In 1998, Crash Bandicoot was one of the most popular platformers in the world. There had been three successful games in the series. Around this point, Insomniac Games released “Spyro The Dragon”, a 3D platformer. Unlike Crash Bandicoot, where the majority of the gameplay is set by moving in a straight line, Spyro The Dragon is fully 3D and more open. The game is 18 years old now, how does it hold up?
Let’s start with how the game plays. The gameplay is fairly simple. The goal of the game is to rescue the crystalized dragons, by stepping on the dragon pads throughout the land. These dragons are the main objective of each level, but that’s not just it. There are dragon eggs to recover from thieves who run away from you. To get the egg, you have to charge after the thief and attack them, killing the thief and getting yourself the egg. Finally, there are gems scattered over every stage, which are essentially the currency of the game. Each of these items are relatively easy to find, which none of them ever being in super hard to find locations in the levels. The enemies scattered in the levels are mostly easy to defeat, with the exception of a few, which are in the later parts of the game. This is the only issue with the gameplay I can really find, but it’s a bit forgivable, since these enemies are super overpowered, but still only have one hit point. Along with it being at the end of the game, I give this some leeway, since it’s supposed to be more difficult. The variety of the level design is also very pleasing. The level designs are very unique, ranging from a garden setting at night in “Dark Hollow” to a desert in “Cliff Town” to a magical land of ice in “Wizard Peak” to the top of a giant forest in “Tree Tops” to a floating castle in “Lofty Castle” to in island set for battle in my personal favorite level in the game, “Gnorc Cove”. The levels are very memorable and are varied. The gameplay is pretty solid still today honestly, as this Spyro formula was continued in some way shape or form for about a decade.
The controls of the game are okay. They are a bit stiff for a free roaming 3D platformer, and it’s a bit hard to judge if Spyro is going to make a ledge or not when gliding. Gliding is executed by pressing the jump button while in mid air. This allows Spyro to cross chasms with relative ease. Charging with the square button is the ideal way of moving, since it’s very fast, but turning isn’t ideal while charging. This is understandable, since it is a charge, after all. These controls are fixed in the later games for the most part.
The graphics in Spyro The Dragon did something very unique for the time. The game is pretty detailed for a Playstation game. Even though the game is detailed, there isn’t much slowdown, however. This is because the textures off in the distance look like they have no detail, but as you get closer, they’ll start getting more and more detail. This is really cool, since the graphics hold up because of this. Again, the character models are the worst part of the game, graphically. In this game, they look very awkward and strange, but they improve in the sequels The graphics of course don’t look like the PS4 nowadays, but were definitely good for the time. For the most part, the graphics in Spyro The Dragon have held up pretty well!
The music of Spyro The Dragon is one of the most famous parts about the game. The soundtrack was written by Stewart Copeland, the drummer of the rock band The Police. The CD quality music is very good and is always a pleasure on the ears. Fun fact: the music to the level “Wizard Peak” has the same chords as the theme to the old Nickelodeon show “The Amanda Show”! The only thing with the sound of the game that has aged at all is the derpy sounding voices of the dragons, these voices are laughably bad. The music of the game is very fantastic and this motif continues in the later games.
Spyro The Dragon is great example of a way to start a series. The sequels are technically better games, but the original game is still extremely solid. Spyro The Dragon has aged well.
Next time on Games Growing Up, we’ll be taking a look at Resident Evil for the PS1 to celebrate Halloween!