Flashback: Spyro: Year of the Dragon (PS1)

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What’s small, purple, and likes to headbutt villains in the ass?

Spyro the dragon of course!

It has been just over 15 years since Spyro first glided onto our screens with his exciting, magical platform game, which saw the fiery hero battling his way through magic lands to collect gems and rescue dragons. His franchise has expanded dramatically, with a trilogy of games starring the voice of Elijah Wood and his own figure in the Skylanders game. But before all this, there was a much simpler game, a game which I hope many of you still remember well. I’m talking, of course, about one of Spyro’s first games for PlayStation, Spyro: Year of the Dragon.

The game starts with Spyro and the other dragons sleeping, surrounded by dragon eggs. However, an evil cloaked rabbit named Bianca sneaks in with an army of Rhynocs and steals all the eggs, disappearing into another realm through a rabbit-hole. As the only one small enough to follow her, Spyro must travel to the other realm and find all 150 stolen eggs, which are scattered through the various levels and worlds. As always, he is accompanied spyro 3by his faithful dragonfly friend, Sparx, and a comedic cheetah called Hunter.

As well as playing as Spyro, the player is also able to control four new characters: Sheila the Kangaroo, Sergeant Byrd the penguin, Bentley the Yeti, and Agent 9 the space monkey, all who are unlocked at different stages in the game and have their own special levels and abilities. Sergeant Byrd was always my favourite, probably due to the fact he can fly. There are also some old characters, like Moneybags and those pesky egg thieves.

Apart from the story and the characters, Spyro: Year of the Dragon is like all the other Spyro games. You have four different lands (in this case each is named after a different time of the day) which contain portals to the various levels, the settings of which range from Greek sky worlds, to dinosaur infested volcano worlds. It’s this particular feature of the Spyro games that have always made them enjoyable for me: the fact that you can do what you want really. If you want to do all the levels quickly, you can. If you want to revisit the easy levels for practise, go ahead. You don’t even have to enter a level if you don’t want, and instead spend your time exploring the lands for hidden treasures and chasing sheep.

There are also the typical boss battles, in which you usually race around in circles avoiding attacks and waiting for the right moment to strike. There is a fantastic line in later Spyro games when Spyro confidently says to a villain ‘I’ve beaten much bigger guys than you. All I have to do is run round you in circles until I figure out your weakness.’ This definitely highlights how timeless this particular feature is to the games.

But what makes this game different from all the other Spyro games has to be the brilliantspyro 2 storyline. Bianca appears every now and then to make trouble for you, while Hunter spews hilarious, eye-rolling lines. And the dragon eggs themselves are much more exciting to find than the other collectibles. Every egg hatches when you find it, revealing a baby dragon with a name and a cute animation. It makes it all feel a bit more personal, you know? Not to mention the fact that this Spyro game is packed full of fun mini-games, one of which sees Spyro shredding it up on a skateboard. You certainly don’t see that in later games!

So if you reckon you still have an old PlayStation somewhere in your attic, I would definitely recommend that you dust it off, plug it in, and enjoy Spyro’s most exciting adventure. The graphics may be majorly outdated, but I think we can overlook that. They don’t make them like this anymore.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon is available as a digital download for the PlayStation 3.

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