Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Spyro The Dragon Review

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spyro_boxPlatform: Playstation
Released: 1998 (worldwide)
Developer: Insomniac
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA)
Digital Release? Yes, this is available as a PSOne classic on PSN for $5.99
Price: $13.99 (disc only), $19.98 (complete), and $55.00 (new/sealed) per Price Charting

Jam’s Take

The Sony Playstation was well known for having a generous supply of 3D platformers. You had Crash Bandicoot, Gex (other than the first) and Croc but there was also another animal who made a name for himself on the system and later rose to greater popularity, probably even more so than Crash. I am of course referring to Spyro the Dragon.  For this review we are going back to the origins of the character with the very first game on the Playstation that was developed by Insomniac games.

spyro_statueIn the game you play as the cute little dragon Spyro. After a elder dragon insults a baddie named Nasty Gnorc on television he gets mad and turns all the dragons to stone. Spyro somehow evades this and sets out to free his buddies. The story is very humorous and cute with plenty of chuckles to have whatever age you are. It’s a very simple story but it works.

Spyro is a 3D platformer with a heavy emphasis on collecting, this is essential to progress further in the game. You begin the game in a hub world which acts as a level in itself, except it also provides gateways to other levels which you can enter in whatever order you choose. Within each level the idea is to find and rescue all the dragons tombed in crystal. When you release each dragon they thank you and either give you a gameplay tip or say something funny just don’t expect any comedy gold. As well as rescuing dragons you need to collect gems and dragon eggs if they are present in the level. A simple menu helps you keep track of your progress in each level. One of the best features is once you have collected any item or rescued a dragon you can leave the level or loose a life and it doesn’t matter you still have the item banked permanently. This may make the game easier but it allows you to return to levels later without incurring a penalty. You don’t need to collect everything to progress in the game but it’s quite addictive and you’ll find yourself generally looking in every nook and cranny. If you are hardcore and collect everything the game rewards you with a bonus area at the end of the game.  There are five Hub world areas to explore each with several levels. One level in each section is a brutally hard flying segment which required you to shoot or collect several items while flying with a incredibly strict time limit. Making just a few mistakes lead to failing these segments. To the games credit the load times are short if you retry but these were the levels I usually avoided.

spyro1Spyro is walking on four legs and it certainly feels that way when controlling him. Occasionally the camera can be a pain and not work with you. Spyro has two main moves, charge and fire, and specific moves only work on certain enemies. For example, tall fat enemies are too tough to charge and you’ll just get bumped off there bear belly followed by a whack of a club, a little fire though makes short work. The game never feels too difficult and more of a casual playthrough which isn’t a bad thing. The difficulty does gradually increase as you progress especially towards the end of the game, but most people will be able to get to the end of this adventure without to much difficulty.

Spyro has lovely colourful graphics. The levels all vary in environments you would expect, there is a ice area and a grass area. Each level is fairly small in size and won’t take you too long to navigate. All the enemy models are pretty simple polygon designs, this was after all a early
3D platformer and although many of the characters look pretty simple at least they have some colour to them.

gnasty_gnorc

Gnasty Gnorc

Spyro has a a impressive soundtrack. The was composed by Steward Copeland (former drummer for The Police). Apparently Copeland played through the levels in the game multiple times when coming up with the soundtrack. This attention to detail really shows in the final product as the music really suits the fantasy setting. The voice acting is also top notch. Characters regularly come out with funny one liners. If you really hate the voice acting or cutscenes which are incredibly short anyway you can skip them.

Spyro is a pretty long game most likely keeping you busy for around two weeks the first time through and longer if you want to collect absolutely everything. The good news is if you do complete the game without collecting everything you can reload the save and continue post credit scene.

spyro_treasureOverall, Spyro the Dragon is a very enjoyable 3D platformer if you have the itch for collecting items. The game is generally not very difficult but it makes for a nice casual playthrough. The colourful graphics, humour and fun gamplay all gel together to create a fun experience that you should be happy you invest the time into. This game certainly proved the Sony Playstation had a game for practically every gamers taste and I for one am very happy I finally got a chance to appreciate the magic of this game.

Jam’s Final Score: 5 out of 5  (review policy and guidelines)

Fred’s Take
I don’t have the luxury of having played Spyro the Dragon when it came out in 1998 and from that point through the nearly 10 games that have ever released, I managed to miss out on all of them.  As a result, I can’t help but make potentially unfair comparisons to Super Mario 64.  Spyro (the game, not the character) walks, talks, and acts just like a Super Mario 64 clone.  The hub world where you go through mirror-like portals to be taken into individual levels that are geared at one, sometimes more, goals to build up enough items to unlock the next world is a concept that I first saw two years earlier with 64.  Boss characters being random and more puzzle-like encounters, finding characters you can interact with that give little tips, a movable camera in only a few short directions, the list goes on and on.  Having said all that, Spyro the Dragon is truly an enchanting game that stands as one of the few to withstand the test of time on early 3D games.  I had no problem appreciating all it had to offer, and eagerly moving on to each new area, in 2014; this is a massive compliment to Spyro.

spyro_portal

It’s easy to point out some nitpicks like the fact that Spyro’s jump and glide maneuver is almost never usable and not the solution in parts you think it would be, the hit detection is pathetic, and when you’re trying to find that last handful of dragons near the end it all starts to feel like a chore.  This is all countered by what Spyro gets so right in contrast to my favorite comparison of Super Mario 64.  There are flying levels with multiple objectives that require near perfection to best, which to some may be the curse of the universe, but a player like me loves to repeat a hundred times over just to be enthralled when we finally get it right.  If that’s not your thing, no problem, you can easily navigate this title to the end and have little to worry about, but you won’t get the “true” ending, ha ha ha!  The aforementioned soundtrack by Steward Copeland was so clean and wonderful that I had to weave it into our podcast on the trilogy, something Mario 64 – and that entire console for that matter – wishes it could have.  And on that note, for being a clone title I definitely didn’t find my attention wain through the game’s short but sweet campaign.  Sure it may be a clone, but Super Mario 64 never came to the Playstation and Spyro was a rock solid competitor for our favorite plumber’s first 3D outing.

Final Score: 4 out of 5  (review policy and guidelines)

Written by jamalais

December 27, 2014 at 11:00 am

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