One of my earliest recollections of the PS1 was playing the original Spyro Trilogy. I have fond memories of the little purple dragon who wasn’t afraid to take on any enemy to save his friends and fellow dragon-folk. For this week’s Blast from the Past, I decided it was time to relive the origins of one of the most recognisable video game characters.
Spyro the Dragon has come a long way since it was first released 17 years ago. Now he’s mostly known for his role in the highly successful spin-off series Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. Despite the success of the toy-themed game, it wouldn’t be anywhere without his first adventure.
In the first game, Gnasty Gnorc curses all the elder dragons in Spyro’s world and turns them into jade/crystal dragons. The only exception is the little dragon Spyro, who missed the curse because of his height. It’s now up to him to save all the dragons in all the lands and stop Gnorc and all his henchmen.
His adventure starts in his home world where he needs to rescue dragons, reclaim stolen gems and return all the baby dragon eggs. In order to do so, Spyro needs to venture through portals that take him to many different lands within this world. Once he has done enough, he will be granted passage to other worlds where the process needs to be repeated until he meets the final boss.
It sounds simple, and in many ways it is, but what sets it apart, at least at the time, is that it was a little flexible with regards to linearity. You can choose which portals to use first, you can move on without having saved everyone and you can come back anytime you want to. The catch is that you need to meet certain requirements (save x amount of dragons, for example).
What was very interesting was seeing how well the graphics kept up. It’s very old, and very dated, but given its animated and cartoon nature, it’s not that off-putting. Many of the enemies, whom have very little polygon counts, look really bad graphically, but it’s because of that that it makes them so funny to look at. Each world is clearly defined and has a surprising amount of detail in each stage.
Another thing that works well is controlling the titular character. I thought I would have a lot of trouble controlling him now after all these years, but it’s clear that Insomniac created a game to endure the annals of time. He doesn’t have all the fancy moves that you remember him having in Gateway to Glimmer (aka Ripto’s Rage) and Year of the Dragon, but what he has now is enough to get you through. He rams, he spits fire, he glides and he has Sparx – what more do you need? There is a snag though, and it’s the camera. It’s slow and terribly unresponsive, just how I remembered it. It can be very frustrating at times, and may even cost you a life or two.
Spyro the Dragon is a wonderful game to play, or replay in this instance. It was a great attempt from Insomniac and because of this success they were able to create even better sequels. Unlike most sequels these days, Gateway to Glimmer surpassed its predecessor and so did Year of the Dragon. Each new game, at least in the original trilogy, got better with each new entry.