To celebrate the UK cinema release of the highly anticipated How To Train Your Dragon 2, we’re looking back at one of the most memorable and recognisable dragons in the history of gaming.
Whilst his games seem to have drifted into lowly spin-off territory now (just check out Skylanders, and cringe if you must) but Spyro the Dragon has starred in a grand total of thirteen games, spanning a range of consoles since 1998 – which I think you’ll agree is impressive for any adolescent reptile.
The game in question followed the quest of the titular purple dragon as he travels myriad worlds through strange portals in an attempt to rescue several Elder Dragons who have been taken captive by a fearsome creature known as Gnasty. Throughout the game Spryo’s health meter is represented by Sparx, whose colour fluctuates dependent on Spyro’s condition, which at the time was quite an innovative mechanic and helped to enhance the player’s immersion within the game world, despite the disadvantages of its time. It would become a staple of the series. Spyro the Dragon was ultimately praised for its graphics and gameplay as well as its light satirical commentary, which would also be carried over into the Ratchet & Clank series, and spawned a sequel just the next year. Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage (or Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer depending on whether you live in North America or Europe) was released in 1999 to a similar critical reception, and featured slightly improved visuals with updated gameplay as well as a whole stock of new abilities and attacks for the player to utilise. The game followed on from the events of the previous story with Spyro and Sparx now seeking a vacation away from the recently saved Dragon Realm. However, after heading through a portal meant for the tropical Dragon Shores, Spyro and Sparx are intercepted and summoned instead to the far world of Avalar by its frantic residents, who require a dragon to defeat an evil interloper known as Ripto (who is trying to take over their lands). Whilst doing chores for the various people of Avalar (such as for Moneybags) in order to unlock abilities, Spyro’s main quest is to find and defeat Ripto and his various minions and – ultimately – find a way to Dragon Shores at last and take a well-earned vacation.
I have a particular fondness for this entry in the series since it was probably the first game I played on my own initiative as a young gamer, and finished all by myself! By this point, Spyro was quickly becoming a household name starting to equal the Crash Bandicoot character as a secondary mascot for Sony.
Their departure also saw the exit of quality from the Spyro games, which continued in 2002 on both the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube with a fourth entry entitled Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly. The game was developed by Check Six Games and Equinox (both of whom never made games again in the fallout) with a rushed winter deadline set by Universal Interactive. The game was critically panned upon release. Described as a ‘replica game’ by critics and ‘an absolute travesty’ by Insomniac Games who had monitored the release, Enter the Dragonfly received criticism for its terrible frame-rate issues, various bugs, load issues and horrible controls. The game deviated away from its original vision due to the strict deadline, and the result saw the series enter a period of mediocrity which it never truly escaped from.
Join us for Part Two - Next week!
Come let us know on Facebook, via Twitter or even in the comments below. We'd love to know what you think! You can also check out our review for How To Train Your Dragon 2 here, which is out in cinemas now!