In the late 1990s, my family was bestowed with the greatest gift imaginable: a PlayStation. Sure, we had been enjoying an SNES and a Nintendo 64 up until that point, but the PlayStation was in a league of its own. With amazing graphics, great character motion, and a wide range of playable games, the PS was a treasure. The one game that made the console worth it, though, was Spyro the Dragon. My mom and I were big into the PS, so we played Spyro all the time. When I think back to the 90s, I remember three distinct things: Pokemon, Nickelodeon, and Spyro. It’s safe to say that this little game pretty much defined much of my childhood.
Spyro the Dragon is a platform-based game wherein you play a little purple dragon (Spyro), who is on a quest to stop the villain Gnasty Gnorc. Spyro lives in the realm of dragons, and one day Gnasty Gnorc traps all of the dragons in crystal—except one. With the help of his buddy Sparx, who is a dragonfly, Spyro makes it his mission to free the dragons and stop Gnasty Gnorc’s reign of terror. In order to accomplish this, Spyro has to travel to different lands and defeat Gnasty’s henchmen. But it’s not as serious as I’m making it sound; with an “E: for everyone” rating, the game is quite light-hearted and lots of fun. There are mini games that can be played, various challenges that range from flight simulation to solving puzzles, and lots of territory to explore. Plus, you collect gems. By far, it is one of the most entertaining games that’s ever been made.
And apparently, I’m not the only one. IGN gave Spyro a 9/10, ranking it in a prestigious—and very 90s—category which includes the classic Crash Bandicoot. The game has since had a great cult following: it had two sequels (Ripto’s Rage! and Year of the Dragon) in the original series that were developed by Insomniac games, five handheld only games, and five other console-based games. Spyro is also a playable hero in the extremely popular Skylander series. So the little purple dragon is not forgotten, and continues to be relevant in popular culture today.
The game also came around during a very exciting time in video game play. Before the PlayStation, you might have had a Super Nintendo, an Atari, or even a SEGA Genesis. You might have been the handheld sort and had a GameBoy of some generation and did your gaming on one of those devices. The thing about PlayStation was that it helped define 3D gaming. Before this point, we played as characters forever stuck in a horizontal realm, observing all action from one vantage point on the screen. Either that, or it was strictly first-person. Then came consoles like PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and then the Nintendo Game Cube, which put us closer to the action than many games had done before. Players got to experience new camera angles and character movement, and the settings became more peripheral than in a confined game like Doom or Super Mario World. The PlayStation allowed for this new experience, and boy was it grand.
As much as the series has changed over the years, especially after the games were developed by new developers for Sony, I still love Spyro. I stopped playing after the third original game because the game play wasn’t the same to me. To this day, though, I play all those games; they’re hard to resist. When I play Spyro, I’m taken back to a time when all I had to worry about in life were my Pokemon card collection and beating Gnasty Gnorc. I’m just glad that an icon from my childhood has not been filed into the category of gaming antiquity. I see in the new generation a love of Spyro, even though he is in a new form and a new game. To me, this signifies that my childhood never went away; like adults, it had to adapt to a changing world, and actually grow up.