Spyro the Dragon review
Imagine a game where you can play as a dragon, and you got to burn down your enemies and charge into stuff with your horns, while collecting massive amounts of treasure and fighting bosses three times your size to rescue other dragons and the dragon kingdom itself. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? When Spyro the Dragon came out, not many games at the time offered what Spyro did. It was one of those rare games that to me, is nearly perfect in every way. Title screen is amazing, even the parts where there are just words on the screen is stunning. Why is that? Well, I'll be more than happy to show you.
Once an age ago, there were five dragon families living in five realms. There were the Artisans, the Peace Keepers, the Magic Crafters, the Beast Makers and the Dream Weavers. They lived in peace and harmony for many years. One day, however, Gnasty Gnorc (The "G" is silent), was banished to the Junkyard world for being a nuisance. Gnasty Gnorc didn't really like the dragon families that much. He hated their treasure the most. Whenever he looked into those shiny jewels, he would see his own ugly mug in it. So he wanted to sort that out. He toyed around with magic until he found out the spells he wanted to use: To turn all dragons into crystals, and to turn all jewels into his obedient slaves. How he was able to do this, I don't know. So he was tempted to use this spell, but didn't really use it until he saw the dragon families talk about him. They called him ugly and the next thing you know, all the dragons in the kingdom are turned into crystalised statues, all but one, Spyro. Since he was so small, the spell went over him and missed. Now it's up to Spyro to save the entire race of dragons.
After a short cut scene, you get to start playing, and instantly you are thrown into the lush green lands of the Artisan world. The graphics are amazing, even for a PS1. I've seen some games that don't do the graphics of the PS1 justice at all; being very pixelated and making it look very 32-bit at best. However, games like Spyro the Dragon and Crash Banicoot really show what the PSX can handle. The colours are bright and vibrant, the edges are smooth but sharp, things look like what they are supposed to look like and most importantly, it never lags once, not even when you are rescuing a dragon. The entire game is able to process these beautiful graphics without the system overloading and making the frame rate lower. It stays at the constant frames per second all the way through. This means that the game designers didn't focus too much on making over the top effects, and kept things simple, yet they were able to make something that was stunningly eye catching. I look at it even now and wish I was in that world. The animations are smooth, slender and amazing. I also love how the words are all golden and float around. It's so much better than regular black and white text and almost adds an effect of mystery to the world. This game was able to make text interesting, that’s how good this games graphics is.
The music is superb. Every piece of music to each level fits the area perfectly. It can be calm, exciting, eerie, but most importantly, it can be mystical. Since we don’t know much about the dragon kingdom itself very much or its history, each level holds a certain mystery to it. The graphics help give a feel for that, and the music enhances that feeling to the nth degree. That’s what I praise highly in a game, the ability to give more with less, leaving a lot to the imagination. This game did that beautifully. The best part is I don’t want to know the real history behind everything. I love the mystery that each world has, and you really can let your imagination run wild.
The controls are fun, if a little fiddly and hard at first. It takes some time to get used to before you get the hang of things, as landing on certain platforms might be tough and how you move might be a little stiff. But when you do get hold of the controls, the game becomes very enjoyable indeed. The game is fairly challenging, but isn’t all that hard if you think about it. You can collect one-ups which are pretty rare, and pearls that add up to a 1-up, but again, that takes a bit of time.You also have a dragonfly as a best friend, called Sparx. He can take three hits before he gets knocked out or something. When he takes that third hit, you can only take one hit before dying. So a dragonfly can handle three hits before getting knocked out, but a young dragon can only take one hit before dying...I know he's young still, but come on! You can burn sheep down to get butterflies (don't ask...), and Sparx can eat them to regain strength, AKA extra hits. It's a nice and forgiving system. I rarely got any gameovers, except maybe for the Beast Makers world, which I got several thanks to a certain level or two. Now, if you want to collect 100% of everything, then that makes the game more challenging. Not in the aspect of its “hard as nails” hard, but more of “Where didn’t I look?” hard. If you collect half of the treasure in one level, and then come back to it half way though the game, there’s no indication of where you have and haven’t looked. This means you’re probably going to look in areas you already have, and might cause some frustration. I tend to try and look for everything when I can in a level, because there aren’t the aspects of power-ups involved. This means from the very start of the game, it only takes skill and cunning wit to get to that ledge that has been puzzling you.
The level design is well crafted to allow both a main path that is enjoyable to the player, and a secret section rewarded to those who love to explore. There’s one level where nearly half the level is hidden away, and you can choose to either end the level there, or explore further to see what’s out there. Every level has something that’s out of view, and most of it is fairly easy to find. It would have to be, as the game requires you to collect a certain amount of gems, or free a required number of dragons, or find a certain number of eggs before you can go to the next world. As such, the designers made it so that you could miss out a fair bit of the game so you didn’t have to be perfect, and just enjoy the game as it was. However, there is a secret level if you collect 100% of everything out there, which means you’ll have to collect a fair lot if you skimp over the levels. There are also these flying levels, which gives you the power to fly without having to land. You have a certain amount of time to get all of the four sets of items out there, in which you’ll be rewarded gems for each item destroyed. The more you destroy, the more you get. Harder than it sounds, trust me.
I’ll have to be honest; the bosses are kind of lame. They are pretty easy and work on a sort of hit rule. When they get hit a certain amount of times, they die. When they get hit, however, they run away to another section of the level. It’s an interesting system that works, but is still lame. My only expectation is the boss from Beast Makers, which was a terrific boss. I suppose Gnasty Gnorc as well for being more challenging than all the rest, but most of the other bosses were just too easy by my standards. The level before the boss was harder.
Overall, I give this game a 9.7/10 It’s a must play for any PSX owner. It’s a fairly cheap game to buy, with a ton of replay value and a lasting life in your gaming systems. It’s got a lot to offer and is a ton of fun to play. The graphics are amazing for it’s time, matching the N64 graphics. In fact, I dare say this game has better graphics than the average N64 game. It also has its own sense of humour, which is another thing that makes a great game. Like in the Peace Keepers world, most of the enemies just run away from you on sight and go to their tents to hide. That's funny, but if you burn down their tents, you can see them pulling a moony on you. Just hilarious. If you like platformers, then just play this game as soon as you can, you won’t regret it.