Of all the goofy villains that came to mind when thinking on this topic, Dr. Neo Cortex is perhaps the most unfortunate of the lot. He’s supposedly very intelligent. I mean, he was able to create all sorts of crazy technology that should have enabled him to achieve his goals. Yet, he’s never managed to make it happen. Be it because of inept henchmen, half-baked plans or sheer buffoonery on his part, Dr. Cortex seems doomed to always come within earshot of success before being humiliated by one of his own (rather stupid) creations.
My first encounter with Dr. Cortex was in the opening cutscene for Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped and these Time Twister messages. Based on the cutscene, Dr. Cortex seemed like kind of a hapless sort; it was as if he almost didn’t want to be there. Yet, as the game wore on, there were flashes of his more nefarious side. He was indeed a villain, just not a very good one.
After that, I went and played Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Once again, the opening cutscene showed the good doctor fresh off of his previous defeat and seemingly gaining another shot only because he stumbled upon a power crystal. After that though, I got to see a different side of Cortex, one that actually tried to use his intelligence to his advantage. He was a more scheming and conniving sort, and he actually came off as more dangerous because of it. He doesn’t keep the act up the whole game since the player knows what’s up from the beginning, but it was nice to see him actually act villainous. He actually felt like a threat.
Unfortunately for Dr. Cortex though, that is perhaps the only time where he got to try to shine as an antagonist. Every game after Crash Bandicoot 2 cast him as an ever more incompetent and comical sort. He became whinier, weaker and wimpier to the point that one wondered how exactly anyone could have ever considered him a threat. In Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, he’s not even the main villain. That role gets usurped from him rather quickly by Dr. Nefarious Tropy (and maybe Uka-Uka, I think). I guess it fits his current character better, but it was still a little sad to see.
So, who is Dr. Neo Cortex anyway? Well, he was actually born in Peoria, Illinois of all places, and was raised as a circus performer. Apparently, that “N” was tattooed on his head by some really nasty fellow circus folk (it stood for “nerd”), because he preferred to spend his time reading more than he did performing. After an unfortunate “accident” wiped out his circus, he enrolled in the “Acaddemy of Evil” and met his first two henchmen: N. Brio and N. Gin. He also decided there that he wanted to conquer the world. His motivation isn’t clearly stated, but perhaps its the typical “punish the world for my mistreatment” kind of desire that many villains seem to share.
The thing is though, I wonder if Dr. Cortex ever had it in him to follow through with it. He shouldn’t be so inept that a moderately athletic bandicoot should be able to foil his plans time and again. No, I don’t think he actually wants to rule and/or destroy the world. If he isn’t stopped then he’ll certainly follow through, probably as punishment for not stopping him. However, I think he actually prefers the failures, since he can then enjoy concocting and carry-out new schemes. This is a guy who enjoys the idea of taking his revenge more than actually making said revenge happen.
So it happens, game after game, that he sets up plans with points of failure so obvious that even a stupid bandicoot can exploit them. With each one, he becomes more tired and more disinterested in actually reaching his goal, even letting his former minions take the lead instead. He openly complains, carries on about ever more trivial speed bumps and almost never seems truly upset that he was defeated. Yeah, Dr. Neo Cortex isn’t really cut out for the villain life, but I suppose that’s what makes him so much fun to deal with!
What do you think of Dr. Cortex? What about the other Crash series villains? Which is your favorite? Let us know below and stay tuned for more Silly Scoundrels!
Image by The Duck of Indeed