Top 9 Reasons why we hate Spyro the Dragon
Whatever franchise we start our video game career in, chances are we'll defend it with everything we've got. It puts apart the fanboys from the haters and the neutral gamers. It also puts aside the gamers from the players. And today I'm about to share my personal experiences with the Spyro the Dragon series. As a child of three years, I was playing three different franchises, later to be exploited by their creators (OK, just one of them would be). These were the Super Mario games, on the SNES, the Crash Bandicoot series and Spyro the Dragon, each of which I loved equally. But where Spyro the Dragon developed, the other two games kinda lagged behind. There were some great features in each, but they didn't leave that much of an effect on me. But the only effect that truly blew my mind, was the exploitation of Spyro the Dragon.
Call me a fanboy or an obsessive, but I cannot stand change to my favourite franchise. I'm thankful that it hasn't taken the Sonic the Hedgehog route, but there are many changes and additions which aren't necessary. Before, Spyro the Dragon was a loveable character who did everything in his power to keep players happy. I can understand there'll be controversy about characters popping up everywhere like Shiela the Kangaroo and Bianca, but I think we can all agree, Skylanders is a pure biscuit-take. And perhaps there's moments where we think, "Skateboard?! WTF?!" And I can agree. But ever since Sierra and Activision took over, don't we all think that there's something foul in the air? We need only look at Crash Bandicoot and see a correlation in God-awfulness.
I'm not going to rage, or I'll at least try to. But I'm going to remain disappointed by what the franchise has become. Feel free to agree and disagree on all the points, and we can constructively discuss them on the comments board below. This is my top 9 reasons why we hate Spyro the Dragon.
Reason 9: Spyro himself
Spyro is an iconic character that barely needs any changes. He's a purple dragon with red and gold wings, uses flame breath and charge abilities. How hard is it to stick to that? What developer in their right mind decided, "You know, dragons shouldn't use flame breath and charge with their horns"? OK, so ice, electric and bubble breath were interesting ideas but couldn't this stick to some kind of comic book series or novel? This isn't something that should be implemented in a licensed game.
And changing the look of him was a bad idea too. The developers couldn't tell how childish or intimidating they wanted him to look. In cronological order of the games, this is how he looks:
- Spyro the Dragon: Young
- Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer: Young-Adult
- Spyro: Year of the Dragon: Young
- Spyro on GBA: Young
- Spyro on DS: Adult
- Spyro: A Hero's Tail: Just out of the uterus
- Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly: Young
- TLoS Trilogy: Geeky Teenager
- Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure: Middle-aged chain smoking alcoholic.
From the first three games by Insomniac, Spyro's scales were rough and had sharp textures. Since developers like Vicarious visions and publisher Sierra took over, they've become smoother, as well as NPC textures and environments. Maybe it's because we're on different generation consoles? Who knows. But either way, a lot of us prefer the old Spyro.
Reason 8: The protagonist slowly being pushed out of the "Main Character" seat
Insomniac stated during an interview for Spyro: Year of the Dragon's release, that instead of giving Spyro himself new abilities, they introduced new characters to do that for him. Later this was abandoned when Universal developed and produced Enter the Dragonfly, and turned him into a Swiss Army Knife. However, critics and players alike seemed to give Insomniac praise for introducing this, as it gave the game a lot more variation and could've made the previous games a tad better. Characters such as Bentley the Yeti, Shiella the Kangaroo, Sgt. Byrd and Agent Nine really gave the game more flavour and personality. And with this, Spyro was given more activities such as skateboarding, UFO-control and more.
But the first change to the protagonist in a Spyro game was the Legend of Spyro trilogy. It was here where Spyro would have to fight with nemesis Cynder in order to tackle The Destroyer in the third game. Because Spyro's abilities varied little to Cynders, as well as his combos, there were few reasons to play as him, or even remember him. The final push to get Spyro out of the picture was to make Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. This is my biggest pet peeve - his name is a subtitle, and they claim it's his first adventure. Much like Sonic the Hedgehog, there's too many characters being introduced suddenly, with little to no story or personality. It's like as if you're looking for lore on Gears of War's "Grinders" - what does it matter, they just say "Grind!". That's the same case here with Skylanders, and it's only going to get worse.
Reason 7: The plots are redundant
In Spyro the Dragon and Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer, players would have to conquer the threats of Gnasty Gnorc and Ripto. In Spyro the Dragon, players would be facing the Gnorcs and wouldn't have additional quests in levels besides freeing the dragons (standard procedure). This was acceptable at the time, as the game wasn't focussed on RPG elements. It was just a platformer, not much more - did they need to add any more? Nope.avi. Then along came Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer. Here, Ripto was the main threat but he didn't really have much effect on the characters in each level. By helping out the people of each level, Spyro would get a relic which would open the doors to one of Ripto's most trusted henchmen. I have to admit, if Ripto had a lot more involvement in the plot, I think the story would be much more improved.
