By Jake Rushing
Ahhh, Spyro the Dragon. This was an another game that I remembered playing at my aunt’s house years ago during the glorious Playstation One years. I was drawn to this game because of the fact that you could play as a dragon. I also saw the commercials for the game which made me drawn to it even more. I remember the good times I had from roasting sheep to well-done and ramming those nasty green bad guys to grab different colored gems. 14 years later, I managed to get this game at the PSN store and I had the pleasure playing it again!
As it turns out, Spyro the Dragon was made to appeal to younger players so that Sony could broaden its audience. Around the time this game was made, all of the other hits were appealing to the older audience (with the exception of Crash Bandicoot), like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, etc., so it was about time that the kiddies back in the day could have another game to play with. Insomniac Games (the guys behind Rachet and Clank series) managed to rise to the occasion. As the result, the kids yet again had another 3D classic gem for their Playstation library.
Spyro the Dragon takes place in the mythical Dragon Kingdom where dragons exist in harmony. That is, until Gnasty Gnorc imprisons all of the dragons into their crystal forms except for our main hero, Spyro. As the small purple dragon with attitude, you have to traverse through all 5 realms to save all of your fellow dragons and defeat Gnasty once and for all.
This adventure takes Spyro through all 5 different realms before going to Ghastly’s world to settle the score. Each realm has different levels for Spyro to traverse through and rescue the dragons, as well as collecting stolen gems and eggs (the latter of which are of course held by those nasty blue thieves). In each of the realms, there is a level where you can control Spyro as he flies, and have to hit all of the obstacles in order to complete the flight levels. In addition, each realm also has a boss which can pose a robust challenge to the player.
This is one of the earliest games where 3D controls were introduced, and subsequently became the staple of all 3D games today. By that, I mean you could move your character with the joystick and use shoulder buttons to move the camera around. You could also look into the first person(ish) perspective by holding the triangle button. However, the camera is situated behind Spyro’s head rather in front of his head as the more modern 3D games have done. As someone who was more used to modern 3D game controls, it took me some time to gain a grasp of that. But I forgive this game for that easily. Besides, it is an early 3D game, and having the ability to make Spyro glide (along with making Spyro ram into enemies and roast his foes) isn’t really shabby either. I mean, how could you not love gliding, burning your enemies, and ramming them instead when you didn’t feel like roasting them? I’d say it’s rather satisfying!
Stewart Copeland, the former drummer of The Police, was responsible for composing the soundtrack in this game. For a former drummer, it was rather surprising to see what he managed to pull off in the electronic music department. Each of these tracks were given a nice mythical feel to them, which fits the game rather well. Not to mention that the music on its own was decent, to say the least. For some reason, the theme of the Peace Keepers realm has always stuck in my head for years and to this day I could still remember how it sounds even when not playing the game.
Another great thing about this game is the ridiculous amount of variety that was put into it. The developers went all out and added the variety to the realms, the levels in the realms, and the enemies that dwell in them. Each realm was never similar to the other, and in each of the differentiating levels, there are different enemies which you have to defeat. Even though the number of different enemies per level was rather small, you could never expect who you would face next when you stepped into a new level. In addition, the flight levels in each of the realms are a nice departure from the usual platforming that you have to do so often. The design that is put into the game complements each level and set of enemies rather well, as each enemy has a slightly different strategy required in order to defeat them.
At the time this game was made, it was more common practice in platformers to create enemies that have only one function, which is to move around in a certain pattern. Spyro the Dragon departed from this usual formula to create the enemies with an AI that was more complex at the time. The enemies are more intractable to the player. For the most part, they don’t attack the player until the they get close. There are other enemies that do more than just that, like the ones manning cannons who would fire at Spyro and…this.
It’s always a treat when the developers try to deviate from the usual formula. And that’s where Insomniac Games did it fantastically well with the enemies in this game.
There is only one minor thing they could have done to make this game better. Before I say this, I’ll say that it is indeed a game made for the younger audience. That being said, the difficulty level in this game is rather not suited for the players that are looking for a challenge (unless they are trying to earn a 100% completion). The difficulty does curve up a bit later in the game, but for me, the curve isn’t well adjusted enough. Even though the strategy slightly varies within each different enemy, it didn’t take much time to figure out how to best a new foe. Once I got to that point, I managed to (almost) breeze through the level without much trouble. Despite the fact that the difficulty did pick up at the fourth realm, it would have been more reasonable if the game didn’t take as long for the curve to slope up. Other than that, the challenge is rather reasonable for all players alike, which is not bad considering that it is a kid’s game.
Overall, it is a fantastic game. Even though it doesn’t age as well as other older games, it’s rather a fun game to play if you are wanting to take a trip down memory lane or if you’re a kid that have yet to hit their pre-teen years. However, if you don’t fit into either of these categories, it’s still not a bad game to play. Even though it may be too easy for some people, it’s rather satisfying ramming your enemies or burning them to crisp. If the lack of challenge is the only bad thing in this game, I’d say that Insomniac Games did a fantastic job making Sony reach out to the younger audiences as well as making the game enjoyable for everyone (I mean, how often do you get to play as a dragon and breathe fire?). This game deserves my score of 9 out of 10. If you are curious about it and if you own a PS4, you could wait until it’s available in Playstation Now and try it out for yourself. Or if you don’t want to wait and if you have a PS3, you could just buy it from PSN no problem! It’s pretty cheap too!
I’ll end this review with an interesting fact: One of the tracks used in Spyro The Dragon is used for The Amanda Show (that one Nick show that aired in the 90s). Listen to the track here and the show theme song here and hear for yourself!
Until next time, take care and don’t be strangers!
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