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Spyro the Dragon

Player Select
by yo go re

Petition to remake Season 8 of Game of Thrones, but with this guy instead of Drogon.

The adventurous young dragon has returned! Based on the classic videogames, Spyro is ready to travel the Homeworlds and save the day in action figure form. With plenty of articulation for great poses, you can relive all your favorite Spyro moments.

That doesn't tell us anything! So here's the text from the back of the first Spyro game instead: "The Dragon Lands have been taken over by Gnasty Gnorc and his Gnorc army. All the dragons have been transformed into crystal statues and only Spyro is left. That Gnasty Gnorc is TOAST!" See? Much better.

There has been some Spyro merchandise before, but mostly just statues and other immobile things - this is his first legit toy. The original Spyro was a PS1 game, and while it may have looked good for its time, this figure is based on the much more detailed version of the character from the recent remaster - that means scales, scales, and more scales. Scales aplenty! Tiny little scales in a diamond patterns all over him. Big rough scales that are all their own unique shapes on his upper body and back. Wide smooth scales lining his underside. So many scales, all sculpted beautifully by David Silva.

Insomniac Games' environment artist Craig Stitt was the one who originally had the idea for a game about a dragon, but industry vet Mark Cerny was the one who came up with his moveset: it was his idea to give Spyro two different forms of attack - breathing fire and charging with his horns - which would allow enemies to be strong or weak against each of them, and provide some fun variety in the combat. The horns here have a bit of separation between the segments, but nothing as strong as the orange shading on the wings, or even the outlining on his spiraling tail tip.

Spyro has always looked generally the same (other than when he was in Skylanders), so this toy had a definite target to aim for: short snout, flared nostrils, chubby cheeks, cocked eyebrows, and a spiky ridge running along his scalp. Actually, his eyebrow ridges are so big, we're surprised NECA didn't do the same thing here they did for Crash Bandicoot, and make them articulated. He doesn't always have Dreamworks face, you know?

Even without eyebrow joints, the toy's articulation is excellent: the only things on him that aren't balljoints are the wings, and those are at least swivel/hinges, so you can raise them up stick them out horixontally like he's gliding or charging, or turn them whichever direction you like. Other than those, Spyro moves at the head, neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, hips, ankles, and five spots along the length of the tail. There is so much you can do with all that! Running, flying, trotting... heck, it's nearly enough to have him stand bipedally! Not that that's something he does, but with this articulation, he might learn. The only thing he can't do is fold his wings. NECA would have had to do those as separate pieces if they wanted - which might not have been so bad, since the toy has no accessories. Imagine an interchangeable face, with his cheeks puffed out and a gout of flame blowing forth. Or at least Sparx, the little dragonfly companion who serves as your life meter in the game.

A lot of games with "flying" characters would artificially limit how far you could go: like, the character would travel for X amount of time, then drop back to earth. Since Spyro is a dragon, Insomniac felt that arbitrary limitation didn't make sense, meaning that from the moment you jump into the air, you're free to drift and drift until you touch the ground again; find a high enough spot, and you can glide across the entire level. Therefore, the levels had to be designed less linearly, with more open panoramic spaces, which itself meant that everything had to be visible all the time - no secretly loading in "Corridor D" while the character was making their way down "Corridor C." So Spyro invented the way modern games handle their worlds, with detailed textures rendered near the player, and undetailed polygons in the far distance. Innovative! Spyro's range also meant that Insomniac had to hire former NASA rocket scientist Matt Whiting to design the flight controls and camera movements in order to make the movements fluid and keep players from getting seasick.

Universal Interactive Studios hired Insomniac Games to create something child-friendly, since the Playstation games all skewed teen/adult at the beginning. Making their star a young dragon both explained why he couldn't just fly freely wherever he wanted, and appealed to the target demographic. He was originally going to be called "Pyro Pete" until the lawyers pointed out that Disney probably wouldn't be happy about that; so then it was "Pyro the Dragon," but that sounded too mature, so "Spyro" he became. The games were a lot of fun, and now thanks to NECA, fans at last get a terrific toy of him, too.

-- 06/20/19

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