Spyro the Dragon – PlayStation
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date (NA): September 10th, 1998
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
Usually if I were to tell someone that I’m following a little purple dragon on an epic adventure through multiple dimensions, they’d look at me like I was crazy. However, for anybody keen to one of the most popular (and might I say, groundbreaking) games on the original PlayStation, memories of Spyro the Dragon might glide into their mind. These fond memories of everyone’s favorite adolescent, ass kickin’ dragon flooded my mind in my recent playthrough of this iconic game developed by Insomniac.
Spyro the Dragon is a platform game about a young dragon faced with an enormous task. Spyro is a gung-ho little guy, who is sometimes seems too big for his britches. However, as we learn throughout the game, he is just the right size to deal with anything in his way. In his home land, called the Artisan Homeworld, dragons of all ages live in peace with the other realms…for now. The game starts off with a short news reel of a reporter asking some of the dragons questions about their lives, when the reporter asks one of the dragons about the game’s antagonist, Gnasty Gnorc (with a silent “G.”). The responding dragon begins to trash talk him, claiming he’s no threat to the powerful dragons. What really sets it off, though, is when the dragon calls him ugly. Naturally, Gnasty is pissed, and in a bout of rage, he casts a spell that turns all of the dragons into crystal statues. He also creates an army of bad guys out of the many gems scattered throughout the world. That’s when our hero steps in. Spyro must save the dragons, defeat Gnasty Gnorc, and restore peace to the land.
Spyro begins his daunting task in the first of six homeworlds. This area allows players to get a handle on the controls, overall plot, and direction of Spyro the Dragon. The first thing players learn about is how to save the crystallized dragons in each homeworld and realm they visit. All Spyro has to do is step on a platform that each dragon’s statue rests upon to release them. Once freed, dragons will give some helpful information regarding controls, the plot of Spyro, hints on how to progress, or simply add a little bit of witty banter. I would say that the development of Spyro’s character is expressed through these little conversations with the older dragons, as his responses go from a “lemme at ’em” attitude to a “here we go again” mentality. Saving dragons is the primary objective in the game. Though, to save all of them Spyro must fly, headbutt, and burn his way through every corner of each of the six available homeworlds.
Each home world in Spyro offers several realms that he may visit via portals scattered about each area. Each one is full of its fair share of baddies, puzzles, and challenges. Some realms are called “speedways,” or time-trial type levels where Spyro flies around completing random tasks such as destroying treasure chests, flying through rings, and lighting up lighthouses. Other realms just require Spyro to reach the end and return to the home world. These worlds allow Spyro to complete some of the secondary objectives in the game. Apart from freeing dragons, Spyro is tasked with recovering stolen dragon eggs, and collecting gems. Gems are collected by defeating enemies, bashing containers, and interacting with various objects. Dragon eggs are a little bit tougher to get. Eggs are carried by little blue dudes that taunt Spyro and quickly run away when chased. They’re annoying little bastards.
When players aren’t chasing the blue bastards or collecting gems, they should take a few minutes to just look around. Visually, Spyro the Dragon well ahead of it’s time! Environments range from simple, beautiful and bright to dark, complex, and threatening. At first players are faced with enemies that don’t look so scary. Most of them look like cream puffs and are just as easily defeated. In later levels, Spyro is faced with much tougher, sometimes terrifying enemies. When I was a kid, there was a level I refused to play simply because the monsters looked too scary for me! Anyways the amount of detail put into Spyro the Dragon amazes me to this day. There are so many hidden areas and secret passages to discover. I love taking some time each play-through and just admiring the backdrop or the little details that I missed when I was a child. While some graphics and animations could have used a little more TLC during development, it’s still pretty impressive for a game created before the year 2000. Spyro, dragons, and enemies alike all have shadows that follow their movements, and animations that don’t glitch out or prevent the player from seeing every detail. Sparx, Spyro’s dragonfly companion (also his health indicator) even has visual effects that sets him apart from the rest of the environment.
The simplicity of the controls, the ahead-of-its-time visuals, and insanely fun atmosphere and story made me give Spyro the Dragon a Nerd Rating of 9 out of 10. New players will have no problem adjusting to the control scheme, while experienced players can jump right into the nostalgia. Hardcore gamers can appreciate a game that can either be finished in one sitting, or have hours set aside to find every dragon, gem, and egg. By the way, collecting every gem, dragon, and egg unlocks an alternate ending for the game, so it’s worth going for it! While the story could be explained a little better and some of the graphics could have stood for some touch-ups, Spyro the Dragon is a near perfect game in my opinion.
If you enjoy getting lost in a beautifully detailed, brightly colored, and truly invigorating classic PlayStation game, I encourage you to dust off the old PSX, grab a copy of Spyro the Dragon and let your inner child come out to play. I promise you won’t regret it!
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