A flash of purple across the sky. Frustrating gliding challenges. A cute dragonfly buddy who changes colors with the seasons. Dragon statues draped in crystal. These are just a few of the trademarks of the Spyro The Dragon series, which Insomniac first struck gold with back in 1998 and turned into a mascot game that could compete with its PlayStation cousin Crash Bandicoot and the rest of the world.
A fantasy world where a young dragon is tasked with freeing his ancestors by ramming into enemies very hard endeared itself to millions of kids enough for Activision to want to give the first three games, namely Spyro The Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, and Spyro 3: Year Of The Dragon, an HD makeover and introduce a whole new generation of kids to the platforming goodness. In honor of this blast from the past, I decided to do some digging into the purple dragon's past to see what hiccups, easter eggs, and fun facts I could find. Join me as we glide to success with these Spyro facts.
As with most video game characters, Spyro went through quite a few names before they landed on his more iconic moniker. Insomniac originally planned on naming him Pete and even coloring him green instead of purple, but they were afraid of possibly copying Disney's Pete's Dragon and that his green skin would blend in too much with the game's grass. He was almost named Pyro, but since Sony was aiming for a more kid-friendly franchise (more on that later), it was changed to Spyro instead.
Sony and Insomniac were hellbent on creating a unique flying experience for Spyro. In order to get that, they brought in the best aerodynamic engineer they could find. NASA engineer Matt Whiting worked on the game to make sure both the camera movement and flight controls were up to snuff and wouldn't cause nausea. You can thank Whiting for calibrating the camera to stay behind Spyro when he jumps instead of "rocking like a boat."
The first four games in the Spyro franchise enjoyed financial and critical success, but it all reached a new level when Spyro was absorbed into the Skylanders franchise. The figurine-based video game was everywhere and moved an insane amount of figures, games, and merchandise that I'm sure convinced Spyro: Reignited Trilogy publisher Activision to sign Skylanders developer Toys For Bob up to develop the HD remasters.
Can you imagine a darker version of Spyro The Dragon? Well, Sony and Insomniac almost pulled the trigger on it. During its development, the game was originally conceived with a lot of inspiration from the 1996 movie DragonHeart but because Sony wanted something more family-oriented, the game went in a more colorful and lighthearted direction. Sony of America still insisted on making him a cocksure dragon with an attitude while Sony of Japan marketed him as a much cuter and carefree version of the purple dragon we know and love today.
A soundtrack as jumpy as Spyro's had to come from a place of love and talent. Stewart Copeland, the former drummer for The Police, composed the score for the first four games in the series. While this would be a cool enough fact on its own, Copeland is also a link between Spyro and The Amanda Show. The music for the Wizard's Peak level in the first Spyro game was eventually reused as the outro music from The Amanda Show. Random, but welcome.
Quitting while you're ahead is an underrated concept. Insomniac took that concept to heart when they decided to leave the Spyro franchise behind after the third game Year Of The Dragon. Their reasoning? They flat out ran out of ideas but were distraught at not figuring out how to get Spyro to hold things in his hands. They left the franchise and eventually started work on the Ratchet & Clank series, both of whom can hold things in their hands.
Ratchet & Clank proved to be as successful a franchise for Insomniac Games, and the initial idea can be found with one of their oldest projects. There are a pair of enemies in Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage, a large orange man with a wrench and an accompanying grey robot on wheels, who bear a striking resemblance to everyone's favorite Lombax and robot team.
Enemies in Spyro games have a knack for being colorful and silly, but the coolest part about them is their design. Spyro's enemies were programmed to stare at, taunt and attack you if you stood around for too long, unlike other games where enemy movement patterns were more static or back-and-forth.
Ripto is a pretty memorable name for a villain, but where did the name originally come from? It apparently came from the Japanese release of Spyro, whose Japanese name appears to say "Ripto." The development team liked this so much that they decided to immortalize Ripto by creating the second game's villain based around this new name.
A game as colorful and fun as Spyro would probably convince some executive to greenlight an educational game. What many don't know is that this actually almost happened. Spyro: Ever After was a game that would've featured the purple dragon meeting fairy tale characters both old and new. The game never made it past storyboarding and was canceled, presumably because no one wanted to see Spyro learn about why he shouldn't be going into The Three Bears' house.
Piracy can make life either very easy or very hard for the entertainment industry, depending on your point of view. Sony and Insomniac had seen many copies of earlier Spyro games pirated and hacked and decided to take a more drastic approach when it came to Year Of The Dragon. If the game was hacked, it would crash in random and unexpected ways; items wouldn't load properly, if at all; Zoe the fairy would even have a message about how "you seem to be playing a hacked version of the game." They tried, I guess.