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Prerelease:Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

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This page details prerelease information and/or media for Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back.

To do:
Josh Mancell has "pre-console mixes" of tracks from this game on his SoundCloud.
Early draft of the logo first displayed at E3 1997. Has considerably different lighting and choice of font colors.

Development Timeline

  • October 1996
    • The development of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back begins.
  • March 1997
    • Coco's first conceptual sketches are made.
    • Ripper Roo's conceptual sketches are made.
    • Polar's conceptual sketches are made.
  • May 1997
    • Coco reaches its final conceptual design.
  • June 15 1997
  • The E3 demo is built for the event days prior. It was later sent out by SCEA and SCEE to a number of gaming publications across America and Europe for exclusive previews.
  • June 19-21 1997
    • The game is unveiled at E3 1997.
    • The demo is playable at the event.
  • July
    • A preview version mainly seen in the MTV GameBrain Strategy Guide is built. It was seemingly sent out by SCEA, and it appeared in a few Japanese trailers from demo discs.
  • August 1997
    • The game enters the alpha phase. [1]
  • August 12 1997
    • The PAL demo featuring Bear It is built.
  • ~August 12-22 1997
    • A late preview version dated between the two demos is sent out by SCEA to multiple American publications.
  • August 22 1997
  • September 13 1997
  • September 14 1997
  • September 29 1997
  • ~October 1997
    • Roughly the date of the game's initial completion. Modification dates on the files are identical to the September 29th, 1997 prototype, suggesting the dates in the final NTSC-U release are inaccurate. Therefore, it is not possible to estimate what the approximate build date of the initial release might have been, although one can safely assume that it was sometime in October, possibly in the second week.
  • October 30 1997
    • The PAL build finished development.
  • November 4 1997
    • The NTSC-J build finished development.
    • The Japanese store demo is dated the same day.
  • November 5 1997
    • The game is released in North America.
  • December 6 1997
    • The game is released in Europe.
  • December 18 1997
    • The game is released in Japan.

Concept Art




Tawna Bandicoot stopped appearing in Naughty Dog games with the release of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Notably, her role was filled by the introduction of a new character, Coco Bandicoot.

During the development of the first game, Tawna received a lot criticism over her design, ranging from being over-sexualized to looking too old. Stories about her removal are inconsistent depending on the source, although it is safe to conclude what roughly happened behind the scenes based on the information that has been revealed throughout the years.

Jason Rubin, co-founder of Naughty Dog, initially attributed Tawna's removal to pressure from Universal's marketing director, Kelly Flaherty. Rubin recounted in an interview that she objected to Tawna's initial design, deeming it overly sexualized. Naughty Dog revised Tawna's design to meet her specifications, which ultimately displeased them and dropped her from the series.

"[...] The marketing director was not impressed. She called me into the office and yelled at me that women were not to be objectified in such manors, and that no real woman would EVER wear such clothing. [...] What was relevant was that the marketing director got the president of Universal Interactive so nervous that he asked us to change Tawna to her specifications. Thus the final Tawna that made it in the game was heavily toned down and forced to wear the kind of clothing that a woman might on safari in the late 1800's. [...] The end result was such a disaster that we yanked her from the sequels."[2]

— Jason Rubin

Rubin's claim was not only reinforced by himself again in a tweet reply, but he also claimed in the same thread that Coco was created by Naughty Dog alone and no one else was involved, which was contradicted by multiple sources years earlier. [3]

David Siller, producer of the first game, added another dimension to the story by highlighting Universal Marketing's apprehension about Tawna's voluptuous appearance potentially affecting the game's rating.

"Universal Marketing had a concern that "Tawna" was too sexy and voluptuous for the game rating they hoped to achieve!""[4]

— David Siller

However, other statements strongly suggest that Sony Japan played a significant role in Tawna's dismiss and the creation of Coco. Charles Zembillas, character designer for Naughty Dog, revealed that Naughty Dog was trying their best to establish a good relationship with Sony Japan, who expressed discomfort with Tawna's overt sexuality and advocated for a more family-friendly approach.

