With the highly anticipated release of Skylanders Giants scheduled for October 2012, the sequel to the innovative Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, I thought it would be a great time to review the Spyro franchise. As a fan of the original Spyro I have seen this franchise go through not one, but two reboots. From an original gamers perspective both reboots are disappointing, being my pick for one of the worst video game reboots.
The little purple dragon burst onto the Playstation scene in Fall of 1998 under the title Spyro the Dragon with two equally popular sequels Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage (1999) and Spyro: Year of the Dragon (2000). The three titles considered the original trilogy and arguably the best were all developed by Insomniac Games and published by Universal Interactive Studios and Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA). Not that any of the technical details mattered to me as a kid. I remember having so much fun running through the maps collecting treasure, chasing the egg thieves and rescuing the frozen dragons. The music was original and easy to listen to even after the countless hours I spent playing.
The first reboot came in Fall of 2006 with The Legend of Spyro: A New Begining. The Legend of Spyro reboot features an all star voice-over cast, but that is about all. The maps are mediocre, a new emphasis is placed on combat (unlike the older Spyro), and the script is pretty bad. There is a part where Spyro’s “parents” reveal to him that he isn’t a dragonfly, but a dragon… really? The other two titles released as sequels were not any better. Several critics called the design predictable and formula-like, using old tricks. The Legend of Spyro trilogy received lower scores than the original trilogy and some bad reviews from critics, deeming the reboot a failure.
The second reboot of the franchise came with the October 2011 release of Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure. Now there is some controversy between gamers as to whether or not Skylanders is even considered part of the Spyro franchise, but the title says it all -it has his name on it. Let me start off by saying that as an independent game Skylanders is a good game, but when you start to associate it with the Spyro that the older fans know, only then does it take a turn for the worst. Skylanders feels like a mash up of Pokemon and Spyro. A heavy emphasis is placed upon fighting, so the characters have this leveling up system and the ability to learn new moves. Just like Pokemon each Skylander identifies itself with an element. It feels nothing like the old Spyro and the publisher Activision has turned the franchise into a crazy purple money maker incorporating physical toys that are necessary to play the game. Do not let me totally bash Skylanders though, the concept is wickedly genus in terms of marketing and the toys are truly innovative. Unfortunately for Skylanders though the original Spyro wasn’t about fighting making this reboot feel a bit removed.
Capturing the essence of the game is essential in making a successful reboot like the Tomb Raider series or the Mortal Kombat games. With either reboot in the Spyro franchise they failed to do that, with Skylanders faintly building upon the already declining Legend of Spyro reboot. While I am not screaming “They killed Spyro” like some fans, I am saddened at the level of detachment from the spirit of Spyro.