Spyro the Dragon
Sony Computer Entertainment America
These days, when you mention dragons, people automatically think of Toothless and his fanged friends from the How To Train Your Dragon series. In the days of old (1998), before Toothless won us over, there was only one dragon on everyone’s mind, Spyro. I was introduced to Spyro the Dragon when I was a wee lass back in high school, when the only console to play on was the Playstation.
Spyro the Dragon is a single player platformer that spins the tale of a young dragon named Spyro, who, along with his dragonfly pal Sparx, must rescue all of the dragons within the Dragon Kingdom from their crystal prisons.
How did the dragons become imprisoned you ask? Funny story.
The dragons are holding a press conference at the beginning of the game, and one dragon is asked to comment on Gnasty Gnorc, a Gnorc occupying his own realm outside of the Dragon Kingdom. Feeling confident, the dragon replies that Gnasty is no threat to the kingdom, because he is lacks any real magical skill, oh, and he’s ugly.
Fortunately, Spyro was able to to dodge the attack thanks to his small size. In a flash, Spyro sets off to save his kin and fight Gnasty.
Looking back at the game, Spyro is pretty awful by today’s graphic design standards. I mean seriously, what is going on with those dragon wings? But back in 1998, Spyro was considered a gem. A compelling storyline, a relatable protagonist, enjoyable game mechanics; Spyro was genuinely fun to play, and that was all that mattered. This was a particularly incredible feat to accomplish since Spyro is unable to use his hands in any way. Your only means of attack were to roast baddies with your fire breath, or ram them with your horns. When you are a dragon however, hands are the last thing on your mind.
I remember having the time of my life setting bad guys on fire and turning cute and cuddly little animals into butterflies for Sparx to eat whenever he lost his golden yellow color. You see, rather having a health bar hiding in a corner somewhere, players were given loyal guardian, Sparx. Whenever Spyro took a hit, Sparx took the damage and changed colors. Too many hits and Sparx would disappear all together. Transforming small creatures into butterflies created food for Sparx, and restored much needed health. Unfortunately, those cute little animals had to be sacrificed for the greater good.
Perhaps my favorite thing to do in the game was to glide from place to place. There are even timed courses set aside within the game so that you can sharpen your gliding skills. I love flying. I’d fly every weekend if I had the time and money. Being up in the air, endless sky above, the land below, there’s nothing quite like it. The ability to dive bomb the enemy is quite appealing as well.
Being a dragon within the Dragon Kingdom was freeing. All the rules and regulations of our world disappeared in a puff of smoke. Alas, Spyro the Dragon has been lost to obscurity in the new millennium. Sure, he’s around in Skylanders, but it just isn’t the same. The Spyro I knew was a hero on a quest. Although he was young and small, he was brave and fought with heart. Skylanders has turned Spyro into nothing more than a silent soldier who has to follow orders from a floating head.
Here’s to the good old days of the Dragon Kingdom. May they always bring a smile to gamers.