Retro Briefiew – Spyro the Dragon

My first encounter with this game was very related with my first encounter with the original playstation as the console came with a demo disc and, among other titles, there was a demo for this title. If I’m honest here, the demo I replayed the most from that demo disc was easily Tekken 3’s but Spyro must have been the second. Those were the times…
Nostalgia aside, I downloaded the playstation classic from psn and got to play it on my psvita. Here are my thoughts on how the game stood the pass of time.

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Spyro the dragon is a 3D platformer developed by Insomniac games. The guys that would later move on to create the also great Ratchet & Clank series. Unlike those titles though, the Spyro franchise gameplay-wise was born like some sort of collect-a-thon game.
You don’t progress through levels in a linear fashion. Instead the levels are mostly open and traversing through them involves a higher degree of exploration as you’ll be trying to find different collectibles in them.
Most of the time you’ll be trying to set free other dragons that got turned into glass statues but you’ll also be collecting gems and other objects in order to advance in the game.
The game isn’t too hard. Collecting everything isn’t even completely obligatory to reach an ending and, unlike some other platform games of the era, you don’t die in one hit. Instead you’re always accompanied by some sort of dragonfly and, its color will tell you how many hits you can take before you go down.

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The story in the game as you might have guessed revolves around those dragons that got turned into statues. That was the doing of the bad guy named “Gnasty Gnorc”. He was enraged because some Dragons were mocking him in a documentary so in return he used a magic spell to encase all the dragons in crystal and also sent out his hordes of gnorc soldiers. Spyro, despite being a dragon himself, could avoid the spell simply for being so short that the spell literally flies over his head. Being the only dragon that didn’t turn into a statue, it was his duty to save them.
It is a simple and wacky premise which is fitting for a kid’s game like this one but, as a grown up adult, you sure won’t be playing this game for its story.

The graphics for this game have aged very well. They are very colorful and cartoony and the game performs pretty good as well framerate-wise. There’s two ways you’ll notice how old this game really is. One of them is the screen resolution (obviously) and the second is the wonky lip movements of the characters as they talk in cutscenes. In any case, the game still looks great today.
As for the audio department, the game holds up in that aspect as well. The soundtrack is still as great today as it was back in the day and the voiceover of the characters, even if it looks weird in combination with the dated facial movements, is quite good.

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Things I liked

  • Charming: The game sparks something within you. Maybe it’s the nostalgia kicking in but I fell in love with the colorful graphics and the classic soundrack of the game once again after so many years.
  • Controls: Spyro controls overall are great. They are responsive and intuitive. He moves at the right pace, jumps adequately and thanks to his wings he can even glide. Some older games feel too clunky for today’s standards but Spyro holds up quite well in this regard.
  • Combat: There are two basic methods of attacking for the purple dragon. One it’s ramming and the other is fire breathing. The best part is that some enemies will be invulnerable to one of those attacks so you’ll have to adapt to that.
  • Creative: This is in relation to the different worlds you’ll be visiting and the number of enemies you’ll encounter in each one. They’ll usually have a different death animation as well which is also quite cartoony and amusing to watch.

Things I didn’t

  • Camera: You’ll find yourself struggling with the camera as much as with the enemies themselves. You can move it around with L2 and R2 but that’s barely an improvement and, to make things worse, the L2 and R2 in vita controls means using the rear touchpad.

Who’d like this?

The only issue I found with this game was the camera. It is a big flaw however and I can see some people not being able to adjust to it making them drop the game entirely. I could live with it myself though and got adjusted to it quick enough to fully enjoy the game.

 

<You can get a glimpse of this game’s gameplay in motion here>

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