Review by Myviewing

"A Fun Time If You Keep Nostalgia At The Door"

When the 32-bit era emerged, and 3D graphics for games achieved mainstream popularity, companies everywhere attempted to bring their mascots into the new realm. While popular franchises were making a 3D jump such as Mario, Rayman, and Earthworm Jim, new franchises were being created around the same time, such examples being Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon. Spryo the Dragon was considered to be one of the Playstation 1's most memorable gaming icons, and was received with such high appeal, the series would become a multi-million unit selling franchise. Such were what some would call the “glory days” of Spyro, since Spyro's popularity began to dwindle when the days of the Playstation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube came around. With Insomniac abandoning the franchise, the poor reception of Spyro: Enter the Dragofly, and the and not much better Spyro: A Hero's Tail, the days of the purple dragon seemed to be coming to an end. Krome Studios, however, begged to differ with this claim, and brought its attempt to revive the franchise by starting from scratch with the game The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning. Featuring more modern visuals and higher production values, Krome hopes to breath new life into the franchise by introducing Spyro to the new generation. So have they done a good job at reviving the purple dragon? Whether or not they did will mostly depend on how much you let nostalgia decide.

In terms of story, Spyro games have been traditionally light in this department, mostly consisting of, “there's something evil going on, go defeat it.” With the new Spryo games though, things are a bit different, because now there are more characters, as well as a story that actually develops. The story begins with the dragon Ignitus in a temple watching over eggs, especially a special purple one, during a time he describes where the dragons are at war with a being known as the “Dark Master”. There is a prophecy that once every ten generations, a purple dragon will be born who will direct the fate of that era. Knowing this, the Dark Master sends his forces to the temple to destroy the eggs assure that the purple dragon is not born. Within the nick of time however, Ignitus manages to save the purple egg and lets it drift down a river, into a swamp to be discovered by a family of dragonflies. As a result, the purple dragon, who is named “Spyro” is born, along with the dragonfly “Sparx” the same day. When the two grow up, a story unfolds where Spyro learns he is a stranger from a distant land, and decides to go out and find it, while allowing Sparx to accompany him in his quest. What ensues is Spyro's attempts to discover his past, learn his purpose, defeat hordes of the enemies under the command of the dragon Cynder, and in the end, saving the world. The story is fairly well told, and the presentation makes it feel much like something from a movie. The story can be something enjoyable to watch if you're searching for a game that presents the story as such.

In terms of graphics, the graphics are very well done for a sixth-generation console game. Previous Spyro games were never that advanced in this department, such as in Enter the Dragonfly, where it appears to be more of a Playstation game than a current gen game. The in game graphics and especially the cut scenes though, are very well done in “A New Beginning” and are very pleasing to the eyes. Some of the cut scenes even look somewhat on par with current-gen games, adding more to the astonishment.

In the sound department, the game does not fall short of making sure that gamers are pleased with everything they hear. The music has a very strong orchestral score and adds to the feel of Spyro's epic journey. For the most part, the music is serviceable in adding to the atmosphere, though whether you want to begin searching for the original soundtrack will be decided once you have heard it yourself. There is also a new voice acting cast for the Spyro series, taking a wide range of talent from many famous actors. Just three popular examples are David Spade as the dragonfly Sparx, Gary Oldman as Ignitus, and (were you able to predict this happening?) Elijah Wood as Spyro himself. The voice acting is well done thanks to the help of these actors, they aren't Oscar award winning material but they do immerse you into the world of Spyro to make you care about the storyline. There are also good sound effects that happen whenever an action occurs, though the sound effects are not up to par with the voice acting and the music. They aren't enough to make your ears bleed, but they aren't enough to convince you that too much effort was put into them. Overall, the sound is well done, adds to the high presentation values of the game, and helps you care about what happens throughout the plot.

The presentation values of the game are indeed very high, but how has the game play held together in this new installment to the series? Unlike previous Spyro games, that require going from world to world directed from a single world you begin from, “A New Beginning” is more linear than previous titles. Going from world to world allows Spyro to continue the story, face new enemies, meet new characters, and learn new breath abilities. At the end of each stage is a boss Spyro must face in order to continue the story and continue to new levels. The combat in the new Spyro is also changed, since now instead of basic platforming attacks such as charging, and breathing fire, Spyro now uses a beat-um-up form of gameplay by using melee attacks and four different breaths for Spyro to learn (Fire, Earth, Lightning, and Ice). The game play feels much like something from previous action titles like God of War, including a similar leveling up system for the breaths. Breaths can get stronger with the more purple gems you find by destroying items and defeating enemies, and just like God of War and previous titles before, devoting enough gems powers up breaths to make them stronger and lets the gamer use special attacks. The combat is obviously slowed down for younger audiences, but the game is still equally as good and fun. Enemies are presented to be nearly identical except with different names in most attacking situations (Most looking like variations of apes). Though there are some points where gamers battle a new enemy in a one-on-one situation to become familiar with the attack patterns, and lets gamers treat it as a normal enemy from that point on. Aside from the basics, Spyro also does a decent job of delivering opportunities to break up the general combat, letting gamers participate in flight portions, training areas, and use tons of different abilities to keep the action fresh. The flight controls are as expected, having gamers navigate with the analog stick, speed up and slow down with the shoulder buttons, and barrel-roll and fire with face buttons, though there aren't as many flight situations that some gamers may be hoping for. Overall, the game play may seem very different for Spyro fans to grasp, and as a result, they will either welcome it with open arms, or hate it and lose interest in the franchise. Despite the changes, the game play works very well, there are few situations where the hit detection has problems, it's easy to go through the game, and it's worth playing to see more of the story. There are two downsides that may turn off some gamers though, is that dieing is not much of a problem, since dieing even in boss fights allows gamers to continue right where they left off, though the health bar for the boss is set back to where it was originally. The other downside is that the game is quite short, and only takes about seven hours to beat. These downsides make the game easy for younger gamers and those searching for story, but those looking for challenge should search elsewhere.

Overall, The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning, is a good start on the part of Krome Studios for reviving the franchise. Whether or not you'll enjoy the game though, will depend if you're willing to accept the fact that Spyro is moving on to a new form of game play or not. If you can accept it though, you'll have an enjoyable story, and fun beat-um-up hours while they last. The Legend of Spyro is enjoyable for younger gamers and those who enjoy a nice story, so this is definitely a nice title to pick up if you have some cash to burn and you find it in a store somewhere.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/25/08

Game Release: The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning (US, 10/10/06)

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