Did Sony really need a PlayStation mascot?
Where did all the mascots go? Like the sight of badgers along a verge, you see a lot less of them these days. In fact you might be left thinking that there are no more left, that they had long scattered since the middle nineties. The poor badger has gone the same way as Bubsy. I blame Sony, at least for the latter.
The whole badger situation is completely different. Although of note, no developer ever took a stab at making a badger-based platformer with a character called Geoff. Indeed Sony didn’t seem particularly needy for a mascot at all when they sauntered on in from nowhere and took gaming culture near wholesale. A few characters came close to being it, but it was a shared limelight on the PlayStation.
We are going to take a look at some of them and their place amongst the order. Some are only mascot potential in the broadest terms. If you are hoping for a mention towards Robbit from Jumping Flash then that was it.
I should like to begin with the Feisar ship from WipEout. Right from the off we are not in the adorable lane of the mascot, no sir, we are in the fast lane and the Feisar was the de-restricted face of PlayStation, at least across Europe in 1995. High concept, high speed and high times, the Feisar was why everyone knew they needed a PlayStation. It appeared all over media in its pleasant two-tone, muted yellow-and-jade form. A sharp proboscis of a front end and aerodynamically tight from the rear. There was an ambience which this ship lent the game and by far extension, the mood of the PlayStation itself. It was ‘95, the PlayStation was techno, and through this game and the meritorious designs of WipEout all round, techno was PlayStation.
They call it sympathy, but both Sony and the developer Psygnosis called it cash, and the philosophical mascot, the wider sense of the identity of the machine, came to the centre. The Feisar ship was the face of it, but it was a gateway to the larger mood that PlayStation displayed. Proper bangin’ looking little ship too.
We mustn’t forget that.
While we are still early doors for the consoles’ lifespan I would throw a passing tip of the cap to Kazuya of Tekken. The face of the first game and another winning profile for the machine. An absolute mood setter. Points too for those considerable eyebrows. What a guy.
Now we’re on our way towards the major crowd. PlayStation was picking up mascot-ish characters before Crash and Lara crashed the whole show. Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine both made the stage of approval but I think it is Jill who better nails the game and the survival appeal Resident Evil gave the console. Sega and Nintendo had nothing like this, but Chris you are going to have to shuffle back and step down. We need to make space for centre stage.
Crash Bandicoot held little appeal to me at the time, looking as I would say he still does, like a reject from the attitude days of the Sega Mega Drive. At the very least, the Tasmanian Devil should have sued. Arbitrary design (denim’n’red) and arbitrary execution but the kids loved it. I say loved, but I don’t know that anyone loved Crash in the same way as was the case with his betters, Mario and Sonic (heck, even Opa Opa), but he was the best shot yet at mascot status and his game sold literally copy after copy.
Obviously I am grudging in my admiration, as it never felt earned. Those other two mascots were both distinctive and great designs inside great games. Crash appeared to be something that you wouldn’t get out and check over if you ran it down in a car. He was a badger and went along with my general begrudging towards the Sony machine; I was a Sega fan and what Sony were doing stealing all Sega’s custom, I thought it was nothing short of downright devious. Crash Bandicoot was the face of all of that and then they went one better and stole something else that had (just about) been Sega’s first.
Lara Croft popped up on the Saturn first. It was a fleeting thing, a momentary infatuation before she went off and married Sir PlayStation of Conquerdom, but Sega had been there first if you know what I mean. They were welcome to her. This is not a great introduction. Someone just call her out for more applause and we can get on to some of the lesser examples. I might talk about Robbit after all.
From the alloy of Indiana Jones, Tank Girl and the fresh chequebook of old wealth came Tomb Raider, and at the middle of it, doing backflips while twin-shooting some bats was Lara Croft. Dead centre in the culture of PlayStation was this girl. Superficially both mature and smutty, the actual appearance of her and general demeanour was closer to Antiques Roadshow for teenage boys. Smutty yes, but also with some semblance of a cosy Sunday evening.
But again, with Uzi’s, because that nineties attitude was wrought as large as everything else about her renders. John Lennon shades and the self-satisfaction of a girl who knows she is about to take the deeds to the house. There would be no stopping her and of course, there wasn’t, but nothing about her would quite match that attitude of the first game, where she ascended to the party, took the nightclub attitude of Saturday night WipEout and brought it into the clear space of a warm Sunday. She began to get a bit Saturday night herself after that.
And I mean ITV.
But between them, Crash and Lara were the faces of the young and older markets. What could anyone do? And then as if a most satisfactory flourish, some other fresh faces would join beauty and the beast to round out a top tier class of almost mascots in style.
Metal Gear‘s Solid Snake was born again on PlayStation. Unless this was the one where he was a clone already in which case I have no idea. Regardless, Snake had that 90’s anime, techno-knight design which combined with washed colours and an every-box-ticked action appearance. He looked like he was straight out of the Ghost in the Shell and cemented the maturity of the machine.
Slightly less mature, over there in the corner with the disco ball and jazz fusion is Reiko Nagase, the button-cute face of various Ridge Racers. A grid girl with her finger on the music and setting an appropriate tone for having a good reason to power slide your rear around a slinky circuit.
Spiro needs mention. A good game with a character of better attitude than Crash, but that place has already been taken. Pa Rapper was an interesting curio but nothing more. Much better was Cloud from Final Fantasy VII; another moody entry into the immediate cannon.
There are many more. I could even argue that the player models of Fifa and Pro Evo became familiar faces of the machine, but I would get around to Robbit before then. Not that it matters, because as it turns out the PlayStation didn’t need a mascot.
It had adopted a family instead. (Awww!)
John is a writer and gardener. He comes with various 90’s Sega attachments and is the author of The Meifod Claw and other works. His favorite tree is a copper beech and he would like his coffee black without sugar, thank you.