"Insomni-who?"

Introduction:

I think I should start this review by answering the question any Spyro the Dragon fan HAS to be asking themselves before a purchase: Is this anywhere near the trashy quality of the previous effort Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly? The answer is: NO! You may have gathered as much by my review score but I had to let you know up front what I thought of EtD… it was terrible. Sadly, many “Pro Reviewers” on the web and in mags fail to draw this rather large distinction between AHT and EtD. Since this was developed by a different company (EUROCOM) I thought I would at least give this game a chance, for whatever reason I'm attracted to this series and decided to at least rent it… which turned into a purchase shortly after.

Sound:
There are very few games that practically co exist for the benefit of the soundtrack. While I think the original Spyro games had sound that surpassed many in the genre, and while I liked it on a technical level, it did seem to miss some of the time and the tracks did seem to lack that ‘level identifier' quality, not so with A Hero's Tail. Each and every music track so exactly fits its theme that if your eyes were covered and Spyro entered an area, you would without question be able to know where he was. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be approaching your hub world home of Dragon Village and hear that carefree upbeat rhythm that IS Dragon Village. In addition, the spoken word via character interaction is superb and the humor rarely misses (which surprised me the most). The humor is definitely one key element that really keeps the player pushing forward, and do not forget to revisit areas and speak with characters more than once… you may be rewarded. 9/10

Graphics:
Playing this on the Xbox I had few complaints. All the areas were fairly clean and while the enemies often appear blocky and simplistic that is just about the only drawback. The horizon extends admirably into the distance and the game itself is well polished and colorful. The frame rate never ever slows down and Spyro's new "gallop" animation is fast & fun. While this may lack all the bells and whistles and some of the graphical flair of the bigger platform titles, it has just enough particle effects and style to make you forget that this game is intended for the young… at heart. 8/10

Control/Map

The main quest has the player, of course, controlling Spyro the Dragon and while the controls have been tweaked somewhat from the old days, I actually prefer the way Spyro controls now. A bit loose but always responsive, the player is never/rarely at the business end of a bottomless pit because of the game. Likewise, the camera is near perfect. 9/10

The Map. This game is huge. The map simply doesn't keep up. The huge topical overlays barely scratch the surface on what can be a confusing series of looping backtracking exercises. While I have seen worse, in fact, games with no maps, Spyro a Hero's Tail would have been helped greatly by visited areas at least being identified via text! C'mon! 5/10

Minigames:
Putting this all together and coming away with a 6.5/10 may seem low but honestly it really isn't that big of a portion of the game as a whole. While I am disappointed with some of the concepts, fortunately, they do not overstay their welcome. The idea is to enter each minigame… twice. The first time to get a Dragon Egg, the second to get a Light Gem. Hey, don't ask why… it's a Spyro game! 6.5/10

Sgt. Byrd Flies High:
Lots to like here. The idea can be found in other Spyro titles in which the player is timed and must destroy designated targets through flight. The only drawback is the difficulty tends to fluctuate seeing the player play one area one time, and then spend three hours on another. This is by far my fave minigame and while I highly recommend anyone trying these, I'm hard pressed to go back and play 'for fun' as the game asks upon completing the tasks. 9/10

Spyro's Turrets:
Standard fare. In fact you may be able to predict what it is by the title! It's merely Spyro the Dragon at the helm of a turret protecting various items while generally being timed. I did like this concept but it could have been implemented a bit more cleverly. 6.5/10

Hunter Gets Awesome for You:
Simply too straightforward even for my tastes. Hunter the cheetah is unleashed in what is a series of bland enemies and uninteresting platforming. The only thing that saves this is the fact I like Hunter… the character. 6/10

Sparx the Gunner:
Hmmm… this should be good “old school style” gameplay, but the camera gets in the way. Solid 3d shooter mentality gameplay is ruined by the fact that Sparx is right in front of what he's shooting at and the player cannot see the action! Like Sgt. Byrd's game this too suffers from random difficulty spikes. 5.5/10

Don't Blink:
Without a doubt the dullest gameplay and character in the game. “Blink” the mole is a relative of the Professor and is helping Spyro out by once again… finding Dragon Eggs and Light Gems. The one and only saving grace is the music. 5/10

Closing:
Redemption, pure and simple. This game has restored my hopes for this series. Clocking in at just over 20 hours of gameplay, the buyer is certainly not short changed, in fact, this game may be too long. I have beaten the game but haven't 100%'d it, and while I may get around to it, there are just too many other games out right now. If the map was implemented better I would more than likely complete it but I've spent enough time with this and now it's time to move on.

I thought Spyro: Attack of the Rynocs on the GBA was also fantastic but any hope I had that this series could reach the peak of it's former glory on console were destroyed by 2002's Enter the Dragonfly. But a new developer has given this series the fresh coat of paint it desperately needed. Sure, it may have some shortfalls that keep it from reaching for the sky, but sometimes it's better to glide than to fly, right?

Spyro Fan Score: 9/10

Everyone else: 7.5/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/22/04


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