Review by Speedy Boris

"Great Fun.... While It Lasts"

Spyro: Year of the Dragon is the third game in the Spyro series, and upon its release, many reviewers praised it like usual. Does it deserve the praise? Somewhat, but it has one huge flaw which I'll discuss later. First, let's talk about the other categories.

1) Graphics: YOTD came out in 2000, at a time when the PS2 was just beginning to make its debut in North America. As such, the graphics seem a bit primitive in comparison. It's the same dilemma that faced Donkey Kong Country 3 when the 32-bit systems were making waves. At one time it was state-of-the-art, but now that better stuff is out there, the flaws, limitations, and graphical shortcuts become more apparent.

Despite this, the graphics for Spyro 3 are relatively good. Framerates are smooth and constant, animations are appropriately cartoony (albeit mostly recycled from the previous games), and there are few noticeable polygonal errors. Unfortunately, YOTD also seems to favor pastels a little TOO much. Gone are the vibrant colors of Spyro 2; instead we mostly get purples, yellows, and light browns.

2) Music/Sound: Stewart Copeland did a serviceable job with Spyro 3's music, just like he did with the previous two games. For those that haven't heard it, the music has a definite "new age" feel, with its wind instrument and sitar-heavy music. The tunes are a little less hummable than Spyro 2, but they're still quite enjoyable, especially Sgt. Byrd's melody, which is a take-off on Army wake-up calls.

Sounds are basically the same as the previous games. Again, it all boils down to, "If you liked the first two games..." Voice acting is OK, but the game lacks any humorous moments from in-game cinemas like Spyro 2 had. Part of this stems from an uninvolving antagonist, but also there aren't really any funny lines from ANYONE.

3) Controls: If you've played a Spyro game, you know what to expect. Spyro himself controls just fine, and he retains that helpful "lift" if you press triangle at the end of a jump, which is nice.

In addition, the game lets you play as four other characters at certain times: Bentley the Yeti, Sgt. Byrd, Agent 9, and Shiela the Kangaroo. Of those, Shiela is the most fun to play as, and is also the fastest and most responsive of the bunch. She hops around quickly, has a handy double-jump, and a powerful tail attack.

The others suffer greatly. Bentley, who can club enemies, moves WAY too slow. I know he's a lumbering yeti but come on. Sgt. Byrd is ALSO too slow, atleast when he's floating in the air. It's also difficult to judge distance while in flight; I've had many troubles either launching missiles at the right spot or landing on a small platform. And Agent 9 is also a rather slow-running character who can shoot lasers. To be fair, it's not so much that Agent 9 is hard to control but rather that the enemies in his stages are endless and seem much faster than him, making those levels a chore to play.

Oh yeah, and there's also Sparkz, whom you can play as during bonus rounds. They're similar to something like Smash TV, where the goal is to run into enclosed rooms and shoot everything around you. For this mode to be better, the game would have to adopt Smash TV-style controls. But as it stands, you can only shoot in the direction that you're moving, and that makes trying to hit enemies who come at you in circles needlessly difficult.

4) Gameplay. This is where the game suffers. Spyro: Year of the Dragon, as much new as it offers, is mostly more of the same. You still go through each level collecting gems and defeating bad guys. This time around you also have to collect eggs, which contain baby dragonflies.

Like I said, though, there's technically nothing WRONG with the gameplay. It's just not fresh anymore. In addition, the homeworlds have been greatly reduced. Remember the wide scope of land from Spyro 2? Remember that after unlocking a few things, the homeworld would open up cool hidden areas, allowing you to float to the top of buildings and glide down, over everything you've unlocked? That was awesome. You won't find it here; most worlds are set on one elevation, are much more condensed, and offer few secrets. Blah. Despite this, the game tries to keep it fresh with new stuff like skateboarding (yes, that IS pretty fun), a bunch of bonus games like Yeti boxing, and the ability to ride vehicles like tanks and speedboats, mostly during boss fights. Not all of these are fun or well-designed, but I give them points for trying.

The level design isn't nearly as strong as Spyro 2, though. You see, once you collect all the gems and eggs, the levels remain empty except for enemies. So if you want to replay a certain stage, you don't have much fun, because the fairly basic level design is more evident when it's empty. And when many of the levels run together because of similar color palettes and enemies, you've got a problem.

And speaking of replay value, this game has very little, because it fails to reward you for your hard work once you beat the game. Spyro 2 had a great pay-off: Dragon Shores, a bonus level with all sorts of amusement park goodies like rollercoasters, dunk tanks, love canals, target practice, movie viewings, and even a more powerful flame attack. You get none of that here. Once you get all the gems, that's it. Thanks. I've read that the reason this occurs is because of last-minute editing on the final stage that omitted the entrance to the secret stage. Sadly, we'll never know what was in store.

5) Overall: The lack of final reward really hurts a game with over 30 levels, and I didn't find it fun to replay at all once I beat it. Your enjoyment, however, depends: If you don't mind playing through a game once just for the initial experience, Spyro 3 is for you. If you like replaying levels after you beat them because the level design is superior and the varied color palette helps levels stand out more, Spyro 2 is for you. Either way, though, all three Spyro games for PS1 are far superior to the shoddy fourth game, Enter the Dragonfly. But that's for another review. ;)


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/11/06


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