Review by lilithdarkstorm

"A decent start to the trilogy"

Spyro is no ordinary dragon: he may be able to breathe fire, but how many dragons do you know that are purple and can't fly? The story of Spyro began on the first Playstation, introduced as a platform game suitable for young ages. The game had a simple concept of collecting mindless numbers of jewels, rescuing dragons and defeating enemies that were more of a laugh than a threat. As well as multiple colourful levels with different styles of gameplay (including time trials, flying and bosses), cheerful catchy music and puzzle solving. He warmed the hearts of children and those who long for the simple side of gaming, and is a family favourite with many homes, including my own. Since 1998 Spyro has grown and developed from the PS1, to the PS2, the other home consoles and handhelds with a total of 6 games using the original engine so far (as well as several cross-over games). But 2006 saw Spyro in a new light - though the game was originally advertised as the prequel to the original PS1 game, Spyro's life and history has been reborn from scratch into a new world of gaming...with mixed results...

The story begins inside a dragon temple, destroyed by a mysterious evil force that has broken into it to destroy all the newly born dragon eggs. However an adult dragon named Ignitus escapes with the last one and rests it upon a river, hoping it'll float to safety. From the egg hatches Spyro, who eventually grows up in the home of the dragonflies alongside his 'brother' - Sparx. Several years later, after discovering that he himself is not a dragonfly, he decides to set out to find the secrets of his past. He eventually discovers that an evil female black dragon by the name of Cynder is planning to bring the destruction of the world...can Spyro save them all?

From the brief synopsis above you can guess that the game itself is darker and more complex than the rest of the series; the nature of the characters, the music and the enemies you face contribute to the 'darken' state of the story plus the idea of Spyro as a 'purple dragon' is destined to do great things and save the dragon race. Though it is not always a bad thing to try something different or alter an old character to modernize it, the whole 'chosen one' genre is much overused these days. In games, movies, television and books; it's the idea that will put the most serious gamers off this title.

Unlike the previous games, 'The Legend of Spyro' adds more action based gameplay to the storyline. The previous games mostly had Spyro only capable of charging with his horns and breathing flames upon his enemies. However the latest game involves Spyro's miltiple powers and allows the player to be more creative in battle. Spyro can now manipulate the 4 elements: fire, ice, electricity and earth; all with their own special affects and advantages. He is also able to use melee attacks (both air borne and grounded) in order to perform combos to inflict heavy damage upon the monsters found within the game. Each 'element' has its own special attack (as well as the standard breath attack) which is activated by the appropriate button. For example; if Spyro is using fire, he can shoot a bomb that explodes upon contact and deals damage to those who are within range. While electricity creates a cage that hovers the enemy into the air, making them vulnerable to Spyro's air melee attacks whilst they are still being electrocuted. Within the pause menu you are also able to 'upgrade' each attack to increase its power and attack range, making bosses and common enemies much easier to vanquish if you level up correctly. The biggest addition combat wise is Spyro new 'Fury' attack. Activated when Spyro's fury bar is full, it unleashes a devastating attack that deals damage to all surrounding enemies within range. Overall combat is varied and fun at first, a little repetitive by the end of the game, but by then I was too far gone to stop.

From the start of the Spyro series: jewels have remained an essential part of this series. Though lying around and not necessary to building up Spyro as a character, they served as a currency at times and means to moving onto the next stage of the game, and were important if the player wished to complete the game 100%. The jewels return in Spyro's latest game but are promoted in importance; they are categorised into 4 groups, separated in colour and what purpose they serve. The red jewels help recover Spyro's health bar, the green jewels serve as 'mana', allowing Spyro to use his elemental powers, the purple jewels fill up Spyro's fury bar (to perform the new ‘Fury' special attack) and the blue jewels serve as 'experience' so Spyro can upgrade his powers via the pause menu. I'm glad that a unique element to the Spyro franchise was kept in the ‘revamped' trilogy and given an alternative use.

Since Spyro's history has been redone from scratch, many of the lovable characters (such as Gnasty Gnorc, Hunter and Ripto) are no longer part of Spyro's legacy. The only character other that remains is Sprax - the purple dragon's faithful dragonfly companion. In the previous games, Sparx had no voice (apart from a high pitched squeak) and played a slightly bigger part than he now has in the latest Spyro addition. He served as a guide and represented as a visible health bar for Spyro. By the 3rd game he got his own levels and powers. However, despite given a voice, a personality and quick-wit: he no longer plays a vital part in the new trilogy. Though he helps Spyro by pointing towards his next destination (sometimes) he is no more than the donkey is to Shrek. He's mostly there to provide comedy-relief. He does have his good moments and provides a laugh at the darkest moments of the game; but it's a shame that some of his old elements were not kept in the new addition.

Another common ground this game shares with the older games is the repetitive game play. Although there are 6 different environments to explore; they are all basically the same format (walk, kill, walk, kill) apart from one or two simple puzzles to divide them from each other. The enemies are the same throughout the game (a never-ending supply of apes that simply get a palette swop for each level) and combat becomes a same-routine thing. This can grow tiresome as the same 'monkey sounds' are made when injured or killed, making me want to press mute quite often. Since the music is more atmospheric than comical or noticeable, not a lot sound wise is to be credited for.

Despite the upgrades and variations of combat: there are many situations where Spyro is severally outnumbered, making the newest of game players feel heavy handed. Though death can be common at first, there's infinite lives and continues, and you come back from the same spot you died. However the lack of saving opportunities can lead to players growing frustrated before they reached the next saving point in order to spare them going through the aggravation once again.

There were also little kinks that were easily fixable or avoidable yet ignored. Such as the swift change into cut scenes during battle; just as you finish certain battles you are immediately taken into the next part of the world and unable to return to collect any leftover jewels or finish off the enemies you left behind. A simple fade out after the last enemy is destroyed would be better, rather than a slap-bang into the cut scene. Also; when talking, Spyro constantly using his 'claws' (or his front legs) during his speech patterns and using them as humans use their hands whilst talking. I found this slightly irritating and out of character as a dragon. Elijah Wood performed well as Spyro and the facial features were enough to empathies the emotions of Spyro - hand gestures were unneeded and looked careless.

The game's life span is extremely short and not much re-play factor is involved compared to the original games. No extras or unlockables are available, you cannot return to previously visited levels and the game could've easily been padded out with more levels (such as 'flying' in between worlds, and hidden missions within the other worlds would've been nice). It's such a shame since the graphics are not bad for a 2006 game, the surroundings of each world are beautifully portrayed, the powers are presented nicely but when compared to the other games in the series - this game doesn't hold a candle.

If you are a long lover of Spyro and his repetitive gaming ways, but refuse to see a darker, more combat style to him, then give this game a miss. If you are looking for a more intense hard-core action and violence game, this isn't for you neither. However if you are willing to experiment a new side to Spyro or wish to try something a little different compared to your current game collection, it wouldn't hurt to hire this out and give it a go!

The Good:
+ Fun combat game play with variety
+ Nice Hollywood voice acting
+ Decent new spins on old Spyro format and elements

The Bad:
- No unlockables, short life span
- Same enemies in each level
- Platform and puzzle game play can become mundane over time

In a sentence: A decent start to the trilogy, even if it's promise is not carried over into future titles

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/21/10

Game Release: The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning (EU, 10/27/06)

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