Spyro was originally a mascot who honed his skills on the Playstation
platform. But the meteoric rise of the Playstation platform really
needed no mascots. In fact, entities like Spyro and Crash Bandicoot
were not nearly as integral to the Playstation's success as franchises
like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy and Grand Turismo would later
become. Upon its initial release though, Spyro was warmly received but
as its iconic lustre has been overshadowed, it has transitioned to make
another appearance across-town (so to speak) on the GBA platform.
The Playstation, as we all know, was never a powerhouse 3D performer.
During the course of its many years, developers have learnt to harness
the engine using customized techniques to bring about some modern
effects and performance. Likewise, the developers of the GBA edition of
Spyro have not opted to forfeit the z-axis and have actually included
some of it into the game itself by overlaying it on to two dimensions.
This is a mixed bag as height is always hard to guess in two dimensions
and in the end, the developers hope you can gauge by using the shadow of
the persona (something I learnt in recent PDA games). Spyro is
tri-partite in nature with a mix of graphical effects and vantage
points. The mode you will be spending most of your time in is a sort of
quest mode where Spyro must traverse through various colorful landscapes
in order to achieve his ultimate quest; to rescue some fairies that are
entrapped by the local nemesis, known as Rhynoc. An in-flight mode
places you behind the back of Spyro where he must dodge or destroy
enemies passing by. Finally, there are various mini games, which
actually do not possess the troublesome z-axis problems that plague the
Spyro's quest obviously is fairly clichéd but so is the actual level
design itself. Apart from the fact that the actual game tries to
incorporate a third dimension, the FedEx style tasks you are given are
very one-dimensional in nature. But Spyro rewards the careful explorer
with plentiful amounts of secrets and hidden treasures awaiting
lucky players. With the number of bonuses included,
tracking the bonuses down becomes a game unto itself and nearly as
time-consuming as your given task. Moreover, you can unlock mini-games
and assume Spyro's sidekick, Sparx.
Holistically, one of the greatest strengths of this title, aside from
its colorful artistry, is the audio. The sound effects are numerous and
sound like digital samples rather than MIDI generated tones. There is
also an ongoing ambient soundtrack that matches the mood and motif of
the game itself. Combined with the visuals, the total effect is
engrossing and I only wished the technical and artistic achievements
here were backed up by an equally engaging plot or script.
I must admit though, I never really played any of the Spyro franchise on
the Playstation. Perhaps strict abeyance to its spiritual ancestors has
kept the GBA version from breaking new ground in the story category.
The premise is indeed witty: Spyro is a fire-breathing dragon and the
ice-entrapped fairies are the perfect damsels in distress. Saving more
than a few dozens of them in run-around subquests is another matter
altogether. Spyro has definitely not lost its audio-visual lustre since
its first inception, but it has some ways to go to dislodge Mario on
the handheld platform.