are the only Crash games I have seen and played before.
Coco Bandicoot was my role model. I was only five years old when Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back was released. I believe that was the same year we got the game and I watched my older sister play it. I remember seeing Coco Bandicoot in the beginning of that game, hanging out in front of their home on her pink laptop. That year—and for five or six years after—I always put “pink laptop” on my Christmas list.
After recently going back to the Crash games on our old PS2, I’ve realized something pretty progressive about Coco. For a game that is literally filled to the brim with dudes (even Pura and Polar are men), Coco is the only character in the series who is a woman. While the ideal situation is a video game chock-full of women with all different backgrounds, personalities, and experiences, for a game with just one lady character, Naughty Dog does it right!
First and foremost, Coco is the smartest in the cast. While the bosses and “evil” characters are all stereotypically not the smartest criminals, Coco even beats out her older brother and star protagonist in the brains department. She hacks into the network for Crash Bandicoot 2 to save her brother, making him the damsel-in-distress and her the white knight. But I am getting too ahead of myself.
Although the Crash Bandicoot games were extremely appropriative in terms of Aku Aku, Naughty Dog still celebrates their only woman on the team for her intelligence. Again, this isn’t the ideal because we would love to have a game—just one game—that celebrates the diversity of all people, but for a game in the ’90s, this was pretty darn good!
Crash Team Racing (CTR) was one of my favorite games—and still sort of is. It’s a similar concept to Mario Kart and Sonic: All Stars Racing. From the beginning, you have eight characters to choose from, and like other games of this kind, you can choose who you want based on their stats. In the gameplay, you learn that Coco has used her massive IQ to add additional software to increase her acceleration. She doesn’t just use her intelligence for others, she’s also a badass and uses it to get ahead. She’s tech savvy, compassionate, and will kick some major butt.
One of my favorite Coco moments was in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped where you could literally play as Coco. The game is similar to its predecessor in that there are multiple floors within the game, and each floor has different games (normally around five to seven). When Crash would attempt to move to the jet-skiing level, however, Coco would push him aside and jump in. She was a real presence in this game and that only led to more fangirling on my end.
Think about it. Coco Bandicoot—this “cute” character in overalls with a pink laptop—is actually helping her older brother escape from imprisonment and works to stop Neo Cortex from taking over the world. She is the real hero in these games. Without her, Crash wouldn’t have survived.
So what about Coco now? After CTR, Jillian and I stopped playing Crash Bandicoot. We stopped with PlayStation altogether, I think. But after doing research for this article, I noticed a huge redesign for Crash (not to mention the constant hand-offs to different developers).
I’m not sure why Coco needed to be sexualized in the new concept art, but she still maintains her strongest attribute: intelligence. Had I been that impressionable five-year-old now, I don’t know that I would find Coco’s midriff necessary or inspiring. I enjoyed the fact that she was an “average” chick in overalls who could kick ass whenever she felt like it. However, her intelligence as a woman—and considering that she is the only woman represented—is something to take notice of.
Moral of the story, developers: if you are going to only have one character who is a woman, at least make her the smartest one in the room. Give us some credit.