Spyro the Dragon
|Spyro the Dragon|
Original North American packaging artwork, featuring the titular protagonist Spyro.
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
Spyro the Dragon is a platform game developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The game was released for the PlayStation on September 10, 1998. The first game in the Spyro series, it stars the title character, a young purple dragon named Spyro, and his dragonfly friend, Sparx, who venture through the dragon kingdom to rescue the other dragons from a spell placed by Gnasty Gnorc. The game is an open-ended 3D platformer, with large, sprawling levels which require the use of Spyro's dragon abilities- most prominently, his mid-air gliding technique, which can be utilized to soar across large distances. Several collectible items, among which are multicolored gemstones, stolen dragon eggs, and encapsulated dragons, are located throughout stages, and must be collected in order to progress through the game.
Spyro the Dragon started development following the release of Disruptor, Insomniac's debut game which sold poorly but received critical appraisal, impressing Universal Interactive enough to encourage them to make a second game. Artist Craig Stitt suggested a game about a dragon, and work began on a new game. Taking inspiration from the film Dragonheart, the game started out as a more mature title with a dark and realistic approach, but the direction was shifted to have a more whimsical and light-hearted tone in order to appeal to a wider market of consumers. The game was one of the first on the PlayStation to utilize shifting levels of detail among rendered objects, thanks to a special panoramic engine developed by Alex Hastings, which allowed the game's open-ended nature to be fully realized. Stewart Copeland, the former drummer for The Police, composed the game's music, and the titular character was voice acted by Carlos Alazraqui, alongside additional voices done by Clancy Brown, Michael Gough and Jamie Alcroft.
Spyro the Dragon released by Sony Computer Entertainment in 1998 as part of an effort to aim for a younger age demographic and compete with the more popular kid's platform, the Nintendo 64. The game received positive reviews from critics, who praised its graphics and high replay value. Despite initially sluggish sales, it found larger success following the advent of the 1998 holiday season, going on to sell nearly 5 million copies worldwide. The game established Spyro as a well-known platforming mascot on the PlayStation alongside Crash Bandicoot, and two sequels, titled Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon, were later released for the PlayStation in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Although Insomniac gave up the development rights to the Spyro series following the third game, the success of the PlayStation titles lent itself to a continued series of games across various platforms. A remastered version of the game was released in 2018 as part of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Spyro the Dragon puts players in the control of the titular Spyro, as he travels across various worlds in order to rescue his fellow dragons, recover the stolen treasure, and defeat the evil Gnasty Gnorc. Spyro has two main attacks; breathing fire and charging with his horns, which must be strategically used for defeating enemies and smashing open crates. Charging can be used against many small enemies but not against larger enemies. Likewise, fire is capable of defeating larger enemies, but can be blocked by enemies that use metal armor. Spyro is also able to glide whilst jumping to reach new areas, with some levels allowing him to fly freely in the air. Spyro's health is represented by the color of his dragonfly partner, Sparx, who also helps him pick up nearby treasure. Taking damage will cause Sparx to lose his color and disappear, leaving Spyro vulnerable, but he can recover health by eating butterflies spawned from defeating small animals. Various treasure can be found in various areas, including inside treasure chests, some of which require certain techniques to break open, or earned by defeating enemies. Enemies that have already had their gems retrieved upon revisiting areas will instead release orbs that can be collected towards earning extra lives.
The game consists of several different worlds, which are divided into various realms accessed by finding their gates. In order to progress to the next hub world, the player needs to fulfill the goal required by the balloonist in each world, such as a certain amount of treasure, rescued dragons, or dragon eggs. Most worlds contain dragons encased in stone, which can be rescued by touching them. Some of these dragons offer hints, and their platforms can be used to save the game. Eggs are in the possession of speedy blue thieves that must be chased down and defeated in order to recover them. In order to beat the game, the player must travel to the final homeworld, enter Gnasty Gnorc's lair, and defeat him. Upon Gnasty's defeat the player is presented with a closing cinematic and credits, then the player may now go to all worlds and realms in order to obtain each gem, egg, and release each dragon. Upon achieving 100% completion, the player can access a bonus level: Gnasty's Loot.
