Classic Corner – Spyro: Year of the Dragon

Classic corner will be a recurring segment where I’ll either re-experience or inaugurally play a classic title and give my thoughts and impressions. Does the game still hold up after all these years? Does the game rightfully deserve its critical acclaim or animosity? Read more to find out!

As I previously mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I never grew up playing the iconic Nintendo titles that have shaped many gamers for decades. My equivalent to the Nintendo mascots were Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the dragon, they served as my Mario and Zelda and when I wasn’t glued to my Gameboy Color playing Pokemon Silver, it was pretty safe to assume that I was playing either Crash or Spyro. The original Playstation was my very first home console, so it holds a special place in my heart. The one game that I truly adored growing up was none other than Spyro: Year of the Dragon. I realized that I hadn’t played a single Spyro game in over ten years. Would the game still hold up after all of these years, or were my nostalgic tinted goggles impairing my memory of the game? Rather than feigning ignorance and convincing myself the game was still amazing, I decided to re-experience it for myself. Long story short, Spyro:  Year of the Dragon is every bit as amazing as it was back in 2000.

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Simple nostalgia can go a long way… One of my favourite games of all time

 

Right off the bat, the characters are noticeably charming and pleasantly memorable. Spyro himself is one step shy of being a silent protagonist but luckily cutscenes allow him to shine in the dialogue department. The gameplay can be narrowed down to three main components: platforming, combat, and collecting. The platforming, for the most part, is well done. It’s exactly what’s to be expected out of a 3D platformer and considering it was released during the introduction of said genre, it does very well to hold its own. The controls are a little to floaty for my liking, but they’re still rather responsive and get you from point A to point B satisfyingly. Platforming challenges will unlock dragon eggs, which act as the primary collectable in Year of the Dragon. These dragon eggs are fairly practical as they serve a crucial purpose to the main storyline, further incentivizing players to collect them, and each hatched dragon is relatively unique and has a collective personality of its own. Eggs can be obtained through the aforementioned platforming challenges, and also through a vast number of mini-games that range anywhere from the simple yet bizarre cat ice hockey, to the top down retro-inspired 2D shooter as Sparks the Dragonfly. Egg collecting is a rewarding experience for any completionist and serves an addictive nature of its own. Combat is slightly less impressive as the Spyro series was never an action platformer, clearly never emphasizing its combat. Spyro can primarily charge at enemies and simply blow a panning blast of fire. However, without a much needed lock-on system, combat feels rather clunky and fairly dated. I would miss my target nearly half of the time, either ramming into a wall or falling off a cliff, ultimately killing the poor little dragon. However, the top down shooting in Sparks’ segments are slightly more varied and engaging, utilizing certain power ups to boost your arsenal immensely. Multiple player characters would also make its awaited debut in Spyro: Year of the Dragon, which would greatly improve the pace of the 8-10 hour experience. As I mentioned earlier, each character is extremely charming and witty and are a perfect inclusion to the existing cast of characters. For instance, Sheila the kangaroo is a well mannered marsupial with a killer Aussie accent while Agent 9 is a twitchy, quickly tempered monkey dawning a slick space outfit and a blasting raygun.  Each character is unique in their own clever way and play differently enough to warrant their stay in the Spyro universe.

Oh what I would give to have one more Insomniac developed Spyro game...
Oh what I would give to have one more Insomniac developed Spyro game…

I absolutely loved Spyro as a child and growing up, it was my favourite 3D platformer of all time, however that title was later given to the masterful Super Mario Galaxy 2, but that doesn’t mean I love Year of the Dragon any less. It is to this day still one of my favourite games of all time and replaying this little gem reminded me of just that and rekindled my love for the series. Year of the Dragon was Insomniac’s final entry in the series, and not only is it the best Spyro game, it’s arguably the best game Insomniac has ever made. It’s a crying shame that Sony and Insomniac sold the rights for Spyro to Activision as he was synonymous with the Playstation brand and could’ve been Sony’s very own Mario. But for now, we’ll just have to bask in his past glory, cherish the blissful memories and accept the painful fact that he may never get the rightful treatment that he deserves.

 

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