Spyro the Dragon Review
May 9, 2018
The big gaming news last week was a remastered version of Spyro for modern consoles! I am always excited to hear about Spyro, I've been a fan since the PS1 days. The new game doesn't come out until September 21, but it put me in a Spyro mood. I went back and played the original game and just beat it for the first time. This is my review.
My history with Spyro
We were a Nintendo house growing up, but I knew a good game when I saw one, it didn't have to be on a Nintendo. My best friend had a Playstation, and he got a demo disc with a bunch of games on it. Demo discs were SO COOL, you got to play little pieces of a bunch of games to see if you liked them. I really with they would make a comeback. Anyway, this demo disc had Spyro the Dragon on it. It was so awesome, running around as a dragon, breathing fire on stuff. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was fun. When we got our Gamecube a few years later, we got Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly. It was a fun, generic Spyro game. Nothing special. That was the last time I played Spyro for a long time. Then I finally downloaded the original Spyro the Dragon on the PS3.
I absolutely love the old PS1-era Spyro graphics. They are perfect. They hit me with a wave of nostalgia, and they still look good! Characters and gems look sharp, and the levels are nice and colorful. They have aged very well, and even look good on a modern HDTV. N64 games don't look very good on modern TVs, so this was a nice surprise. The graphics are so perfect for this game that I suspect I won't like the graphics in the upcoming remake. There is just something so perfect about the pixelly 3D environments. Its like the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Carribean. Even though the sails are torn to shreds and full of holes, somehow it is the fastest ship on the sea. Spyro feels the same way.
I usually hate a video-game's story. Spyro's is good though, short and sweet. Somehow all the dragons in Spyro's world have been turned to statues. Spyro has to find the statues and touch them to turn the dragons back to life. That's it. Nothing complicated. There are no crazy characters. It is nice and simple. There is no tutorial either thankfully, it just drops you in and assumes you can figure out what to do.
Spyro the Dragon is an excellent 3D platformer. Obviously, you control Spyro, a dragon, who runs on all fours, which makes the game different from Mario, Banjo Kazooie, or other 3D platformers of the era. Spyro is faster-paced, and he can glide using his wings. Gliding is a very cool mechanic as it is often the only way to get to an area in the distance. You explore the levels, finding gems and dragon statues. It is simple, but fun. You have two attacks, headbutting with your horns, or breathing fire on enemies. I like running around headbutting everything, I get a bit of an adrenaline rush as I headbut stuff near a cliff. Sometimes you'll have to catch a "thief" enemy who stole a dragon egg. It is fun chasing them down. But my favorite part of the game is collecting all the gems on each level. Some are usually hidden, in spots that you wouldn't normally get to without looking carefully. Sometimes you have to really think hard to get the last few gems. It is a lot of fun.
I usually hate boss battles in video games (Titan Souls excluded), and Spyro's boss battles were a nice surprise. Instead of just fighting a boss, the boss levels are just regular levels that happen to have a slightly stronger enemy at the end. The boss fights aren't frustrating, and are actually pretty fun. The one gameplay element I dislike is the "super charge ramp" sections. Some sections of levels have a lit-up area that gives Spyro a huge speed boost if he charges down them. While charged, Spyro can jump super high, but it is really difficult to control. Even after beating the game and collecting everything, I still don't fully understand how to correctly do it. Those are by far the most frustrating parts of the game.
The levels in Spyro the Dragon are almost perfect. You get all sorts of themes: grassy fields, deserts, villages, levels up in the clouds, pretty much anywhere you'd expect a dragon to go. There are a few hub worlds, with each having a few regular levels. The platforming is great in most levels. They are full of secrets, and pretty large, though not too large. I rarely had to do any backtracking, and could beat all of them in one go. You never have to return to a level to play it again. The enemies in the level are usually fun to blow fire on or headbutt, and are different in each level. The levels all have a unique vibe, and almost all were fun to explore. There was only one main level-Tree Tops- that was more frustrating than fun. It involved a lot of "super charge ramps" and precision gliding to collect everything.
There were a few "flying" levels. Normally, Spyro can glide, but not fly. On the flying levels, you just fly around, trying to breathe fire on everything before the time limit is up. I didn't care for these levels as much as the normal levels, but they were still kind of fun. They go by quickly, so if you have a bad round, its easy to just do it again. Overall, the levels in Spyro are mostly great. They are pretty quick to beat, and are fun to beat one or two a night if you don't have much time to play video games.
The sound in Spyro is good. The sound effects are very good, it makes killing enemies and collecting gems more satisfying. The music in the game is good but not very memorable. The soundtrack is pretty relaxing and fits the game nicely.
Spyro the Dragon is a perfect 3D platformer. I don't mean it's THE perfect platformer, as I think Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie are also perfect platformers, but it is a different kind of game. The gameplay and level design are different, and clearly designed for a dragon. There is no nonsense, it is just collect gems, dragons, and get to the end of the level, just the way it should be. I had a great time collecting every gem and dragon on each level, even though it is simple, it is a lot of fun. The old-school PS1 graphics have aged very well. I am excited to see the remake when it comes out, but it will be hard to live up to a game as good as the original Spyro the Dragon.