Dragons. The word alone conjures any number of images: a magnificent wingspan passing overhead, towns cooked to a crisp by searing flames, knights in shining armor rushing into heated battle. These legendary beasts have captured the minds of cultures across the world for countless generations. To say the least, Spyro — tiny, purple, and packed to the brim with attitude — breaks the usual trend when it comes to these imaginary firebreathers.
First appearing on the PlayStation in 1998, Spyro will be reigniting his flame later this year in a remastered trilogy. But aside from looking and acting so drastically different from most of his scaled cousins, what makes Spyro and his world so unique? Is nostalgia the only desire burning within his fans or is there more to it? We examine what qualities helped this funny purple dragon become such a beloved character.
A Ridiculous Reptilian Ride
Even as kids, my sister and I could tell that Spyro was like no other game we’d played before. The ’90s were known for bright and colorful platformers, — Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64 being prominent examples — but none were quite as … weird as Spyro.
The thing is, these games embraced their inherent silliness, rather than trying to hide it under some pretense. That made for an unabashedly good time, whether you were lizard skating or fighting enemies that wore Walkmans into battle.
And in all three of the original PlayStation games, it seemed as though there was always something crazier around the corner. Whether new characters were introduced or the mechanics became even crazier, these games didn’t disappoint. The trilogy was powered by pure imagination — and now that imagination will be rendered in glorious HD.
Music That Takes Flight
The ’90s were also replete with excellent video game soundtracks, Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64 again being prominent examples. Spyro’s soundtrack stuck out from the pack in large part due to its composer — none other than Stewart Copeland, best known as the drummer for The Police.
Fully implementing his progressive rock sensibilities, Copeland crafted a rich, complex score that somehow still fit the lighthearted Spyro universe. Even though the developers didn’t match Copeland’s tracks with certain levels as he intended, the music always felt right.
Lucky for the nostalgic, Reignited will feature the option to switch back and forth between Copeland’s masterwork and the remastered version of the music. As an extra treat, Copeland has composed a brand new theme, which is sure to make the most of old themes and modern sound recording.
Never a Dull Moment
While none of the Spyro games were particularly challenging, what kept them fun was how much there was to do. Between the various platforming sections, a wide range of puzzles, and flight levels (which often were challenging), nearly every level felt like a breath of fresh air.
The base mechanics — charge, glide, breathe fire — never changed, but other alterations between the first game and the last in the trilogy made all the difference. Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! introduced climbing, for instance, which opened up a world of opportunity. Spyro: Year of the Dragon featured playable characters other than Spyro, each with their own unique set of abilities.
What liberties Reignited developer Toys For Bob will take — or is allowed to take — remains to be seen, but Spyro’s sense of variety is sure to stay the same. And hey, it’s been 20 years since the first game, so it will all feel fresh either way!
Nostalgia or Not …
Whether you’re a returning fan from way back when, met Spyro in Skylanders, or have never heard of Gnasty Gnorc, it seems like Toys for Bob is putting a lot of love and care into Reignited — so much so that they delayed its original release in order to ensure the best end product possible. With that in mind, I get the feeling that Spyro will soar into everyone’s heart once again, just as he did all those years ago.