The biggest changes come around with the Game Boy Advance and A Hero's Tail plots. And here's where the faeces hit the turbine. In A Hero's Tail, the evil dragon which has no motives or any particular reason to be evil. What's his evil plan? Hell if I know. The bosses have no reason to work for him, as they don't really speak of vengeance against Spyro (not even Gnasty Gnorc, who looks pathetic) or riches beyond their wildest dreams. In Enter the Dragonfly there's practically no plot. Ripto's back, and this time there's Riptocs (Ripto's version of Gnorcs and Rhynocs, obviously) - do they pose a threat? Not really! These drastic changes bring nothing to the franchise and only make it look worse. Maybe I'm asking too much from a kid's game? But at least look like you're putting an effort into it.
And of course they did, with the Legend of Spyro trilogy. But this did nothing for the fans, as it completely went against any mystery behind Spyro's history - it completely destroyed their fan fiction, and believe me, there was a lot going round. The Legend of Spyro trilogy basically told the story of how Spyro was born, and how the Dragon Kingdom was uttely destroyed in a war. He was later raised by a family of dragonflies, and Spyro was supposedly the "brother" of Sparx until he was old enough to be told the truth. Spyro goes on this quest to find truth, and ends up disappointing everyone who gets into the first fight. Most of these plots aren't memorable and don't add up to anything.
Reason 6: Breath Attacks
Spyro's unlockable abilities were first found in Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer, where players could pay Moneybags to teach them. Abilities could include climbing, the horn dive and swimming underwater. These're basic, but they're used thoroughly throughout the game (with the exception of Horn Dive). Furthermore, players could also use temporary powerups such as the Supercharge, Superjump and Superflame. These were often used to pass a certain obstacle or defeat certain enemies. When done properly, they can make your game more profitable than anyone else.
But there was a problem, and it began with Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, where players would unlock the worst of breaths, not to mention they were badly animated. Bubble breath, for example, was only used to catch dragonflies, the main collectable (Dragons in the first game, Orbs in the second, Dragon eggs in the third). It had no offensive capabilities, didn't protect from any damage, didn't blast enemies back. It was rendered useless outside of catching dragonflies. Then there was frost breath - a decent idea if done well, but the problem is it's not. Ice breath only turns enemies into ice blocks, which you can use as stepping stones or....a laughingstock? Electricity breath didn't do as much damage as Flame breath, but could still power up metal objects and act as a source of fuel.
It gets worse though. In the final chapter of the Legend of Spyro trilogy, Cynder has access to things like Poison, Darkness, Acidic and all that kind of nonsense. Why are these needed? They all have the same effects! They're poorly animated, rarely used and only exist to stretch gameplay length when a puzzle occurs.
Reason 5: Unecessary Sequels
If the game does a Legend of Zelda, where there's few sequels and all filler, I'm fine to some extent. But when it inteferes with lore and history (how the Hell can Ripto return when he's been dipped in lava twice?!), it goes beyond a joke. Furthermore, it goes beyond what fans want. They'd rather the franchise was left alone with only three games, than crash and burn with thousands of them. I mean, you need only look at Super Mario, and you can see where that's headed. The hurtful truth is that Spyro has become a cash cow, or cash drake if you will. With negative feedback for Enter the Dragonfly and A Hero's Tail, why make more games? What makes you think that we want to see more? Oh, because it's Spyro, we should immediately love it? That's like handing me a leaky bag of poop and saying, "No complaining - there's a picture of Spyro inside".
An excellent example of this would be The Legend of Spyro trilogy, where Krome Studios had the balls to get celebrity voice acting to make it seem "hip". The poor dialogue makes Sparx's lines cringeworthy, and the fight mechanics? Last time I checked, I was put a Spyro game in the disc tray, not God of War. Gary Oldman, Elijah Roth, Corey Burton.... but no soundtrack from Steve Copeland?
Next up was Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, which I've heard follows the Spyro games rather well. However, with Activision now holding the rights (AKA, Spyro's purple gonads) I can safely say it's not going to be anywhere near as interesting as the official Spyro games.
Finally, I'll make my comments on the GBA games. These aren't terrible, and have some good ideas but aren't exciting. Like many platformers on GBA, it's side-scrolling and top-down. Mostly, it's top-down exploration with the standard flame and charge gameplay. But with a small screen, it's hard to see what's ahead. The environments are poorly made, and it's just filled with enemies and water to make it more "hazardous". The thought of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro teaming up seemed like a good idea, and many fan fictions have proved so, but having tag-team battles with Cortex and Ripto? It doesn't work that well when put to paper.
Reason 4: Little Replay Value
Even the first three games suffer from this, the second one not so much in my opinion. This is because a lot of the levels you really don't want to go through again. Maybe because there's too much being asked of you? Maybe they're too easy and you don't want to waste time finding all gems? Maybe it's because you hate the puzzles in order to progress? Whatever the case may be, Spyro the Dragon doesn't last very long when you've completed it. If you're an enthusiast like myself, you'd probably spend the next twelve years trying to find all gems, Orbs and such in a single game, just to go to Dragon Shores and unlock the permanent Superbreath.
