Review by SneakTheSnake
"If it had a bit more gameplay depth, it would have been a winner for me."
This debut of what would become a popular franchise is certainly nothing to sneeze at for the series' first effort; from the presentation to the sound to the colorful graphics, Spyro the Dragon is a fine product. I enjoyed playing it for a great deal of time, but the game lacks any sort of variety in its objectives or true depth to its gameplay. I've heard that the core mechanics are expanded on in the sequels, but this one doesn't cut it for me.
Spyro is a plucky little dragon with enough spunk and attitude to legitimize his place in the 90's Mascot Hall of Fame. He's a lot less proactive than the others, so he's a bit more tolerable. At any rate, his friends have all been petrified by an evil mastermind, and the precious gems have been scattered across the vast landscape. Spyro must free his friends, collect as many gems as possible, find and recover stolen dragon eggs and take on Nasty Gnorc, the perpetrator behind these heinous crimes. How will Spyro accomplish these ambitious tasks? Well, by running all over the place.
By running, and running, and running some more. Spyro navigates the various worlds with his full-on charge, running full-tilt wherever he goes. It's the most effective mode of moving around the environment, but Spyro can also glide across long gaps. He has no shortage of defensive attacks against money-grubbing enemies, too, as Spyro can breathe fire on his foes. Players use the handful of hubworlds to access a bunch of smaller levels, and each level contains a few hundred gems to collect, as well as a couple of dragons which Spyro must liberate. Each world contains a dragon egg, the captor of which Spyro must chase down. In order to make it to the final world, players must collect a significant number of gems, as well as free a specific amount of dragon eggs and petrified dragons.
That's just about it. The description could have fit for an arcade game, and I don't mean to oversimplify, but, alas, a full-fledged 3D action platformer has been developed by these simple mechanics. There's nothing wrong with the more-or-less linear levels, or the objectives themselves. I just wish there was a bit more to do. Players fall into an easy, tedious pattern of smashing into every treasure chest, scorching every enemy and searching every nook and cranny for those gems, dragons and eggs. This quickly becomes monotonous, as one can imagine. Sure, there is the occasional race to help break up the action, and there are simple puzzles and the occasional boss encounter, but nearly every level plays the same. This is fine for younger children, and the game maintains a fairly low, easy-to-handle difficulty throughout, but I suppose I expected a little more considering the competition at the time.
The controls are all right, although I wish our little dragon friend could cling onto ledges. The game often has players coasting over large gaps; this can be cumbersome sometimes, as it can be difficult to navigate distances between gaps in light of Spyro's acceleration and gliding speed. Controlling Spyro when he's running full-tilt can also be problematic at times. I found myself at the unfortunate end of what I found to be cheap deaths, but these were few and far between; also, a game over has hardly any consequence in this game.
Spyro the Dragon is an acceptable game for the younger crowd, but even games like Crash Bandicoot 3 and Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time feature more varied level objectives. Oh well; the graphics are positively delightful, which help makes up for the shortcomings in the gameplay department. I like Spyro's character model, I enjoy the colorful environments and the great vistas one encounters throughout the lengthy adventure. There's quite a bit of level variety here as well, which I always welcome.
The voice cast does what they can to make the script come to life, and they more or less do so very well. Each dragon that Spyro will free has a unique "voice", even if a lot of them say the same stock lines once they're rescued. The music is also a positive point; I've heard many call the soundtrack to Spyro the Dragon to be one of the better ones on the Playstation, and I'm inclined to agree with them. The tunes are soothing, but the melodies therein are catchy enough.
I think that Spyro the Dragon is a bit too simple for its own good. It's a fine proof of what the Playstation was capable of at the time from a technical standpoint, and I imagine younger, detail-oriented players will be enthralled by the methodical gameplay, but I have the feeling the series picks up a lot of steam for its second installment.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 08/05/13
Game Release: Spyro the Dragon (US, 09/10/98)
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