"Coco was created as a counter balance to Tawna who was Bandicoot's girlfriend. She came along because ND was sensitive to Sony Japan and wanted to please them. Sony Japan didn't feel comfortable with a super sexy character with Crash so ND went with a sister character instead to appease them.

When it comes to ND what they say in public and what reality is can often be two different things. I don't know how Universal felt about Tawna. My impression is that if they didn't like the character it would've been addressed in the first game. What I was told by Jason is that the Japanese wanted a safer character. One that didn't have strong sexual undertones. Thus a sister for Crash instead of a girlfriend."[5]

— Charles Zembillas

Shuhei Yoshida, executive producer of the Japanese localization of Crash's PS1 titles, recalled that when they were playtesting the first game in Japan, a young playtester commented that Tawna looked like a middle-aged woman, and so she was deemed too old for the young Japanese players. As a result, the idea of a younger sister for Crash came up, so Yoshida called his group of artists to participate in the "What if Crash had a younger sister character?" project, and sent the sketches to the Naughty Dog artists to use as a reference. [6]

Roppyaku Tsurumi (also known as Tsurumi-0600), producer of the Japanese localization of Crash's PS1 titles, revealed that Sony Japan thought that Tawna had a very western look, so Jason Rubin suggested that if that wasn't going to be popular in Japan, they could introduce a new character that would work better in the Japanese market. [7] Tsurumi also confirms what Shuhei Yoshida said, emphasising that they gathered artists within Yoshida's group at SCEI Product Departement to come up with illustrations under the theme of "What if Crash had a little sister?", to be sent to Naughty Dog. The idea was that Japanese artists would draw the concepts first, so they could incorporate elements that would be accepted by the Japanese market, which would then be adapted by Charles Zembillas. [8]

Takamitsu Iijima and Taichi Ogawa from the Ape Escape team were responsible on the initial character design. The concept art below was drawn by Ogawa. Charles Zembillas would then take these concepts and refine them, under the supervision of Tsurumi. The idea behind Coco's final design, specifically her overalls with the straps off the dominant arm, was to make her look active, and her thick-soled sneakers and laptop were a trend in Japan at the time. Tsurumi explained to Zembillas that "Japanese characters are clothed in symbols that have meaning as a character". [9] [10]

The initial concept of Coco by Taichi Ogawa.

In conclusion, Coco Bandicoot was initially designed by Japanese artists at Sony Japan, a fact confirmed multiple times by Charles Zembillas, Shuhei Yoshida and Roppyaku Tsurumi. Sony Japan never had a problem with Tawna being too inappropriate, unlike Zembillas pointed out through Jason Rubin; rather, Naughty Dog took the initiative to approach Sony Japan to start working on a new character after hearing their feedback in favor of a younger and less western-looking character to appeal to the Japanese audience, which led to the conception of Coco Bandicoot as a character. The initial concept made was then sent to Naughty Dog for Charles Zembillas to make his own edits and refinements. This is further evidenced by the inclusion of the "Trophy Girls" in Crash Team Racing, who still bear a provocative look similar to Tawna's, but with less western traits such as big eyes, suggesting that her voluptuous body was never a problem to begin with.

The following sketches by Charles Zembillas are dated from March 18 to May 6 1997.

Polar Bear

Early sketches of baby polar bear and its mother dated March 28 1997.

N. Gin

Komodo Bros.

Concept creation for the Komodo Brothers began as early as preproduction of the original Crash Bandicoot game. They would eventually be named Kimono and Kimodo, though exactly which brother had which name changed throughout development. They were planned to share a boss fight in a ruins area at the end of the second island.

The following sketches of the Komodo Brothers were redesigned by Charles Zembillas.

Ripper Roo

Sketches of Dr. Roo dated March 11 1997.

Tiny Tiger

Tiny's character was initially conceived for the original Crash Bandicoot as one of Cortex and Brio's many mutant soldiers. During development, his name was originally "Tazmanian Tiger" or simply "Taz Tiger". He and the Komodo Brothers were omitted and later re-imagined for the second game.

The following sketches are from the production bible, dating back to 1995.



Earliest Screens

A number of screenshots were released to the press for use in their publications, appearing to depict the earliest known version of the game. There is a much greater variety of images and many of them made their way into magazine reviews and previews for the game. Oftentimes the only indication that an image is part of this particular group of screenshots is because it's grouped in with other images already known to be part of this batch.

