In anticipation of Spyro: Reignited Trilogy, I’ve made it a point to go back and replay the classics on PS One in their original form one last time to one hundred percent completion. As I’ve nearly reached this goal (83% on Year of the Dragon as of writing), I wanted to put a list together of what I consider to be the best (and worst) levels in the original trilogy.
Because I always like to start any piece out on a positive note, I’m going to start with my personal favorites.
Dark Passage (Spyro the Dragon)
This stage has always been quite memorable for me. As it’s a late-game stage, Dark Passage is considerably more challenging than the majority of what the game has thrown at you up until that point. The metal vibes in the track alongside a unique mechanic make this one a pleasure to run through on repeat playthroughs. Creatures that would appear harmless turn into formidable beasts when exposed to light. I was pretty surprised the first time the cute little puppy at the beginning of the stage transformed into a hellspawn fit for the next Doom when I first played this game some 15 years ago. I can’t wait to see Dark Passage’s Reignited form.
Toasty (Spyro the Dragon)
I really adore the atmosphere of this stage. There’s something about the sunset and accompanying track that makes this very first “boss” level of the game stand out. Toasty himself is a scarecrow with a pumpkin head and scythe, who winds up being nothing more than a sheep on stilts once you give him a whiff of your fire breath.
Metropolis (Ripto’s Rage)
The Supercharge/Superflame hybrid powerup that serves as the reward for reaching the end of the stage alone makes this level pretty sweet. The mission it’s used for (destroying the UFOs) is also a blast and a great way to get used to flying and firing before the final encounter with Ripto. I honestly wish there were more missions like this in the game, but at least Fireworks Factory in Year of the Dragon has a similar section in which Spyro’s tasked with shooting down a duo of flying dragons.
Desert Ruins (Year of the Dragon)
I honestly didn’t care for the bulk of the levels presented in Year of the Dragon‘s final hub-world. Desert Ruins is the one exception. There’s plenty of challenging platforming sections that will test your gliding and hovering skills. There are also monsters who will make the path in front of them blisteringly hot for a few moments (similar to how some of the gnorcs in Spyro the Dragon’s Beast-Makers levels will electrify their surroundings). There are even a few Tomb Raider references. Overall, it’s not a bad way to wrap up the game before taking on the Sorceress.
Fireworks Factory (Year of the Dragon)
This one is a fan-favorite, and while I’m usually not one to agree with popular opinion, it’s pretty easy to see why. The oriental setting is a nice change of pace from the traditional, brightly colored fantasy environments Spyro is often thrust into. The supercharge/superflame powerup from Ripto’s Rage makes a return after completing the main mission, and while I didn’t have nearly as much fun taking down the dragons as I did the UFOs in Metropolis, it still made for a good time. I can’t wait to do it all again in four months.
Tree Tops (Spyro the Dragon)
This would have been an enjoyable level if it weren’t for the emphasis on the super-charge mechanic. You’ll need to chain super jumps together in order to gain the momentum needed to reach islands that are incredibly far off in the distance, which can be deduced from good observation skills or listening to the banter between Spyro and one of the freed dragons, but it’s still a tad difficult to control Spyro as he picks up speed. There’s one island in particular that requires you to rocket down a ramp, twist yourself to the right to land on another supercharge bridge tucked out of view to double your momentum and then fly off towards it. Even Spyro himself makes a quip to the dragon trapped on the island that it could have been made less troublesome to reach. This level made me thankful that Year of the Dragon refined the super-charge mechanic and sectioned off various portions of the levels for it rather than shoehorning it into the main level like the original and Ripto’s Rage had done.
Haunted Tomb (Year of the Dragon)
This level sucks for one reason and one reason alone- the demolition competition. Sure, you don’t have to complete this nightmare of a mission in order to beat the game. But, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m going for one hundred percent completion and had the (dis)honor of having to deal with it. On paper, the premise is sound enough- pilot the hovering cannon and blow up two waves of rynocs to get the eggs. The problem is, the controls for the thing are utterly broken, the camera struggles to keep up with the action and the enemy AI has some expert marksmanship. Your best bet is to inch your way forward and blast them before you enter their line of site. Trying to complete this one the way it was intended to be completed (shooting and dodging in somewhat close quarters) will almost always result in death. Whereas most of the other “difficult” missions in the game only took 3 or 4 tries tops for me, this one took over 10 until I decided to be a cheapass. Fingers crossed that this will be improved by Reignited, since Toys for Bob has mentioned that they want to tweak the controls and camera for some aspects of the classic trilogy.