Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dragon Daddies - Spyro the Dragon (PS4) - Part 1

Sir Daniel Fortesque has, at long last, defeated Zarok, resting in the eternal piece of his crypt. For us, that means it's time to move onto a new adventure.

What better excuse than this would there be to go back to an old, nostalgic game from the PlayStation, and my childhood. A game that I have replayed time and time again, and was remastered for newer consoles merely one year ago.

It's time to meet hot Dragon Daddies in the Dragon Realms, for we're playing Spyro the Dragon.

What blows my mind even now, playing the Reignited Trilogy version for the third time, is how much the core gameplay holds up in a modern context. One might expect that a video game that was originally release in 1998 would need something more than "just" a complete graphics overhaul. Which, to be clear, was clearly a major passion project with a ton of care put into it, judging from what I see.

And while that's not entirely true because right stick camera control functionality and "gem radar" were added to the game, in general the original skeleton is perfectly preserved in all of it's glory. The hallmarks of an PS1-era platformer, including tons of collectibles and short, yet discreet and sectioned off levels, are here in spades. Yet, it slots perfectly in a modern day context.

The list of verbs never grows beyond the ones we start with, at least in this first Spyro game. They are, and will always be:
  • Jump
  • Glide
  • Flame
  • Charge
In addition, all of these moves are easy to pull off, requiring no more than a few button presses. Ten minutes in the tutorial level should familiarize players well enough with the mechanics that they can take on any given level. Jump over small steps, glide across distances, charge small creature, and flame large ones or ones with metal armor.

However, this does not mean that there's no sense of escalating challenge. Rather than increase the number of moves we have access to, and the complexity of our control scheme, the challenge comes from increasing complexity in the level geometry. Where the Artisan world had a ton of easy to handle enemies and basic traversal challenges, Peace Keepers introduced more precarious an obtuse glides/terrain, which required more thinking to perform, if not technical ability.

Now that we're in the Magic Crafters world, we're introducing more complex enemies and enemy placements, along with terrain that shifts. In addition, the supercharge is challenging us to rethink our previously established paradigms by giving us a way to allow our charge to destroy previously indestructible obstacles.

Our core gameplay remains the same, but with the addition of new tweaks, remixing, and gimmicks to force us to put more thought in how we utilize those central verbs more effectively. You notice that in my play as well, where I'm starting to take more hits and make more mistakes the farther we proceed.

This won't hold as we move into the sequels quite as much, but we'll enjoy it while it lasts.

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