Some of these screenshots came from a pack of six CD-ROMS containing a variety of press releases and multimedia, compatible with PC and Macs of that vintage, produced for the 1997 European Computer Trade Show. Most of the screenshots match the same ones used in the earliest previews from magazines publications, including Next Generation, Computer and Video Games Issue 190, and Electronic Games Monthly Issue 95.

General Differences

The game's booth at E3 1997 based on an early version of the warp room, similar to the earliest screenshots.
  • The HUD font from the first game is being used.
  • Just about everything is different in the warp room. Most notably, the Cortex hologram appears from the center in a straight angle, rather than being projected by the flying camera bot. The elevator in the middle seems to be floating around, and the crystal/gems display above each level is different too, being baked in textures instead of empty slots. According to Naughty Dog co-founder Andy Gavin, it was quickly put together for the E3 1997 booth of the game, which does indeed use this warp room.
    • The "Load/Save" text is missing.
  • Ice surfaces are not reflective.

Snow Go

  • The first ice-skating segment has a different crate layout - the three iron crates with the life crate on top were moved into the ice patch for the final game.

The Pits

  • There is no wooden log in the middle of the scenery splitting the entrance to both paths.
  • There are two see-saw turtles on each side.
  • Pits are placed further ahead.

Crash Dash

  • The boulder texture is totally white.

Sewer or Later

  • This level seems to be unchanged from the E3 demo.

Diggin' It

  • The empty level covered by snow seems to match Diggin' It. The first image actually resembles the ending of the left split-path of the level. The surrounding scenery also matches the Alpine levels in the final game.
  • Crash can be seen sliding in midair in one of the screenshots.

Hangin' Out

  • This level seems to be unchanged from the E3 demo.


  • The level is entirely decorated with flames, resulting in a unique orange-red lighting.
  • There is a massive wall with a gorilla statue embedded on it, whereas in the final game there are no massive walls in these levels save for the ending area.

Night Fight

  • Dragonfly enemies would later be replaced by the spiked saucers, who internally still bear the name of obj_dragonfly, enigmatically enough.

B-Roll Preview

A few trailers were made during development with B-Roll footage, depicting the second earliest known build of the game. In particular, multiple clips are shown in more than one of the videos, suggesting that a single gameplay recording was sent out for preview coverage. The game is slightly more advanced, but it's still a very early build with lots of early elements.

General Differences

  • The HUD font from the first game is being used.
  • There is no music at any point heard in the footage.
  • Ice surfaces are not reflective.
  • The warp room has now a similar design to the final, but uses a different font and icon slots for the level entrances and items.
    • The player is able to move Crash while the Cortex hologram is being projected, which is not possible via glitch in the final game. Cortex's hologram animation was probably not ready at the moment, because all it shows is his head, frozen. The elevator in the middle is also missing.
  • Oddly, Crash can be seen flying right after sliding on what appears to be caused by an unfinished slide jump programming.
  • The warp spawn and death animations of the first game are used as placeholder.

Turtle Woods

  • There are no see-saw turtles in the final game.
  • The giant pink ostriches didn't originally squat when Crash steps on them.
  • An armored armadillo was going to appear near the last ostrich along with a TNT crate, which isn't there in the final game.

Hang Eight

  • There is no blue gem path at this point, so the level only had one gem.

Snow Go

  • The first ice-skating segment has a different crate layout - the three iron crates with the life crate on top were moved into the ice patch for the final game.
  • Crash can't slide on ice sufaces.
  • The elevator moves quickly and Crash's animation freezes during the transition.
  • Crash falls in the right part of the level, which is not possible in the final game. The Wumpas behind the scenery also seem to be missing.

The Pits

  • The pits with moles were longer and had a very different shape. In the final game the pits are smaller and have a big square shape.
  • There is a mushroom appearing in the middle of a pit instead of next to the wall. This was presumably changed because it made getting out of the pit a bit difficult.

Sewer or Later

  • This level seems to be unchanged from the E3 demo.

