‘Crash Bandicoot’ Franchise To Debut First Non-Binary Character With ‘Crash Team Rumble’ Fighter Catbat
Toys For Bob has confirmed that 'Crash Team Rumble' fighter Catbat is the 'Crash Bandicoot' franchise's first non-binary character.
Modern representation discourse has finally come for, admittedly, one of the most unlikely franchises, as the developers of the upcoming fighter Crash Team Rumble have revealed that the game will include the Crash Bandicoot franchise’s first ever non-binary character in the form of the winged fighter Catbat.
Properly introduced by developers Toys For Bob – the same studio who worked on the previous Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – in a June 1st interview with Kotaku, the David Bowie-inspired brawler is described as “a rock star that breaks certain expectations and has a confidence and flair that is just magnetic.”
Like Crash himself, Catbat is a victim of Dr. Cortex, having been given anthropomorphic life as part of the madman’s genetic experiments. Eventually escaping from Dr. Cortex’s clutches thanks to the incompetence of his henchmen, Catbat soon dedicates themselves to disrupting all of his operations, taking control of an army of bats to accomplish this goal.
Notably, rather than being detailed in-game, this origin story was revealed in a brief promotional comic released ahead of the game. According to Toys For Bob Co-Studio Head Paul Yan, this was done in order to prevent any ‘story’ from overtaking Crash Team Rumble‘s core identity as a multiplayer party game.
“I think one thing that we’re most excited about with the comic, and future comics that will come out with heroes, is that this is a space that sits outside of the game,” Yan told Kotaku. “If you are the type of fan who wants to know more about a character’s lore or their relationships or their identity or their personality, this is a place for those fans to kind of dig in deeper and ask those questions, and we can have that kind of exploration. Crash Team Rumble is not an adventure, it is a multiplayer game.”
To this end of story-and-game separation, Yan then revealed that while it is not focused on in-game outside of their use of they/them pronouns, Catbat was designed by character illustrator Nicholas Kole to be a “canonically” non-binary character.
“The concept from the art side of things was this attraction to a David Bowie-like character,” he explained. “Aesthetically, Bowie had this kind of rock star androgynous look that we really loved. As we started to flesh out that character and its design, and we finally got to a point [where] we had a model sheet, as a team, we started referring to Catbat as ‘they’ and it was a very natural thing.”
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“It wasn’t a ‘Hey, guys, we need to get together and have a meeting about this,’” Yan argued. “It was a very organic way of describing that character and that just sat with us throughout.”
“From my perspective, rock star was kind of the big star that we were aiming at with this character and that defined everything that fell out of it,” he continued. “I don’t think that that was at the forefront of ‘How do we solve this? How do we genderize the character?’ It was more natural for us as we talked about the character to talk about their personality and their swagger more than these other [aspects].”
“We just didn’t see it as a big deal, to be honest with you,” added Toys For Bob Creative Director Dan Neil. “It’s a super cool character. This felt like the right fit. Like Paul said, that this is backstory, the comic seems like a great fit for it. There’s no reason to not acknowledge the way we saw the character.”
Jumping off from Neil’s point, Yan concluded, “I think Crash Team Rumble, at its core, is a multiplayer game focused on an expanding cast of heroes, and we wanna make sure that as that cast grows, it covers new ground.”
“Whether that’s mechanically in a design space, aesthetically, its silhouette, its color space,” he ultimately explained. “And I think gender representation is just another vector here that we want to explore in that cast as it grows.”
In service of this representation, Toys For Bob has hired the genderfluid and all-pronoun-using voice actor Erika Ishii, perhaps best known as Apex Legends‘ Valkyrie and Young Justice‘s version of Mary Marvel.
Crash Team Rumble is currently set to spin its way onto the Xbbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 platforms on June 20th.