Review by Validus

"Oh Spyro, what have you become?"

Oh Spyro, what have you become

Not so long ago, a relatively unknown company by the name of Insomniac released a game titled Spyro The Dragon. They were almost instantly catapulted into greatness for Spyro was by far one of the greatest, most enjoyable games of the time. Even today, I whip out the emulator and give it a well deserved run-out. Insomniac the proceeded to release Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer, which exemplified the high standards of the company but, in my opinion, their crowning moment was the release of the third Spyro game, Spyro: Year of the Dragon. This game was almost perfect, probably even one of the best ever. Realizing that they really couldn't take the series any further, Insomniac bailed out and sold the rights to *another* company. This company went on to produce a game titled Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, which was the purple dragon's first outing on the PS2. Unfortunately, this game was a massive flop. I could not believe that the series I loved, turned into this disgusting excuse for game. Not only was it horribly flawed, both graphically and in gameplay, but the lovable characters created by Insomniac were now turned into nothing more than children's mascots ICK. Attempting to regain the trust of fans such as myself, that *other* company released a second game titled Spyro: A Hero's Tail.

Now ignoring that rather pathetic pun in the name, A Hero's Tail appears to have righted the wrongs of Enter the Dragonfly. The horrible camera was vastly improved upon, for one but the graphical power of the game still looks, in many ways, inferior to the Insomniac masterpieces on the Playstation. I will always remember Spyro as being a light shade of purple but for some idiotic reason, the developers decided to make him bright purple, reminiscent of a ripe plum. At least I think that it's safe to say that this is a different Spyro to the one that I whittled so many hours away on. The characters look smooth and clean in game, which is refreshing but they really do not even come close to Insomniac's Ratchet and Clank series. The backdrops of game are really weak, often consisting of nothing more than a single colour and I don't need to remind you that Ratchet and Clank not only contain multitude of colours but there are also planets and moving traffic in the background. If Insomniac can do it, why can't these guys? The textures are definitely a weak point. They are extremely poor quality compared to other games in the PS2. I have to complain about the graphics because they, quite frankly, are lousy and represent a poor effort by the designers. Unlike the first three Spyro games, which pushed the PS to its limit, this game doesn't even touch the PS2's hardware capabilities. Overall a lazy effort.

I really hate it when someone has squeaky brakes on their car. It makes me want to rip my hair out. I would, however, much rather listen to that awful squeak than the pathetic sound of A Hero's Tail. The music seriously sounds as though it was downloaded of the internet. The developers put no effort into it. It is really poor especially when compared to the great musical scores of the PS1 greats. The music does not stand up to other PS2 games. There are a few boring tracks for each world but that's it. Don't expect much at all in this department. Sound affects are average. For some reason, the developers took out the original flame sound and replaced it with a new one. It doesn't really make much of difference though. Some of the effects are great like when you kill certain enemies and they yelp out or when you break open something. There are also some poor ones though like when you are swimming the sound is just awful. The voice acting is sub-par. Do you remember the original voice for Spyro? Well, he's not here. Instead we have a 4-year-old boy reading off our beloved Spyro's lines. It really gets on my nerves because I loved the original actor because he captures the whole concept of Spyro perfectly but this new guy just undermines him. I don't appreciate that or the fact that all the other voice actors were replaced with their CHILDREN. Elora, the professor, Hunter and even Zoe have got different, mediocre voice actors. Maybe I'm just being wishful but still. The worst of the lot is Moneybags. Remember the beloved bear who used to steal your gold for mundane tasks such as extending bridges or opening doors? Well they took his rich, snobby voice and replaced it with a Russian accent. What does that have to do with anything at all if not to infuriate people?