During the intro, a news team sets up an interview with a couple of dragons within the Artisan World, one of five realms in the Dragon Kingdom (the other worlds of which include Peace Keepers, Magic Crafters, Beast Makers, and Dream Weavers) which have lived in harmony for years. When the reporter asks about Gnasty Gnorc, a gnorc (half gnome and half orc) who lives within his own, sixth realm, one of the dragons cockily describes him as an ugly, simple minded creature who poses no threat to the Dragon Kingdom. Unbeknownst to them, however, Gnasty is watching the live feed from his home world and, enraged by the insults, uses a magic spell to encase all dragons in crystal and sends out his hordes of gnorc soldiers to conquer the Dragon Kingdom. One dragon, Spyro, is able to avoid the attack due to his more short-bodied appearance in comparison to the much larger dragons. Aided by his dragonfly companion, Sparx, Spyro vows to rescue his dragon brethren and defeat Gnasty Gnorc once and for all.
He visits each of the dragon realms in sequence, freeing trapped dragons, collecting treasure, and rescuing dragon eggs from pesky thieves within each realms' portal worlds before facing the realms' bosses. He then makes his way to Gnasty's World where he fights his way through two precursor portals before confronting the Gnorc leader himself. After he defeats Gnasty, an ending clip shows him back in Artisan World discussing his victory with the news reporters.
After the credits, Spyro appears back in Gnasty's World where he frees one last dragon who points him to Gnasty's treasure portal which will only open once the player has completed 100% of the game; collecting every bit of treasure and rescuing all dragons and dragon eggs. Once Spyro has reached 100% and collected everything within the treasure portal, an alternate ending plays where Spyro is, again, interviewed by the news reporters just as another magic spell comes in and crystallizes the dragons. Spyro's last statement is, "Here we go again."
Spyro the Dragon was the second game developed by Insomniac Games, following the release of their first game, Disruptor, in December 1996. Although Disruptor was critically lauded, it was not successful financially; however, the game's praise was enough to impress Universal Interactive Studios and encourage the team to continue with their next endeavor. The idea of a game about a dragon was introduced by Insomniac artist Craig Stitt, who suggested the concept out of his own interest in the mythical creature. Initially, the game's tone was far darker and more realistic; according to Insomniac's COO, John Fiorito, who joined the company in 1997 during Spyro's development, inspiration was taken in part from the 1996 film DragonHeart, and the game was initially "realistic and kind of dark and gritty" before the game took a more whimsical direction. Mark Cerny, an executive with Universal Interactive Studios, advised that the team create a game with more mass market appeal, as the demographics of the PlayStation were decreasing and its selection of children's titles were greatly outnumbered by the Nintendo 64's. According to programmer Peter Hastings, the dragon character was originally going to be named "Pete", but the due to copyright concerns over the name bearing similarities with Disney's 1977 film, Pete's Dragon, the name was scrapped. After considering the name "Pyro," which was ultimately considered "too mature", they finally settled on "Spyro." During the development of the game, Spyro was originally going to be green, but the developers thought it was a bad idea because he would blend in with grass, so they eventually changed him to purple. During development of Spyro, Insomniac had a very close relationship with Crash Bandicoot creator and fellow PlayStation developer Naughty Dog, who had their office located directly across the hall from theirs. The two developers would frequently work together, playing early builds of each other's games and later going on to share game technology. As a result, a hidden demo of Crash Bandicoot: Warped was hidden in Spyro, and vice-versa.
Spyro the Dragon was considerably unique at the time compared to other 3D platform games; Spyro's ability to glide allows him to travel huge distances while in mid-air, meaning that the player could nearly fly across an entire level if they glided off of a high enough area. While this made designing levels more difficult for the team, it also meant that they could be made more open-ended and explorative in nature. In order to make Spyro's controls feel fluid, Matt Whiting, a NASA engineer who specialized in flight controls, was brought on to help with programming camera movement, as well Spyro's movement controls. Particular difficulty was found with the game's camera; initially, it was programmed to constantly follow Spyro and remain positioned directly behind him, but the resulting high-speed movements were found to make several playtesters feel nauseous, meaning that the level of movement had to be largely curbed so that playing the game felt comfortable. A particular example was with Spyro's basic jump, which would trigger the camera to quickly tilt up-and-down to follow him, compared by Whiting to the motion a rocking boat; this was ultimately tweaked so that the camera would stay steady as Spyro went upwards and back down. In an interview, Ted Price stated that they gave up the series after releasing Spyro: Year of the Dragon because his actions were limited, due to not being able to hold anything in his hands.
