Spyro the Dragon
Review By: Jesse Mason
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
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.