Diggin' It

  • The level design seems to be the same one used in the early screenshots. The floor is entirely covered by a pinkish snow, and some glitches can be noticed in the ground. It seems the player is next to a bifurcation, which is similar to Diggin' It.

Hangin' Out

  • This level seems to be unchanged from the E3 demo.

Rock It

  • Crash is using his normal spinning animation in the jet pack levels. In the final game, he has a new one for when he's using the jet pack.
  • As Crash leaves the warp room, a very plain sign that says "Space Station" is present outside of the window.
  • An older version of the red space bomb which homes in on Crash is used instead.
  • The exit passage looks very rough and incomplete.

Pre-E3 Preview

A preview build of the game dated a few weeks before the E3 demo was featured in very few places. The following images were used in the Game Informer preview. [11]

General Differences

  • Crash is skidding on ice inside the second warp room; the ice surface was removed in the final game.
  • Cold Hard Crash is level 10 instead of level 18. The level also has the green gem, which was kept for The Eel Deal after the level rearrangement.
    • Overall, the portal is similar to Snow Biz's one. The design has a different modeling, lacking a round rock texture around the warp.
    • The icicles inside it are missing.
  • Ice surfaces have no reflection in Snow Biz and Crash Crush.

Rock It

  • The checkpoint crate is placed in the middle of the path.

Crash Crush

  • Crash Crush scenery uses the same color scheme as Crash Dash, rather than taking place during the sunset.
  • Aku Aku is not banned from this level.

Bear It

  • Crash can be seen close enough to the bear.
  • There is an small pond ahead that was removed in the final game.

E3 Demo

The June 15th, 1997 prototype was playable at E3 1997 on June 19–21 and also given for previewing in many magazine publications.

July Prototype

Back in 1997, MTV produced a one-off show called GameBrain that covered new video game releases. The staff received a prototype of the game for display in one of their programs, and it shows plenty of changed and removed material.

This build was also shown by Japanese trailers. They all seem to feature similar versions of the game, which now features the final HUD font and the final logo, however, one of the most noticeable differences still remains: red crystals.

General Differences

  • At this point in development, the game now uses the final logo.
  • The final HUD font is now present.
  • Crash's moves are slightly more limited: during the landing animation after a high or long jump, Crash has no movement control until the animation finishes.
  • Crystals used to have a distinctive red color, instead of the well-known heliotrope one.
  • As seen in the Japanese trailer, retrieved crystals are misplaced on the left side of the crystal slots, and you can notice by the lip sync that the Cortex hologram is speaking his first line (when he explains to Crash about crystals), although the crystals of the first warp room have already been retrieved.
    • The hologram slowly pops in, instead of a squash and stretch animation.
  • There are no specific music tracks for bonus rounds - the main path music is always used in both instances instead.
  • The word "Bonus" flashes normally instead of blinking the letters B, O, N, U, and S in sequence.
  • The Nitro detonator wasn't implemented at this point.
  • The box counter at the end of each level was very different. Instead of a rotating ghostly box and a "x/x" display (where the x is the corresponding number), it simply displays a text that reads "BROKE x OUT OF x BOXES".
  • The levels in the first warp room don't show any crystals or gems collected, however the player still can access the next warp room. A cheat code might be in use.
  • The elevator is stuck out of the hole in the middle.
  • The yellow particles around the warp portals are missing.
  • Polar is not sitting next to Bear It's portal.
  • Cold Hard Crash takes place of The Eel Deal as level 10 instead of level 18. Given that the footage skips from Crash Crush to The Eel Deal - which is shown before Plant Food - one can assume that The Eel Deal was originally planned for the third warp room.
  • Bonus platforms were displayed at an incorrect angle in River levels.
  • Falling icicles have a unique sound effect when hitting the ground, whereas in the final game they share the Nitro explosion sound effect.
  • Polar is silent.
  • A lot of animations are not present at this stage of development:
    • Whenever Crash walks into a warp vortex, he does not display his usual animation where he is sucked into it. Rather, the screen simply turns white as soon as he touches the portal.
    • Warp transitions for spawning/leaving a level.
    • Giving the thumbs up or pointing the finger down while using the elevator.
    • Scratch his head when a hologram is being projected.
    • Dance after defeating a boss.

