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Spyro the Dragon
Review By: Jesse Mason
Developer:   Insomniac Games
Publisher:   SCEA
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Platform
ESRB:   Everyone

Although being in 3D certainly helped Super Mario 64 differentiate itself from its predecessors, the real reason it's not in the same league has little to do with the Z axis. The real reason was that instead of straight forward, linear levels (as in the 2D games), Miyamoto chose to let players explore the huge worlds with missions to accomplish. If he had not done this, Super Mario 64 would've been a 3D version of Super Mario Bros. Crash Bandicoot made the mistake of leaving out missions and suffered as a consequence. After Crash came Croc, Gex, and a few others. They stumbled because they were trying to copy Mario. Banjo-Kazooie is the only game to live up to Mario, mainly because it managed to find a spin on the mission style. Where Mario told you what your missions were at the beginning and limiting you (sort of) to that particular mission, Banjo-Kazooie simply put players in the world to learn the missions on their own. It worked and is a great "4 star" game because of it.

Spyro's problem isn't that it copies Mario or Banjo-Kazooie nor is it a 3D version of Mario Bros. Rather Spyro just puts you in the worlds and asks you to find stuff. Once you find 1200 gems or 10 dragons, you may go on. It is a video game version of hide and seek. It becomes repetitive and boring soon (even if they change the goal after each world). Heck, Insomniac's debut was a first person shooter, and Spyro sort of feels like a first person shooter. First Person Shooters have you finding keys to move on; Spyro has you finding various things to move on.

Regardless, Spyro is chock full of personality and pizzazz and almost saves the game. Spyro makes for a great character, and the voice overs of him and the other dragons are great. Each dragon you free from the stone body casts they wear has a distinct personality. Spyro himself is a small kid who thinks he's smarter than a grownup and in some ways he is, but he's too ambitious and isn't really smarter. But he seems sort of wasted in a platformer, as almost all mascots are. Do we really need another mascot 3D Platformer?

The worlds are quite huge built out of six small stages that are interlocked from one stage. There are six worlds in all. But, while very adequate, there's nothing that resemble landmarks and such (unlike Banjo's landscape filled worlds). And there's nothing that really stands out in them. When you reach the edge of the stage, you'll get shocked instead of being allowed to go on (it's even more ridiculous than the edges of Blast Corps' stages). Oh well. The graphics are nice and the score is pretty good.

Spyro is Sony's fifth attempt at a mascot (after Robbit, Crash, Parappa and Tomba), and none seem fit for the job. May I suggest that instead of trying hard to create a Mario and Sonic type cartoon character you find some other guy in a more edgier game (my vote: the Resident Evil zombies although those aren't Sony's). After all, the Playstation user base isn't exactly an avid saturday morning cartoon watching audience.

Overall: 6.6
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