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You should have played… Spyro the Dragon Trilogy (PSN)

SpyroKevin Murphy goes back to the world where Skylanders came from.

It felt like people were asking for Spyro to return the European PlayStation Store for as long as I could remember. I would regularly read the PlayStation Blog, and whenever a PSone classic was added to the store, there would be comments like “Why have we been given [game name] when Spyro is still missing”, and “Bring Spyro back to PSN!”. At long last, Spyro made his way back to the PS3 (and also on PS Vita and PSP) in Europe via U.S. version import on December 12th, 2012. Not just one game though, three.

Spyro the Dragon has been a series running for fifteen years so far. During that time, the beloved purple dragon has went through many aesthetic changes in the hands of eleven different development teams.
Before Call of Duty publisher Activision’s “Skylanders” re-invigorated Spyro’s character for a new generation of children, the main series Spyro console games hadn’t received a GameRankings average above 72 since the original trilogy on the PSone.

Spyro 1This trilogy re-release is a saving grace. It keeps nostalgia-driven adults amused at playing a big part of their childhood, while also allowing new players who were either too young (or missed it the first time around on PSone) to see Spyro’s best adventures from before he became a part of Activision’s vastly successful toy and video game cross-over universe. I’m going to show you why you should play this game too.

Graphically, the game won’t impress anyone when played through an HDMI cable with up-scaling enabled, but the smoothing of the visuals prevents them form looking like ancient Dwarven technology (yes, I believe it exists). However, Spyro’s presentation is impressive through the sound design. The chime sound when picking up a gem in Spyro: Year of the Dragon is fulfilling. The soft background music of Spyro 2’s Summer Forest feels like a gentle stroll through a magic land, while the roaring sound during Magma Cove lets you know you’re surrounded by a volcano and angry Earthshapers.

Each piece of music is memorable and after a short period of time, can easily be associated with the type of environment it is used in.

Spyro wouldn’t win any awards for its story. Each game follows a similar plot, with an evil-doer taking over land that doesn’t belong to them, and Spyro travelling to defeat them. However, Year of the Dragon varies a little with the main plot featuring a mass theft of Dragon Eggs, and focuses more on character development than its predecessors. While the first game is bland on the character front, each character in the second and third games have their own personalities which have been heightened to make them vary and complement each other.

Spyro 2The Spyro the Dragon Trilogy is set in a semi-open 3D world, similar to genre-defining Super Mario 64. The world consists of hub levels (or “homeworlds”) which each contain a number of smaller levels. Spyro has the ability to charge or use fire breath to toast enemies, chests and obstacles. Some enemies are immune to one ability, encouraging the player to change tactics from charging to using the fire breath on a regular basis.

The main currency in Spyro’s world is gems, and they are used in Spyro 2 and 3 to open up new areas, and learn new abilities such as diving underwater and climbing. Level obstacles mainly make use of Spyro’s ability to glide through the air, with an ability to hover before landing added into the series from Spyro 2 onwards.

In the first Spyro game, each level follows the same general theme as the homeworld it belongs to. The other two games are more varied, with levels including a harbour, a fireworks factory, a desert, a beach, an area stricken by an ongoing erupting volcano, caverns and an underwater facility run by seahorses amongst others. Each level has an end-point, but the player is free to explore the level as they wish, with it being a sandbox.

Spyro 3In Spyro the Dragon, several dragons that have been turned to stone are spread throughout each level and must be rescued, though the game only requires a certain number to be rescued to progress. It may sound like a game of hide and seek, but the sheer amount of exploration makes finding a dragon feel like a mid-adventure surprise rather than the end of a search.

In Spyro 2, the dragons are replaced by talismans and orbs. Talismans are the mandatory collectible which are given at the end of each level. They are complemented by the collection of orbs that are either hidden, or can be obtained by completing side objectives that are initiated by talking to NPCs. The side objectives are assigned a difficulty rating out of five stars and can be really challenging (which can be seen as either a positive or negative) but they do break up the exploration and make the game longer. The NPCs are a nice addition, but a lot of them lack personality beyond giving out quests. My personal favourite is a quest which involves Spyro catching fish to lure George the Snow Leopard back to his owner in Crystal Glacier.

In Year of the Dragon, the collectibles follow that of its predecessors, collecting dragon eggs to progress through the game. One difference is that Year of the Dragon’s side objectives are located in sub-areas of each level. This can be taken as a negative as it breaks away from the main journey almost radically. Year of the Dragon also introduces several new playable characters, offering more variety with each character having their own talents.

Spyro 4All three games in the series also feature levels where Spyro has the ability of full flight, and featurestime trial-style objectives. These are particularly challenging, and offer something extra to players that want to make the most out of their game.

While Spyro’s graphical look isn’t on par with the high-definition era and the story of the first two games aren’t particularly noteworthy, Spyro’s timeless gameplay is still seen in many games today and its essence has indeed lived on in Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank series. Dedicated fans have cried out for a return to his roots for over ten years. This may not be the desired sequel, but it’s definitely going to give Spyro’s early adventures another opportunity to shine. At £7.99, this trilogy is a must-own for PlayStation users.

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