Spyro the Dragon makes use of a 3D panoramic engine, being simultaneously developed by Alex Hastings, that could display far-away objects by utilizing varying levels of detail, a method of rendering which was new and unexplored at the time. The developers believed that the engine would be fitting for the game, as it could allow for more expansive levels that could take advantage of the character's abilities, such as gliding. This dynamic system, used to compliment the large and sprawling environments, renders two different versions of a level- one version is rendered in high detail, while the other one is a simpler, textureless render. Objects close to the player's vicinity are drawn using the detailed render, whereas distant ones are drawn from the simple render. This system allowed objects to be displayed from far distances while adhering to the PlayStation's limited RAM capabilities, and was one of the first video games to make use of such a system. Spyro was coded with efficiency in mind, as 3D rendering technology was new at the time and the game had to fit the limited specifications of the PlayStation. The game was mostly programmed using Assembly code; around 80% of the game's code was written using this as its programming language. Certain other parts were programmed in C, due to its simplicity and speed.
The game's music was composed and produced by Stewart Copeland, formerly the drummer for the British band The Police. Copeland was given early builds of the game's levels, which he would play through in order to get a feel for them and then try to come up with a fitting composition. He was also given game cheats such as invincibility so that he could have an easier time clearing levels. Copeland would write around three songs every day, all of which he would further develop and polish the next day. According to Copeland in an interview, each song in the game was written in order to correspond to a specific level, but this correlation ultimately went unused. The music is primarily progressive rock-themed. Copeland has looked back positively on his work on Spyro, calling the game's music some of the best compositional work that he's done across the span of his career. The music for the level Jacques was included on Copeland's compilation album The Stewart Copeland Anthology, referred to as "Rain". Carlos Alazraqui provided the voice of Spyro in the game, and additional voices were done by Clancy Brown, Michael Gough, Jamie Alcroft and Michael Connor.
Spyro the Dragon was released in North America on September 10, 1998, and later on in Europe in October of the same year. According to Sony Computer Entertainment's American Marketing Vice President, Andrew House, at a press party in Las Vegas, the game, along with other upcoming 4th quarter PlayStation releases such as Crash Bandicoot: Warped, A Bug's Life, and Rugrats: Search for Reptar, was part of a general effort to appeal to a wider demographic of younger audiences and provide more games suited for younger players in order to compete with the Nintendo 64 (which, at the time, had a far larger library of kid's titles compared to the PlayStation's largely adult-centric demographic). An advertisement campaign was pushed to promote the game, featuring a character from the game, Toasty the Sheep, protesting against the title character's misdeeds against sheep. The campaign included TV commercials, featuring an actor in an animatronic costume of Toasty, and a promotional website, sheepagainstspyro.com. On August 16, 1999, SCEA announced that the game would be included as a part of their "Greatest Hits" lineup of budgeted releases alongside other games such as Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Gran Turismo, Cool Boarders 3, and Twisted Metal III, and alongside the announcement of a price drop for the PlayStation console to compete with the highly anticipated launch of the Sega Dreamcast.
The game was later digitally re-released to the PlayStation Store in North America and Europe, together with Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. A remaster of the game, alongside its two sequels, was included as a part of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy compilation for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in November 2018.
Spyro the Dragon received positive reviews from critics, holding a score of 85% at GameRankings, based on an aggregate of 18 reviews. Edge considered it the best 3D platform game for the PlayStation, but criticized Spyro's limited abilities and said that the game was not as varied as Super Mario 64. GameSpot proclaimed it as essentially the first 3D platform game on the PlayStation to provide a highly substantial experience, holding it highly above one of the more recent platformers on the system, Blasto. IGN, with similar comments, said that "the game utilizes the PlayStation's hardware to the max, and there's not an obvious polygon glitch to speak of", and saying that the only problem was the camera not following the character correctly.
According to Spyro's developers, sales were initially slow at the game's launch but quickly began picking up following the holiday season. In the week of November 29, 1998, it was the 3rd best-selling game in the UK, behind Tomb Raider and FIFA 99. At the 1999 Milia festival in Cannes, it took home a "Gold" prize for revenues above €20 million in the European Union during the previous year. Spyro the Dragon received a "Gold" award from the Verband der Unterhaltungssoftware Deutschland (VUD) by the end of August 1999, for sales of at least 100,000 units across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. By December 1999, the game had sold a million copies in North America. The PlayStation title went on to ultimately sell a total of 5 million units.
The popularity of Spyro the Dragon helped to push the character of Spyro as a popular platforming mascot for the PlayStation alongside Crash Bandicoot. It was the first game in what would go on to become an expansive video game series, spawning two more platforming sequels for the PlayStation – Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon – released in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Since the year 2000, the series has sold more than 3.2 million copies in the U.S. and over 4 million copies worldwide. Following Year of the Dragon, Insomniac chose to stop developing Spyro games, as they felt they had started to run out of ideas for the series; however, the series was continued across various different developers, and shifted to several other platforms besides PlayStation. The game's rendering system, new and unheard of at the time, has gone on to be used in several other 3D video games.
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