Retro Review – Spyro the Dragon – PlayStation
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Developer: Insomniac Games
Genre: Platformer Players: 1 Age Rating: 3+ Other console/handheld formats: PS3, Vita
Before the likes of Ratchet & Clank and the Resistance series’, developer Insomniac Games made their name with the Spyro the Dragon series on the original PlayStation. When it was released back in 1998, the first game in the series was notable for being one of the first well received fully 3D platformers on Sony’s premier console. Not forgetting to mention that both the game and Spyro himself proved popular.
In terms of plot, Spyro the Dragon is minimalistic. Basically, we have lots of dragons living side by side, but during a news report in which the villain Gnasty Gnorc is being discussed, he’s described as ugly and not much of a threat, which obviously makes his blood boil. In retaliation, Gnasty casts a spell which results in the majority of the dragons being encased in crystal. The little purple dragon then sets out on an adventure to free the dragons and to defeat Gnasty Gnorc. There isn’t much plot in the game, with most of the dialogue being hints and tips from the rescued dragons, although it’s effective enough for what it is.
To rescue the dragons, you have to journey across various worlds. There are five of these distinct worlds, with open green plains, hot deserts, marshes and more to journey through. The levels are well designed, and you have to make use of all of the little purple dragons skills to conquer the lot of them.
Speaking of skills, Spyro has a number of them to his name. Obviously, being a platformer, he can jump, but he’s also able to glide to cross further distances, which is handy if you want to avoid premature death by falling down a hole. In terms of his attacks, Spyro can breathe fire like any dragon worth his salt, and he also has a well animated charge attack, which is both cute and very effective. In the sections of some levels, you are able to charge down speed pads, which gives Spyro a boost, allowing him to jump further and to break open the tougher boxes.
To free the dragons from their new crystallised forms, you must first find them. Some levels have a single dragon to find while others have a total of five for you to hunt down. There are 80 dragons in all, although you don’t have to find the lot to complete the story. Obviously, some of the dragons are harder to track down than others, while some of the others are in so obvious places that they would be as impossible to miss as a fire breathing dragon in the dead of night. The dragons aren’t the only things that you are able to find in Spyro the Dragon’s attractive and open levels, though, as there’s also gemstones scattered all over the place, which can be found lying around, after defeating enemies, as well as in chests and boxes. Finally, some levels also include dragon eggs, in which are held by enemies that annoyingly run away when you approach them, and they only release the eggs when you strike them down.
Being a platformer, Spyro the Dragon also has boss encounters, although none of them are particularly memorable. Most of the bosses can be dealt with easily and are predictable in their attacks, which means that these bosses are hardly up there with the greatest boss encounters in the world. The battle with Gnasty Gnorc himself is better and different from any of the other battles, although it’s a fight that will prove to annoy many.
The game itself isn’t hugely challenging, although, with its colourful and attractive visuals and happy music, this is one of those games that is just so relaxing to play. True, if you want to hit 100%, this is going to take some extra work on your part, as you’ll need to do absolutely everything – find all the dragons, treasure and dragon eggs. Once you hit 100%, you can then play an additional level, and if you manage to get through this, you’ll have a very satisfying 120% completion, with every single thing in the game having been done.
Visually, even today Spyro the Dragon has a likeable art style, and is as cute and colourful as ever. At the time, these were state of the art visuals on the PlayStation, and considering when it was released, the game hasn’t aged too badly at all.
Spyro the Dragon may not be the most challenging 3D platformer, although it’s charismatic and never any less than enjoyable to play, and certainly proves itself to be an ideal entry point for those new to the genre. There’s a lot to like in this magical world, and, with all that said, it’s not difficult to see why the little purple dragon and his games became so very popular in the first place.
Please note that the game is available via download on PS3 and Vita, with this review being based on play via the PS3.