Spyro the Dragon (Playstation 1)

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Introduction

Gnasty Gnorc– pronounced Nasty Norc– is an orc who is relatively nasty. During a news interview with an Elder Dragon of the Dragon realms the Elder Dragon calls Gnasty ugly. The Gnorc flies into a rage and uses his magic to encase all of the dragons in crystal– using his satellite wand or something. Every dragon except Spyro, a dragon young and small enough to miss. Gnasty is using his magic to turn the Dragon’s treasure into soldiers to conquer the world– presumably, otherwise he’s just making dudes to make more dudes because he’s an extremely lonely Gnorc. Spyro will have to use his fire breath, horns, and gliding ability to free his draconic brethren and defeat this Dragon-hater.

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The Gnorc himself. He’s a pretty imposing dude, although I doubt the effectiveness of his golden armor.

 

Development

Spyro the Dragon was made by Insomniac Games, best known for the Spyro series and the Ratchet and Clank series. The Chief Architect, Alex Hastings, created one of the first fully 3D panoramic experiences for the Playstation 1 with this game.

The music was composed and performed by Stewart Copeland, the former drummer for the Police. His music shows the quality of a professional musician and is one of the most memorable aspects of the game.

Fun Fact: Spyro was originally going to be green but the designer’s thought it would be to easy to lose Spyro in grass and other green backgrounds so they made him purple instead.

Spyro the Dragon was released on September 10th, 1998. It would release against MediEvil (PS1), Metal Gear Solid (PS1), Fallout 2(PC), and Resident Evil: The Director’s Cut (PS1).

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Between the grass, crystal dragon, and enemies it’s clear to see why Green Spyro would have been a terrible idea.

 

 

 

The Nostalgia

Does anyone out there remember demo disks? Once upon a time game companies would release disks with early sections of games so that consumers could see if they wanted to get the full product. One of my favorite Demos was the Spyro Demo. It only had three levels in it but I would play those levels for hours, wondering how to unlock the others. I didn’t know they couldn’t be unlocked but finding everything in them helped me find everything in them when I got the full game.

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Hours spent wandering around the same areas waiting to get the full game.

 

Gameplay

In order to free all of the other Dragons Spyro is going to need to travel to all of the Dragons’ worlds and all of those world’s areas. The Dragon finding is actually the easiest part of the game. They’re typically in obvious locations and even if the Spyro can’t see one they shake from time to time, making a distinct noise that’s easy to make out.

Spyro needs to find all of the treasure, which is dropped my monsters as well as hidden all over the world. This is probably the most difficult part of the game because if there’s one errant gem missing then Spyro’s screwed. There’s no real way to detect the treasure so you’ll just have to look everywhere, draw maps of the area, and mark all of the places that you’ve been. Alright, it’s usually not that hard but there will always be that one gem that’s missing.

Spyro also needs to find the 12 dragon eggs that were stolen by a group of dastardly thieves. The thieves are pretty quick but aren’t really a problem. They also jeer Spyro by saying “Nyanya” and blowing raspberries– because taunting the dragon sounds like a great idea!

Spyro’s got 3 main moves, he can charge, jump and glide, and breath fire. Breathing fire is Spyro’s main mode of attack but some enemies and objects are wearing or made of metal and dragon breath doesn’t go through metal– for reasons that escape me scientifically, logically, or magically (I guess I just rolled with it when I was a kid). Enemies that wear metal armor are prime targets for a well placed charge, charging also makes Spyro move faster so it makes travel less of a hassle.

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General rule, small enemies get charged and large enemies get flamed.

 

 

 

Spyro’s health is represented by Sparx, the dragonfly that accompanies him on every adventure. Sparx can take three hits before he disappears, leaving Spyro on his own. Torching or charging sheep and other fodder animals release butterflies for Sparx to eat. Sparx will also pick up nearby treasure so it’s a great idea to keep him around.

Some levels feature boss enemies that are supposed to be more difficult to handle but they’re not for the most part. The levels are tough, don’t get me wrong, but the bosses themselves are usually not more effective than the armies they bring with them. That being said fighting 3 wolves and a giant scarecrow can be tough.

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This is the Scarecrow in question. I think he’s just big enough to seem threatening without being scary.

 

The Gush

Even today this game looks great. Some of the enemy design is really cool and varied, from bulls to shamans every enemy looks cool. It also boasts some of the largest level sizes for the Playstation, using clever programming tricks to keep the memory use down. The levels aren’t just expansive, some of them are downright mystic and beautiful. It definitely looks like a group of Dragons made some of these places.

Dragons that Spyro save usually have interesting advice or comments to make about the world. But Dragons with the most badass of names– Thor, Crusher, etc– are usually feeble and old. I thought it was the funniest thing when I was a kid.

The loading screens are pretty cool and the load times are surprisingly short.

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There’s a relaxing quality to watching Spyro glide across a cloudy sky.

 

The music for this game is really good. I’ll find myself grooving to the bass and drum beats all through gameplay. Each level has it’s own unique tune. Some of them sound similar, but they all have their unique bits.

Gliding around is just fun, all there is too it. Reaching the highest point of levels and just gliding round is awesome.

 

The Kvetch

The story in this game is pretty weak. Gnasty is supposed to be an underprivileged Gnorc who saw his reflection in the Dragon’s treasure as something nearly unbearable because he was so ugly. When he tried to destroy the treasure so that it couldn’t reflect his appearance the Dragons sent him to the junk yard of their worlds and he swears revenge. This makes Gnasty a strangely sympathetic villain but most importantly it gives him some sort of motivation for doing what he does as opposed to the nothing the game provides.

Speaking of Gnasty, the final fight against him is really anticlimactic. He goes down in one hit, the whole “fight” is just about getting to him or keeping up with him while the platforms in the level recede into walls.

Some pieces of treasure are insanely well hidden. And you need all of it to unlock Gnasty’s Loot, the super secret final level. Some levels also form strange mazes so it’s really difficult to remember where you’ve been. In later games Sparx can point Spyro toward treasure and it solves the issue but this isn’t the later games.

Worlds are gated by mysterious balloonists. They ask for Spyro to have enough treasure, Dragon’s, or Dragon Eggs before he can take Spyro to the next world, but why? Spyro doesn’t pay him the treasure, eggs, or Dragons. Why does he need to know that Spyro’s got this stuff?

Tree Tops. Just, Tree Tops. This level is a nightmare filled with super charge ramps, keys, and treasure chests. It’s so easy to screw something up in this stage and if you do, you’ve got to start all over because there’s no way back to Tree Tops you’ve passed.

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This level looks beautiful but it’s masquerading as Hell.

 

The Verdict

This game is absolutely worth playing but is not worth completing 100%. The sequels remedy the problems with getting 100% and I think that shows that Insomniac was just a little green when making this game– it was only the second game they had made. Nostalgia levels are really high but this game is just good. If you’ve got a hankering to play as a small Dragon and save Dragon-kind then this is the game for you.

Next week: Diablo.

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