Turtle Woods

  • The blue gem was initially switched with the red one.

Snow Go

  • Snow Go and other snow-themed levels have different instruments in the music.
  • The snow footstep sound effect is different.
  • There are missing crates at the beginning of the level.

Hang Eight

  • There is no blue gem path at this point, so the level only had one gem.
  • The beginning of Hang Eight had a different layout.

Ripper Roo

  • There is no music.
  • Ripper Roo doesn't flash white when stunned.

Air Crash

  • There is no secret path at this point, so the level only had one gem.

Crash Crush

  • The scenery uses the same color scheme as Crash Dash, rather than taking place during the sunset.
  • Wumpa fruits don't show up but they are there nonetheless in the bonus round.

Plant Food

  • A Nitro crate is placed on the first whirlpool, making this segment harder.
  • The basic crate ahead was changed to an Aku Aku crate in the final game.

Bear Down

  • There are black textures in the edge of the snow stairs.
  • The angel death animation plays when hitting the iron crates of the parka lab assistants. Oddly, Crash's model will also flash.
  • The first fallen totem statue features a second one placed in front of it.


  • The floor textures are all covered with snow.
  • The first pit has a smaller shape.
  • The third pit is bigger and longer.

Diggin' It

  • The warp passage is from the first warp room.
  • Spitting plants used to be colored purple with white spots just like the regular ones, instead of plain red.
    • Their seeds had a big explosion with a different effect.
  • The diggable soil is grey instead of magenta and lacks the snow patches in the edges.
  • Dirt particles will appear whenever Crash crawls under the diggable soil, or jumps in/out of it.
  • The player can move while jumping underground and jumping out of it.
  • The texture mapping of the snow patches on the ground are incomplete in several areas. The floor textures are mostly covered with snow.
  • Beehives have a different model.
  • In the right path, the layout after the land mines is different, featuring another pit with a gap in the center instead of two boost pads.

August Prototype

The game is now much more complete, with all levels already in the game, but there are still a few major differences such as an earlier pause menu layout, which is identical to the demo builds. This puts it sometime in mid-August.

General Differences

  • Crash's moves are slightly more limited: during the landing animation after a high or long jump, Crash has no movement control until the animation finishes.
  • When Crash takes damage, his invincibility frame shares the same flashing visual effect as Aku Aku invincibility state, rather than becoming invisible.
  • At certain points, you can see the hologram cutscene with Cortex being played at unusual moments, such as Cortex greeting Crash for collecting his first crystal while in the fifth warp room, or Cortex speaking his first line while Crash Dash's crystal is already retrieved, suggesting the use of the cheat code that allows the player to test all hologram cutscenes.
  • The elevator stuck out of the hole in the middle.
  • Whenever Crash walks into a warp vortex, he does not display his usual animation where he is sucked into it. Rather, the screen simply turns white as soon as he touches the portal.
  • Air Crash and Snow Go level numbers are swapped in the secret warp room.
  • Crash Crush scenery uses the same color scheme as Crash Dash, rather than taking place during the sunset.
  • The diggable soil in Alpine levels is grey instead of magenta and lacks the snow patches in the edges.
    • The player can move while jumping underground.
  • Rock It appears to lack music.
  • The pause menu uses a gray coloring font with gradient for the selectable options.
    • Only the audio option exists. As a result, there are no screen centering or analog calibration settings.
    • The clear gem is smaller and the colored gems are slightly placed to the right.
    • The gem stats area has a lighter background.

Demo Music

During the game's development, Josh Mancell, the lead composer, would create demonstration tracks in order to narrow down the sort of feel and theming Naughty Dog wanted for the music in the game. Some of these tracks have been released on Mancell's SoundCloud page and other websites.

Track Description
A demo track for the Jet Pack levels, titled "Out Spaced". It was first revealed in 2019 by Mancell in an podcast interview. According to him, it sounded too exaggerated and "cartoonish horror", thus the theme for the level was re-composed from scratch in a more orchestral and less chaotic direction. This track can also be heard in the June 15th, 1997 prototype in the Rock It level.
A demo track for the Snow levels.