Spyro the Dragon Review

Spyro the Dragon

The early years of the Playstation saw the rise of many new faces in gaming, as Sony was building its brand to compete with the established franchises of Nintendo and Sega. In a robust library that saw the introductions of series like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, the Playstation also had its share of more colorful characters that were more akin to those of its competitors. Crash Bandicoot was the unofficial mascot of the Playstation, but he opened the door for another platforming series to make its debut, Spyro the Dragon, by Insomniac Games.

Much like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro’s original studio produced a trilogy of platformers on Sony’s trailblazing home console. And while the first entry in the series is understandably the roughest, it still provides some good fun.

Spyro the Dragon was a more open-world platformer than Crash, with Spyro’s worlds being a little closer to Super Mario 64’s wide, open stages. Though in a fun twist, the worlds are their own little hubs that have a few smaller stages of their own sprinkled throughout.

Spyro’s moveset not only includes running and jumping, but he can also glide, roll, ram enemies with his horns, and breathe small bursts of fire. He’s a fun character to control, though like many early 3D platformers, the camera can become a bit tricky to maneuver.

The story is that a villainous monster called Gnasty Gnork has cast a spell on the dragons and trapped them in crystals (Spyro was so small the spell went right over him), and has used his magic to turn the dragons’ prized gems into his soldiers. It’s up to Spyro to save his fellow dragons and reclaim the treasure.

I admire the simplicity of the plot, though the opening cinematic’s presentation of having a dragon being interviewed by a news crew (with visible boom mic) before the spell hits seems a bit too jokey, and doesn’t mesh with the rest of the game.

The goal of each stage is to collect every gem (found scattered throughout a stage or by defeating enemies), freeing dragons from their crystalized state (Spyro simply has to touch them, and they then become save points), and finding the more secretive dragon eggs, which have been stolen by thieves. You don’t always have to empty a level of all its collectibles and dragons in order to progress, but completionists will have a hefty task with tracking everything down.

In a fun twist, progressing to the next world is not simply about defeating a boss, but Spyro can move on via hot air balloon depending on how many gems he’s acquired or how many dragons he’s saved.

Spyro the DragonSpyro is joined on his adventure by Sparx the dragonfly, who not only grabs nearby gems, but also serves as Spyro’s health meter. Sparx can take three hits before Spyro is left by his vulnerable self. In another fun twist, replenishing health is accomplished by having Sparx eat butterflies.

The game may look dated, but it’s colorful enough to look at. The music isn’t entirely memorable, but it’s far from bad. The voice acting is fun, but Spyro’s dialogue can be a bit one note if you’re used to more varied gaming scripts.

If there’s any real drawback to Spyro the Dragon it’s simply that, today, it feels like the rough concept that would be polished with Insomniac’s follow-ups. The core gameplay is fun enough, but it doesn’t exactly boast a whole lot of variety, and at times collecting everything feels a bit monotonous. It feels like the very base of Insomniac’s concept, with the sequels adding the depth.

Spyro the Dragon remains a solidly entertaining platformer in its own right, it’s just that in retrospect, it’s easy to see how the sequels improved on it in both variety and quality. Still, if you’re wanting to revisit some of the Playstation’s early gems, or want to introduce young audiences to some retro gaming, Spyro remains a good starting point.




Author: themancalledscott

Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining, the man called Scott is an ancient sorcerer from a long-forgotten realm. He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. Or, you know, he could just be some guy who loves video games, animations and cinema who just wanted to write about such things.

9 thoughts on “Spyro the Dragon Review”

  1. Good post! If you found the first game monotonous because of the collecting, I wonder why you enjoyed the sequels more? I like the first game because of its simplicity and found the second game too collector-centric. I’m probably going to do a podcast on spyro soon, so watch this space.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll be on the lookout (listenout?) for that podcast.

      Truth be told, my memories of Spyro aren’t quite as vivid as my memories of Crash Bandicoot, but I remember the sequels added more characters and such to the gameplay. Perhaps I should have waited to revisit them before making the comparison?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to say having gone back to the Spyro games recently it was really fascinating to see those late nineties expectations for games shaped the series. I’ve only played the first two at this point but I understand the third one has even MORE minigames, MORE collectibles and the ability to travel on a skateboard… I’m not all that anxious to play it because to me the second game already feels somewhat bloated.

        By the way, are these games available on PSN or in some kind of re-release? I was pretty shocked when trying to get hold of these games on the PS1 by how expensive they are – the second game typically sells for around £20 ($25-30 dollars or so?) and I don’t get why. Crash games sell for around a fiver each and I’d have thought Spyro would be similarly ubiquitous.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. They are indeed on PSN for 6USD. I don’t currently have a PSOne (I need to get another one) so PSN is, like Nintendo’s eShop, a bit of a lifesaver. As much as I’d like these games in their original forms, that can take a toll on the wallet, so I usually only reserve that for my favorite games that I must have in all available forms.

        When it comes to collectathons, none of them beat Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel. There’s actually a lot of fun to be had with the concept, but I agree it was a subgenre of platformer that quickly burned itself out due to the lengths they’d stretch the collecting (thanks a lot, DK64).

        Hopefully, revisiting the Spyro sequels will be a pleasure. I don’t mind mini-games so long as they’re fun and bring some variety.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review buddy! By far my least favourite in the series, Year of the Dragon takes the cake for me so I’m curious on your opinion on that bad boy! I grew up with Spyro as opposed to Mario 😛 I will agree that the first game severely lacked variety and felt like a monotonous collectathon, both Ripto’s Rage and Year of the Dragon added new characters and tons of new mini-games (especially the latter) to really help fluctuate its variety. Anyway looking forward to your future reviews of the series!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is literally quite hard for me to imagine someone growing up without Mario. 😛

      I’m looking forward to playing the Spyro sequels. Hopefully that will be really soon, but there are so many games on PSN that I want to revisit/discover, and my wallet can only take so much. But the Spyro titles are notably cheaper than a lot of other games I’m looking into getting, so I might get to them first.

      As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in love with the fact that you chose to write about Spyro! Just like the other guy said I grew up with my dad buying Spyro compared to Mario so this just brought me back! Thanks man, beautifully written once again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m surprised how much of a resurgence this game is making compared to its succesors, I frankly agree the games design is just empty and sort of boring when I look back at it. I guess there’s a reason why I only ever revisited Spyro 2 as a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

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