Review by Robo_Mike
"Spyro's latest outing on the DS leaves much to be desired"
The long-running Spyro franchise comes to a head with its new multi-platform release: The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night. As with its predecessor, A New Beginning, "The Legend of Spyro" series is a new storyline that is alien to its elder games. This review will be about the DS version of the game. It is written without knowledge of how the other Spyro: Eternal Night versions (such as GBA or PS2) play, or if the storyline in said other versions is different.
This game's story begins after Spyro's "epic" battle with the final boss of A New Beginning. After rescuing his love interest Cynder from the vaguely-portrayed "ultimate evil menace", Spyro has had recurring nightmares about the emerging evil. Spyro has to go out on a journey to meet an old and wise dragon and find out what's wrong with the world. And of course go bash the bad guys, go do laser reflection puzzles and go beat the final boss.
To get to where he's going, Spyro has to journey across relatively picturesque landscapes and do a lot of platforming, an aspect of the game very much missing from its predecessor "A New Beginning" (DS). Whereas in the previous game Spyro just goes "fight fight gain new abilities fight fight", in this game Spyro is forced to jump quite a lot, whether it's across treetops or on stone steps to scale a tower. In addition, the view is shifted from an isometric top view to a familiar third-person chase cam, making the platforming quite reminiscent of classic Spyro games. In fact, the platforming is quite an enjoyable experience, in spite of the fact that Spyro can only walk in about 4 directions at one time (diagonals are rather unresponsive) without rotating the camera.
As with old Spyro titles, Spyro's classic double jump and glide returns. Only this time, Spyro can start gliding on his first jump. This causes a slight problem, because once Spyro starts gliding, he can no longer do his air jump. So if ever you press the jump button too long for your first jump, Spyro starts gliding... usually to his doom or at the best case scenario, a couple of floors down, wasting progress. The quick fix to this is just to tap the jump button for the first jump then quickly let go, then press and hold the button for the second jump and glide, a minor inconvenince but it does get annoying quite often. Fortunately, falling off a bottomless pit or into a river of lava only results in some damage to Spyro's life bar instead of an instant demise.
Thus, there really aren't any particular sections of the game that are frustrating to jump and glide through... especially since the variety of different 3-d locales is beautiful, and level design is quite well-done.
Most levels are quite linear, with Spyro usually just needing to head to the "finish line", sometimes requiring some collection of mirrors... and almost always requires solving a reflection puzzle afterwards because some boulder or broken bridge is hindering Spyro's advance.. Said laser reflection puzzles involve just using mirrors and prisms to reflect or split laser beams so they hit their intended targets. These puzzles are a nice break from platforming, as most of these are not too hard but still require some brain power to do. (Also, once you beat the game, you can go into "Puzzle Attack" mode and relive these brain teasers at your pleasure.)
In between sessions of carefree platforming and puzzle-solving, Spyro is "forced" to do battle with his enemies, whether it's acid-spitting plants, rogue apes or stone golems. Actually, it isn't that forced. In most cases, it is a simple matter to just avoid and sidestep the enemies... something I highly recommend because battle is quite a repetitive affair. Spyro has a couple of options when dealing with the common enemy...
Melee attacks don't do much damage by themselves but Spyro can do up to five hits before he can launch the enemy for an instant-kill sequence. This sequence just involves you using the touch screen to "follow the arrows" for additional hits to the enemy, often causing enough damage to dispatch them outright. Unfortunately, this is one of the sequences where I think use of the touch screen is rather forced. This "air juggling" sequence can get annoying. Fortunately, it is completely optional, and Spyro can do just as well to annihilate the enemy using regular attacks or breath attacks.
Breath attacks once again come in four elements: fire releases a steady straight stream that damages any enemy caught in it (ugh, it damages enemy in chunks, rather than a steady burning), earth releases a shockwave that knocks enemies back, lightning releases a high-damage but slow ball of death, and ice shoots a fast projectile that deals just as much damage as the fire breath. This aspect of the game should've been more thought over. Earth is practically useless because enemies rarely appear in mobs, while Lightning consumes too much of the breath meter to be useful in usual battle. Fire and Ice are quite overpowered, and 2-4 hits of those is enough to beat any enemy... ideal for killing enemies fast and cutting the boring battles short.
Upgrading Spyro's breath attacks is once again made available using spirit energy (blue orbs) gained from beating enemies or smashing background objects. Fortunately, upgrading breath is not needed to beat such an easy game, again making battles all the more tempting to skip. The gist is to just maximize fire and ice range and damage aspects and that's essentially it.
Boss battles are rather lackluster and hardly epic. Most boss battles just involve hitting the bosses repeatedly with melee attacks while they are stunned or while their back is turned. True that there was some variety in bosses, except Spyro fights the one same boss FOUR times throughout the course of the game. In addition, some people have reported getting stuck at a boss because they could not avoid its tail spin attack. Waiting for the boss to charge up its spin then double-jumping to avoid the attack would've been the solution, but because the view has shifted to a top-down bird's-eye view of the action, it's impossible to tell that Spyro could do that. A quick dialogue from Spyro's sidekick, Sparks, would've solved that problem, but sadly, such a necessary hint was left out as well.
Worse yet, most bosses are immune to breath attacks (or EVEN worse, breath attacks snap some bosses out of stun) so that gives you one less reason to upgrade Spyro's breath, giving you one less reason to collect blue orbs and another excuse to skip the boring battle sequences.
To aid Spyro in battle or platforming, Spyro can activate one of four elemental furies which can give Spyro a special ability such as a damage shield, melee damage bonus or faster movement speed for a limited time. Turning on a fury will start a memory game where you must touch the on-screen orbs in the required order. Doing so will give the fury duration an extra boost. With the game being not so hard (and with the author of this review already recommending to skip most battles), furies aren't that much useful anyway, unless you need to end that boring boss battle faster or just zoom through the level with increased speed.
The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night will last you quite a few hours of enjoyable platforming and boring, repetitive battles. Unfortunately, it isn't so much replayable as well because there is no "higher difficulty" unlike similar games like Devil May Cry which gives you an added more challenging level on your next playthrough using the same save file.
The story isn't that hot either, what with it being the cliche fantasy fare of "you're the chosen one so you are forced to endure hardships and save the world". The ending leaves much to be desired as well, it's like they are hitting the "comic reset button" so they can do whatever they want with the next sequel.
The only reason I would replay the game is to view the story slideshows again. The art is rather well-done, they are an OK replacement for the lack of in-game 3-D cutscenes that are usually common in games of this type. Regrettably, there is no "Gallery Mode" so you can enjoy these sequences again. And you can't play individual levels again. You'd have to play it all over again from the top if you want to relive the story.
This game's forte is the classic Spyro platforming that is well-executed; it's so much fun to jump between giant leaves or across precarious rock formations. The return of the reflection puzzles was also a welcome addition.
I really wish I could say good things about the rest of the game. The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (DS) really leaves much to be desired. I was expecting more, including Cynder as an additional playable character, better battles and controls, a less predictable and depressing storyline and ending, more in-game extras such as a picture gallery, and either better use of the touch screen (or better yet, not using the touch screen at all).
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 10/10/07, Updated 10/15/07
Game Release: The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (US, 10/02/07)
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