GAMING GREATS: Spyro the Dragon (1998)

Becky revisits the title which spawned a generation of female gamers. Really. 

Who made it?: Insomniac Games (Developer), Sony Computer Entertainment America (Publisher).

Platform: PlayStation.

Format: CD-ROM, Download. 

Released: October 23, 1998. 

It has been a pain in the back end for me recently, as a few good titles have caught my eye on both PC and console, but I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with my money. In the sense that I never have enough of the stuff when I want to do a review of a particular game! Sure, you can watch playthroughs on YouTube (I highly recommend the Yogscast for those), but it doesn’t have the same affect as it would playing the game yourself.

Needless to say, I spend a fair bit of my time in town popping into the likes of CEX to see if there are any decent games going at a knock-down price. One thing I did notice on my last visit was the tremendous change in price for old, almost forgotten consoles. In the display window was a pre-owned PS2 for £20! I can still remember when it was the only present my sister and I received at Christmas due to it costing so much back then! And it got me thinking back to earlier games I used to play when I was younger. Not to the likes of my old Mega Drive, but more so to my first modern-day console… the PlayStation 1. That bit of kit introduced me to the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Abe’s Odyssey, Duke Nukem, Tomb Raider, and also Spyro the Dragon.

Having never actually looked back on any of these classics, I thought it was about time I did. In this case, I chose Spyro the Dragon, the first of the popular Spyro series. However, it was one of those games that rarely did anything for me when I was younger; personally, I was more obsessed with Crash Bandicoot and co. It didn’t really help having a younger sibling who also had a craze for gaming, so while I stuck to my old familiar Crash, my sister moved onto the likes of Spyro. All I could see from this title was little to no real gameplay, and just a bunch of charging around, head-butting things or blowing flames over them. However, with a PS1 emulator and the fact that my partner hasn’t put the Crash games on there yet, I decided to give Spyro one final shot at impressing me. He succeeded.

Admittedly, we’re talking about the first Spyro game to be developed for the PS1, so the gameplay is not really mindblowing. The story starts with a news report taking place. The correspondent is interviewing the dragons within the Artisan World. During the discussion, the reporter asks one of the dragons about his thoughts of Gnasty Gnork, a gnork who lives in the Sixth Realm. This dragon proceeds to label Gnork as an ugly, simple-minded creature (way to go!). Unfortunately, for the entire Artisan world and the dragons in general, Gnasty Gnork happens to be watching this report as it unfolds and flies into a rage (and rightly so, really), casting a spell and imprisoning all the dragons (bar Spyro) in a crystal-like shell (tad extreme). Thankfully, Spyro manages to avoid the attack and is sent on a quest to release his fellow dragons from their crystal fate. In order to do this, Spyro needs to charge and head-butt each dragon crystal to free them and receive more information as to what happened and who Gnork really is, or even a little tidbit of information to help improve Spyro’s own performance. These range from informing you how to charge at certain enemies or blow a jet of fire at them from behind and, most importantly, how to glide (double-tap the jump button).

In each new realm you visit, you need to collect a specific number of gems which are either scattered around or located in chests. Ultimately, you have to clear the world of Gnork enemies who vary in size, stature and armour, chase little annoying elf-like creatures who taunt you while carrying dragon eggs to collect, or charge at or flame down little creatures to feed your dragonfly buddy, Sparx. After succeeding in all of this, you can then progress into a new world and, eventually, face Gnasty Gnork!

The graphics in this game are naturally better than the older, more basic visuals of the Mega Drive console I grew up with and, to me back then, this game would’ve been what HD is to me now. In today’s light, the graphics, while dated, still work surprisingly well and the detail and world art is something which can only be admired (although, when you see the likes of Final Fantasy, it’s hard not to feel a tad let-down by the graphics). I was pleasantly surprised, though, and can appreciate why my sister decided to move on from Crash and play this more. In general, I’ll give Spyro the Dragon a 6 out of 10; while it’s an enjoyable game, I am sadly still struggling to find that wow factor so many people express when they talk about it. That aside, the artwork, some of the commentary, and the free-roaming land all add up to a fun little title to escape to.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • The development of Spyro the Dragon began in 1997, one year after both Disruptor and Crash Bandicoot were released. The idea of a dragon was introduced by Insomniac artist Craig Stitt, while Alex Hastings developed a 3D panoramic engine containing some of the first level of detail renderers used on the PlayStation.
  • During the development of the game, Spyro was originally going to be green, but the developers thought it was a bad idea because he would blend in with grass, so they eventually changed him to purple.
  • In an interview, Ted Price stated that they gave up the series after releasing Spyro: Year of the Dragon because his actions were limited, due to not being able to hold anything in his hands.
  • The music featured in Spyro the Dragon was composed and performed by Stewart Copeland (former drummer of The Police).

Becky Lenton

Recent graduate from an English degree, Becky has taken to putting her writing skills to good use. Writing game reviews, she hopes to one day get into the gaming industry. When that day will be however, no one knows.

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