TGC Rewind Review: Spyro the Dragon
This weeks Playstation Store update brought with it a ton of new content, including the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy that originally called the Playstation its home. Well now Spyro and his buddies are moving up in the world (forget the last generation games, they were awful) and have settled down on the latest Playstation devices. Spyro is now available to download and play on your Playstation 3, Playstation Vita and Playstation Portable.
So, in celebration of long overdue return of Spyro, we’re going to be reviewing each of the original games over the next couple of days, starting with the one that started it all, Spyro the Dragon.
The following review is following a new format designed to give a clear and concise overview of the game instead of all the mumbo jumbo that gets put out these days. Reviews are just too damn complicated and confusing, so the Spyro reviews will be the test run on our new, original format. Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments! Now, down to business…
What Is It?
Spyro the Dragon is the first entry into the long running Spyro series of video games. Originally developed by Insomniac games for the Playstation, then passed on to numerous other developers for later generation games.
The story of Spyro the Dragon won’t win any awards, granted, but it’s there to provide a reason for you to be running around doing what you do. The basic premise, without giving too much away (because some people haven’t already played it, I know, shocker) is that the evil villain – Gnasty Gnorc – has turned all the dragons into stone statues and it is your job to break them free of the evil curse. It’s as standard as you can get without naming the game ‘Spyro the Standard Platforming Dragon’. You of course, play as the titular character Spyro, who is a dragon and the hero of the adventure. If that much wasn’t obvious by now, good luck with the rest of the review.
Spyro the Dragon consists of several different homeworlds which act as your sort of hub for reaching the actual levels. Each homeworld requires you to collect a certain amount of items, whether it’s eggs, gems or rescuing some stoned-up dragons from the different levels, then once you have reached the amount needed, you are able to travel to the next homeworld. It’s a good structure that gives you the freedom to play at your own pace, in a way it’s an early “open-world” game, though don’t expect the same amount of freedom as in Grand Theft Auto. Dragons will never drive cars.
Instead of jacking motorists, you’ll get about by running, jumping and gliding your way across the various levels. It’s not all jumping and galloping around though, Gnasty Gnorc is just like every other villain – he’s got his own cronies. The cronies in question though aren’t all that difficult to overcome, with them either needing a well-timed headbutt charge, or a simple flame to the face, they’re done over pretty quickly. Some will challenge you more than others, either by being faster or having a projectile weapon, but neither will really pose that great a challenge to you.
The minions throughout the levels may be a doddle, but it’s the boss levels that will test your abilities as well as your patience. Once you gather enough collectibles to go to another homeworld, you are put against a boss. Now, this may seem strange in 2012, where “boss” levels have been replaced with a last level or mission which is just really, really hard, but back in the day if you wanted to earn your gamer cred, you had to have a few bosses under your belt. Spyro the Dragon provided a few bosses, each a little more difficult than the last, until of course you got to the main villain of the show, Gnasty Gnorc. It’s your standard stuff, well, standard for the 90′s, and the gameplay is still very much enjoyable more than a decade after it’s release.
I won’t lie, graphically it’s ugly. Sort of.
If like me you played the game when it first came out, you’ll appreciate how back in the day these were top-notch graphics. However, if you’ve only ever played games in HD, this may be a bit of a shock to the system for you.
Characters are detailed enough to be able to distinguish from one another, and Spyro is actually pretty good to look at, it’s the surroundings that remind you it’s a game older than some Call of Duty players. Floors and walls tend to look a bit stretched and skewed, like an oil painting that has had a child rub their finger all over. What you must remember, and I will stress this every chance I get, is that this is over ten years old. To be fair though, it doesn’t look half bad when it’s played on the PS Vita, maybe because it’s more up close and personal, I don’t know, but I definitely find it a better play on the PS Vita.
Sound effects galore, characters have actual voices, and there’s some of the funkiest video game music you will ever hear. The music is definitely the highlight in the sound department, with the soundtrack being composed by Stewart Copeland, who some of you may know as the former drummer of English rock band The Police.
In addition to a funky soundtrack, the characters are voiced and not terribly so, in fact, for its time Spyro the Dragon had some top class voice acting. Seriously, the villain Gnasty Gnorc was voiced by non other than legendary English actor Michael Gough, most recognisable to you as Alfred Pennyworth in the Batman movies of the late 80′s and early 90′s. Impressed? Yeah, I thought so.
Spyro the Dragon might be old and dated now, but trust me when I say it’s still worth playing. The gameplay is sharp and easily stands up to modern games of the same genre, even giving a longer play time than most modern games. The graphics may be a bit naff, but if you can look past the fact that Spyro was born into a pre-HD world, you’ll love the adventure and I can guarantee you’ll be coming back for more. It’s a classic, pure and simple, and if you have any interest at all in gaming, you’ll be heading over to the Playstation Store to make the best purchase you’ll likely make for the rest of this year.
Presentation: The main menu is well organised and makes for easy loading up of a saved game, or starting a fresh one. Simple and elegant with some pretty music in the background. 8
Graphics: The visuals may not be up to scratch with today’s offerings, but they are serviceable and were considered groundbreaking in 3D game design. 8
Sound: Ahead of it’s time in terms of sound design, Spyro featured a soundtrack composed by an actual musician and voice acting that wasn’t half bad. 9
Gameplay: Hours of fun is to be had with Spyro, with plenty of fun and colorful levels to explore and root out the collectibles, some solid platforming and the easiest controls to grace a game, there’s no problems here. Just have fun. 10