One of the most interesting things about the PS1 is how many great franchises found life on the system. It was a great time for gamers with the depths of developer’s imaginations being plumed & the results often turning out to be pretty good.
What’s even more fascinating is how many of these franchises are now in recession & often thought of in a derogatory fashion. One such series that found life on the PS1 but has since fallen on hard times are the Spyro the Dragon games.
The first was released in 1998 & was instantly appealing thanks to its choice of main character & how beautifully colourful the world was. The game opens with several dragons being interviewed about how peaceful the world is. The interviewer then moves onto a question about the lonesome & disliked Gnasty Gnorc who just happens to be watching as the dragons insult him. Enraged he casts a spell that encases all the dragons in stone & sends out his minions to take over the 5 dragon home-worlds.
However thanks to his smaller size, Gnasty missed Spyro who makes it his mission to rescue all the dragons & defeat Gnasty Gnorc once & for all.
It’s a brief intro that sets the stage nicely & with a few minutes you are in control of Spyro in the first dragon home-world, Artisan World (the others are Peace Keepers’ World, Magic Crafters, Beast Makers, and Dream Weavers).
Gameplay is made up of Spyro exploring the world, diving into levels (set up as gates within a home-world), collecting treasure, rescuing dragons & defeating bosses.
Spyro can breathe fire, do a charge attack, glide for short distances & in some levels actually fly. Spyro’s skills have to be used strategically as enemies vary in their attacks & defence. For example shielded enemies will use the shield to block Spyro’s fire-breathing while larger enemies can’t be charged.
Spyro’s health is measured with a clever little idea…his companion, Sparx the dragonfly changes colour depending on the damage taken by Spyro. Take too much damage & Sparx will disappear meaning Spyro can only take one more hit before death occurs. It’s a pain losing Sparx as he is useful in picking up the plenty of scattered reassure spread out throughout the worlds. Each level & home-world has a set number viewable in the stats screen & finding every bit is an excellent challenge.
There is plenty to keep you busy throughout…finding every bit of treasure, rescuing every dragon & finding every dragon egg is a hell of a task with some of them being really well hidden.
Perhaps the best thing about Spyro is the level designs themselves with a huge variety in style & challenge. I love how different everything looks & how each level corresponds with the home-world it is set in.
The same goes for the excellent soundtrack (composed by the always excellent Grant Kirkhope) which sticks long in the memory.
One fault is that the game is probably a bit too easy if you’re not aiming to collect everything. Gnasty Gnorc as an end boss is pretty disappointing & doesn’t offer up any more of a challenge then earlier bosses.
The first in a long series of games hasn’t really been bettered since (although it has been matched). It’s bright & beautiful with fun & addictive gameplay. It’s easy & the story is paper-thin but collecting everything in the exciting world is a great challenge.
Spyro the Dragon