While this game is kinda good in its own right, there's just no getting around the comparison to Super Mario 64. SM64 wasn't perfect, but it done a much better job at blowing the door open for 3D Platformers to come. Crash 1's idea of 3D is almost 2D. There's no room for exploration on a straight, narrow path; making the game feel highly linear and condensed. To make up for that, there's plenty of good old-fashioned old-school challenge in Crash 1, making it tougher to get the gems you receive for hitting every box in a level. When you get those, you'll feel like you've earned them. To be honest though, some of that challenge is trying to guess how far you could jump.
Other stuff? Well, the plot is a cliche 'Save the Princess' type thing; making Crash feel too much like a generic Mario rip. The music is OK, and the graphics actually look really good and detailed for an old game. The boss fights were way too easy, the save system reeks of 1996, and the controls are simple enough, but having to use the D-pad isn't fun.
Can't help but feel that the Crash series should've had a much better start, but it's a solid game as is.
Final Score: 63/100 (Copper Medal)