Review by KillAllPopStars

Reviewed: 07/03/07

Spectacular!!! Don't Let the "Cute" Apearence Fool You. You MUST Play This Game!

For those of you who don’t already know, Insomnia Games, the creators of the acclaimed Ratchet and Clank series, had their first hit with Spyro the Dragon, way back in the early days of the original Playstation. Although subsequent games in the series became increasingly more simple and watered down, so to speak, the very first Spyro title is a pure 3-D platforming masterpiece. Aside from some of the strongest gameplay on the system, and definitely the strongest in the genre, the game also featured stunning visuals that pretty much set the standard for years to come, a beautiful and highly immerseive world, and it introduced us to some of the most memorable characters in recent gaming history.

The plot is simple enough: Gnasty Gnork and his legions of evil baddies have invaded the dragon world for its entire wealth in gems. To get at them, he imprisoned all of the dragons in all five of the Dragon Realms in stone . . . All except for one that is. He forgot about Spyro, the smallest and youngest of the dragons. So, now, it is up to Spyro, along with his dragonfly friend Sparx, to free the dragons from Gnasty’s evil spell, retrieve all of the stolen gems that Gnasty has conveniently just left lying around everywhere, and finally hunt down and defeat the big kahuna himself. Beyond the initial set up, there is no plot development, but none is necessary either. Spyro the Dragon is a game based on pure gameplay. The storyline is just an excuse to place you in the world of the Dragon Realms and facilitate the action that takes place there, both of which it does beautifully.

The game progresses through five worlds that represent the five tribes of dragons, Artisans, Peace Keepers, Magic Crafters, Beast Makers, and a final world full of garbage and military refuse inhabited by Gnasty himself. Each world is composed of a home world, several platform based stages, and one flying stage. Each world and stage is absolutely beautiful and highly detailed. The level of immersion this allows you into these fantasy-scapes is nothing short of stunning. On top of that, Spyro the Dragon boasts a simple jump/glide/attack platforming formula that keeps the gameplay very simple. This allows for a larger degree of freedom, which ups the fun factor quite a bit. The game is never very difficult, bet never too easy not to be fun. The bosses at the end of each level are each unique and quite original.

As you explore the various worlds of the dragon realms, you have two basic attacks; charge and flame breath. However this never becomes boring or restricting because you can find various powerups such as fairy breath and “super-charge ramps” to enhance your abilities. For the most part though, the gameplay is very simple and fast paced. There are no puzzles in the traditional sense. However, much of the game’s focus is on finding all of the missing gems scattered throughout the world, and some of them are hidden quite well and require a fair amount of clever experimentation to find.

The health system is also very unique. Sparx, Spyro’s dragonfly buddy, is essentially your health meter. Spyro dies with one hit, but if Sparx is following him, he will act as a shield, taking on damage himself. At full health, sparx can take on three hits before he goes away, but he can build back up his hit capacity by eating butterflies produced by innocent small animals, such as sheep, rabbits, and lizards, that Spyro destroys. This may sound complicated and quite absurd, but it is actually very easy to figure out and quite funny to see.

Visually, Spyro the Dragon stands miles above most other early Playstation titles. Both the enemies and Spyro and Sparks, as well as the worlds that they inhabit, are very bright and vibrant. There is some polygon separation, but far, far less than any other games of the era and definitely not enough to detract from the beauty and detail of the world that the designers created for Spyro and the dragons to inhabit. Most impressive of all is the fact that even when the game is moving at its very fastest, there is virtually no discernabley visible slow down or frame pausing. There is a definite “Cute” factor to the game. However, it is never overdone, and considering the fantasy setting, it is not at all inappropriate.

The sound is far superior to most games on the original Playstation. The sound effects are realistic sounding, and each enemy type has its own unique grunt when spyro hits or flames it. The baddies also taunt spyro, which, at times, can be quite hilarious. The music is very obviously midi-based, but it is fun, quirky, and fits the atmosphere of the game quite well. One nice feature of the music is that it lends Spyro the Dragon a trademark sound. You could hear one of the songs played anywhere and know exactly what game it came from.

To top off the highly immerseive gameplay and detailed worlds there is a bonus world you can play through if you find everything in the game prior to defeating Gnasty. This final world is not very big, but it is one of the most fun in the game. So, it is an ample reward for your diligence.

The bottom line is that Spyro the Dragon is a spectacular, well presented game with a remarkably high replay value, that should provide hours of fun and enjoyment for platform fans of all ages. It is a masterpiece of pure gameplay and a must-own addition to any gamer’s collection.

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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