In terms of a plot, you play as Spyro a purple dragon who has to destroy dark crystals that sprouted up everywhere in order to prevent an evil dragon, Red, from winning or doing something bad. YAWN. It is the most boring Spyro plot to date for several reasons. Firstly, it lacks the charm of the original games. There's no witty dialogue or comic relief. The humor is forced and incredibly not funny. Spyro frequently breaks the fourth wall much to my annoyance and his supposed jokes to the player are about as funny as a game of golf. The other characters, who were brilliant in Year of the Dragon, were given scripts to please four-year olds. Hunter is not the lazy attention seeker that you remember and Bianca doesn't even exist! The developers also felt the need to create completely pathetic characters such as a female dragon who has a crush on Spyro. It's truly pathetic. Sgt. Byrd makes a return but lacks the humorous military lines of Year of the Dragon and several other characters make cameos but for all its worth, it's a serious downgrade from the Playstation titles. As I stressed before, Moneybags is completely unbelievable even though he was arguably the best character in the earlier titles and I, for one, was very disappointed with the plot overall. It was apparently written for very young children and has no resemblance to greatness at all. Each level features various sub quests which you can perform for dragon eggs (which are mysteriously stolen from the nursery) These quests were all the same thing in each level, only harder. Unlike the Insomniac games where each stage was unique with different quests, this game remains the same from start to finish. At the end of each 'main level' you will fight a boss. You do get to fight Gnasty Gnorc again as well as Red himself but these battles contain idiotic twists. For example, Gnasty Gnorc's battle involves you attempting to charge his exposed (polka dotted) underpants when he is not looking. I don't know if the developers intended that to be funny or not but it's beyond me why they would include such a crappy battle in the first place again reinforcing my belief that the plot is for young children.

Finally I can dissect the gameplay which, for all it's worth, is not bad. Unlike the traditional Spyro games (yes another reference but I have to keep on doing this because this game is so bad compared to PS1 games) there is no hub-world with many portals. Rather there is one long continuous passage with various worlds along it. Overall, it isn't an improvement because it makes the game very one-minded. You can't do the more fun levels first and leave the bad ones for later. Each world is broken up into various areas that all have to be completed in order to pass. You need to destroy the dark crystals scattered around the worlds by headbutting them. Finding them is just like getting the orbs in Ripto's Revenge or finding the eggs in Year of the Dragon meaning that they are in hard to reach places or require you to finish a quest first. Quests are nothing like you remember them. Every single quest in the game is just a recycled version of the ones appearing in the first level, only more difficult. That was just lazy from the developers. These tasks include a Sgt. Byrd speedway, a massive turrent game to protect things (such as a farmer's crops) and a Hunter archery game (Yes you get play as Hunter at last). There are, fortunately, unique quests to be had but they are not fun at all. One of things hyped about this game is the ability to use different breaths. This was great but seriously it could have been so much more. You mostly need to use the breath feature to solve puzzles but certain enemies need to be killed by certain breaths too. You start off with flame and as you get further into the game you unlock Ice, Water and Electricity. All can be easily accessed using the D-Pad. Like I said, the puzzles involving them are not very challenging. For interest's sake, I burned this game to my PC to see how big it was and it amassed a total of 380MB (What a waste of a DVD)! A PS1 game titled Spyro: Year of the Dragon was a whopping 600MB! That just goes to show you how lazy the developers were. Another hyped feature about this game is the fact that there is no longer a set number of gems in each stage. This was probably not a very good idea because it was a lot of fun to look for secret stashed of gems. Now instead, gems are an actual currency that you spend of Moneybags. Instead of opening doors or extending bridges this time around, the Russian mogul sells you various items to make your life easier. This is very similar to simple RPG. You can buy things like upgrades for your headbutt or extra hitpoints for 'reasonable prices' from the bear. I really didn't like this feature because it seemed a blatant rip-off of the Gadgetron Vendors from Ratchet and Clank. Other than that, most of features are carried over from the original series including the excellent idea of using Sparx as your hitpoints meter and to collect gems. The game has you destroying dark crystals, collecting dark shards and collecting dragon eggs this time around. The dark stuff was most important and the eggs took second seat. You normally had to play each challenge a few times to win everything there was to win. I didn't enjoy this because the challenges were all the same from start to finish.

This game really kills of the Spyro series once and for all. I can tell you now that The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning is going to be a massive flop. The developers should really learn from their mistakes. Not only will they never match Insomniac, but they will never garner my respect. They really destroyed the admiration I developed for the series. I just say to myself that these abominations are non-cannon and live with it. A poor story and average gameplay elements coupled with poor sound and graphics (as well as a horrible pun in the title) make Spyro: A Hero's Tail, a forgettable experience.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 07/07/08

Game Release: Spyro: A Hero's Tail (EU, 11/12/04)


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