So you paid £40 to get Spyro: Year of the Dragon, big woop, we all did. Be it on eBay or its release, we still paid a huge amount for this highly anticipated and nostalgia-enducing game. Do we get our £40 worth? Hopefully you did, but I'm sorry to say that if I'm going to pay £60 for Tombi, an extremely rare PS1 game, I'm not getting that much. Perhaps £20 at the lowest is how much I'd pay for this, £60 for factory packed. Now compare that to any other Spyro game, perhaps Skylanders (which is around £60, $60-80), and think: in terms of price, is Spyro 3 that bad?! Obviously not. But it makes you think.
The Legend of Spyro trilogy suffers from this the most though, as it has been criticised for its huge difficulty, awful control and bad combat. Even on co-op, nobody wants to play it again. Looking back at the few hours I spent on all of my Spyro GBA games, I'd go several playthroughs of those any day, than play TLoS fully once.
Reason 3: No Insomniac? No Stewart Copeland?
When I discovered how video games were made, and I heard Insomniac were the developers of the three official Spyro games, I wondered why the game changed so much. To my surprise, they handed the rights over to Universal, because Insomniac were working on Ratchet and Clank - not their best decision, but I shan't complain. But ever since they left things started going downhill. Even during the development of Enter the Dragonfly, the most original attempt at a Spyro game since the fans' custom games, Universal knew they were going wrong. It just wasn't the same. I'll admit that the game has a lot of things that I like such as design and some soundtracks, but the overall "Spyro Magic" isn't there. I don't get smitten over the game like I used to. I don't feel inspired. I can see what it is - an attempt at a Spyro game, which is an empty grey husk.
If I had to do a Top 9 things about Spyro the Dragon, one of the biggest things would have to be Soundtrack. And who better to do this than Stewart Copeland? Sure, Jerry Goldsmith and Danny Elfman could try, but Copeland brings the game to life. It's a little known fact that he'd play through each level and get a feel for it, before working on music. Basically, he didn't have someone say, "right Copeland, we're designing an ice level. Make it sound like Christmas". You might not think that soundtrack is important, but when you're listening to utter crap that was present in later games, you'll be grateful for what the 90s offered.
Believe it or not, without the original development team and Copeland's eye for detail, you haven't got a Spyro game. You've got Spyroploitation, and I hate that with a white-hot vengeance.
Reason 2: Constant Change
I'm really stuck for ideas now, so I'm going to have to make up for it in the next reason. This isn't such a big gripe for me, but it's the amount of change in the Spyro franchise. I honestly didn't mind how much Spyro the Dragon differed from its sequels, but the sudden open-world change in A Hero's Tail threw myself and thousands of others off. The GBA version itself changed a lot too, going from a top-down platformer to a side-scroller a lot of the time. As Spyro spread from console to console, people didn't know what to expect until they were on the same generation and on home-console. And who would've thought that Skylanders was an RPG? That's just a whole new level....
As far as I recall, Spyro was classed as an adventure game, a platformer in many cases. It wasn't that story driven, and the quests in each portal were interesting and fun. Nearly all the games were child friendly, especially Skylanders which I give credit to.... for now. But it becomes very dark and disturbing in TLoS, and brings out all kinds of dark energies and sinister moods. It's too complex to be rated a PG/7+, as even I - a 19 year old - can barely understand the plot of the trilogy. Dark forces? Black dragon? Cheetahs? Wha--?! GIVE ME BACK THE STEREOTYPES! I swear I prefer aristocratic yetis, crazy monkeys and forgetful old people!
Reason 1: 2012 isn't the end of the world
Which is a shame because I could do with an end to this pathetic charade known as Spyroploitation. In the words of Josef Stalin,
"As long as there are men, there shall be Spyro."
I'd hate to think what dragon-dung developers decide to come up with next, as we're bombarded with bad sequels, overcomplicated stories and excuses to make money from our purple friend. Much like Super Mario, Spyro will live for a few more years, but I believe it's better to die quickly, than to spend an eternity living, bound and gagged, tortured 'til the end of days. SEGA learnt when they stopped making consoles, but they constantly bring out Sonic game after Sonic game - it won't do them much good, and it won't make them want to remember the good old days. So I hope you're happy Vivendi, Sierra, Krome and Activision - butchering people's childhoods is one way to get your kicks, but when it's a born-'n'-bred gamer, you'd better hope I'm a masochist.
All in all, I will forever support Spyro the Dragon, and I hope Insomniac go as far as spending their last penny on getting the rights back. We've seen it all - trading card games, toys, even an animated movie which was cancelled. But despite all the exploitation, we must think of everything else. Look at all the romantic fan-fiction, all the action and suspense people have written about. Spyro's adventures will always live on, and they will be remembered and talked about for years to come. It's not the developers who have the rights - it's the fans that keep that heart beating. And so I urge you to take a minute's silence, and remember the days of yore, and be grateful that this franchise was successful enough, to have such a loyal playerbase.
Rest in Peace, li'l buddy - you're a great friend, even beyond this day.
Spyro the Dragon. Born: 1998, Died: 2000
Ladies and gentlemen, I thankyou for your time, and I wish you a pleasant day.