Developer(s) – Insomniac Games
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Artist – Charles Zembillas
Producer – Mike Cerny
PEGI – 3
Back when the PlayStation was first released, the control scheme seemed to be a cause for concern when it came to developing 3D platformers for the system. That is until Spyro the Dragon came along. Not only it is symbolic to me of a time when Sony finally got the formula right, but it’s also a very enjoyable title and it still stands out as one of the better games on the system.
Graphics – 9/10
When I was growing up, the medieval era and dragons always captivated my imagination, so it seemed to me that the first Spyro game would be right up my alley; and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s medieval settings (as well as an array of other different kinds of settings) and its level of graphical detail was absolutely astounding for the time. After playing Super Mario 64, I was astonished to see another superbly designed in-game world, which was just as big as the one in the Nintendo 64 classic; if not bigger. Although the conceptual design falls slightly short of that of Super Mario 64, it was still a very good effort from Insomniac Games in terms of presentation. I’m also actually pretty sure that this was the first game I played that featured multiple overworlds.
Gameplay – 8/10
Overall, the first Spyro was a very decent experience. I liked it for its amount of variety in gameplay. In addition to the standard 3D platforming exploration elements, there are also stages that feature flying challenges that I particularly enjoyed. To me, those sequences not only make the game stand out greatly among other 3D platformers for the time, but they also provide a very stern challenge. There is also a small incentive for completing the game to 100% in the form of an alternative ending, but that was somewhat commonplace for the time, and the truth is told, is now considered non-canonical to the rest of the series, which makes it somewhat redundant in the long run.
Controls – 9/10
For the most part, the controls are fine. The only problem I had with them concerned the various degrees of speed the character can move at and issues surrounding it. When the character moves normally, it can be fairly slow and gameplay can be somewhat hampered by it in turn. But when the character is dashing, it sometimes makes moving Spyro around a little bit difficult, as it can be easy to bump into a lot of things along the way. But what needs to be kept in mind is that this was one of Sony’s first decent 3D platforming games, and as such, it was going to be a case of trial and error when it came to controls, as there were a lot of issues to be addressed at the time. But overall, Insomniac handled things more than well enough.
Lifespan – 8/10
For an early PlayStation game, this was fairly long. It may not have been on the same level as Final Fantasy VII, but 100% completion would take in excess of 7 to 8 hours, which was fairly long for the time. The longer a game can be made to last, the better. Nowadays, that may seem like a fraction of what quite a few games of today can deliver, but I was left wanting for nothing after I finished this game when I was a kid. It still makes for a very fulfilling experience to this day; being aware of the game’s historical importance and what impact it subsequently had on Sony only makes the experience evermore enthralling.
Storyline – 6/10
This is where the game falls down a little bit for me. As with a lot of video game stories for the time, it is somewhat basic. Insomniac had a bit of a way to go before they would eventually expand on this area in other installments. The story follows a young purple dragon called Spyro, who lives among a colony of dragons. During a television interview (bizarrely), one of the dragons insults the game’s main villain, Gnasty Gnorc, who then becomes enraged and decides to use his magic to turn all the dragons into crystals. Spyro escapes his wrath and sets out on a journey to find and free the imprisoned dragons and defeat Gnasty Gnorc. The best thing about this story is its element of humor; in lieu of Insomniac tradition, it would seem. It’s been seen all throughout the Ratchet & Clank series, but it’s interesting to see where it all stemmed from.
Originality – 8/10
Even though this game was heavily based on Super Mario 64, and that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that Sony and Insomniac Games were influenced by Nintendo’s success, the developers did add quite a lot of flair to Spyro the Dragon and indeed made the overall concept their own. It had many different gameplay elements, which made it fairly unique in its own right. One Super Mario 64 element they did improve on was the flying mechanics, as it could sometimes be pretty difficult to control Mario in the air when he was equipped with the wing cap, but with the free-flying sequences of Spyro, it was all down to player’s individual skill.
In summary, I believe this is a game that should be owned by anyone who has either a PlayStation or PlayStation 2. If not, it’s definitely worth downloading from the PlayStation Network, as it is very much worth playing through. It’s an excellent experience, and it paved the way for the series to reach for the skies; just like Spyro himself.