Spyro: Shadow Legacy Review

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Graphics: 6.0
Sound : 7.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 7.0
Review by Stevie Smith
With Shadow Legacy, Spyro the dragon’s peaceful existence is once again thrown into turmoil when various members of the local community are mysteriously warped into an alternate dimension called the ‘Shadow Realm.’ A dark, mirrored version of Spyro’s world, the Shadow Realm now inexplicably holds all those it has taken in bondage—and, naturally, only Spyro can rescue them. Who is behind this evil deed? Is it the mystical Fairies? Is it the reclusive mountainous Magicians…or is it the nefarious dragon Red, Spyro’s old arch-nemesis, who’s supposedly locked away for eternity? After finding one remaining village elder amid the chaotic happenings, Spyro is subsequently tasked with ‘phasing’ between the two worlds and freeing his friends—and anyone else held in the Shadow Realm against their will.

Everyone’s favourite purple dragon makes his debut on the Nintendo DS, but is Spyro: Shadow Legacy an adventure of fiery dual-screen goodness, or does it merely blow a lot of hot air?

First and foremost, let’s cover the game’s intrinsic disappointments. Aside from obvious graphical strengths, Spyro: Shadow Legacy could easily have appeared on the Game Boy Advance. It makes no genuine use of the DS touch screen, only utilizing it for quick access of collected items and to cast various magic spells through the drawing of simple predefined shapes. The game’s action plays out on the upper screen and, for the most part, the bottom screen is deemed defunct. Gameplay-wise there are some glaring errors, mainly concerning collision detection and fractured, overlapping details. The control layout is occasionally clumsy thanks to multiple core actions, such as phasing, door opening, switch throwing, and basic attacks all being allocated to a singe button—this is especially bothersome when using a ‘phase’ point and emerging in the Shadow Realm surrounded by seething beasties. Also, the game’s isometric perspective is not competent enough to garner a complete sense of geographic placement when navigating between differing heights; often leading directly to frustrated frowns and disgruntled headshakes as Spyro continually fails at seemingly easy jumps.

However, the poorly utilized touch screen, dodgy environmental details, fiddly control design, and flawed viewpoint all fade into virtual insignificance when faced with the game’s unfailingly gorgeous design and enduring appeal. From the outset, it’s easy to see that developer Amaze has tried to emulate the classic top-down Legend of Zelda role-play aesthetic, while infusing the content with enough modern visual flare to appeal across the age range of gaming’s demographic—and they’ve succeeded admirably. Nintendo’s DS handles the 3D requirements with an element of grace; though screen scrolling is perhaps a little slow under the processing load, especially during frantic confrontations and boss battles. That said, the overall presentation of Spyro: Shadow Legacy remains unfailingly attractive throughout.

Animations exude a genuine sense of solidity for every live character, and Spyro himself is instantly accessible in terms of the oft ignored ‘cute and heroic’ label. Shadow Realm beasties are typically nasty and come armed with defensive magical shielding, armor plating, razor-sharp pincers, whipping tails, and plenty of gnashing teeth. But Spyro has an answer for every tribulation, and his evolving grasp of magic and attack moves via level-ups means that each new challenge thrown his way is soon grappled into submission.

Explanatory narrative threads are gradually unveiled as Spyro frees each successive party of unfortunates from the Shadow Realm and returns them to their rightful dimension. Alongside these plotline snippets, Spyro can also accept the occasional odd job for those gratefully released from captivity, thus gathering more experience points, vital mission items, and other handy bits and bobs along the way. The central story remains one of dark foreboding throughout as it builds to its ‘big unveiling’ and boss battle finale, yet the NPCs play a light-hearted comedy role to prevent the tone from spilling over into the morose and alienating younger players.

The musical accompaniment is thoroughly fitting to a fantastical adventure involving a fire-breathing purple dragon, and it remains ably attuned to Shadow Legacy’s style while swinging between the normal and shadowed dimensions. Sound effects are all nimbly captured and portrayed; character grunts, exclamations, and screams are wonderfully throaty and well observed—especially the leg-shuddering death gargles of the crabs. Listen out for the eerily familiar scream as Spyro plummets to his death from mountainsides, or unwittingly dives headfirst into molten lava. Lawsuits not withstanding, he does sound much like a certain Italian plumber we all know.

Spyro: Shadow Legacy has taken a somewhat unfair pounding from a selection of the more ‘high-profile’ review sites, and yet it exists as a perfectly decent entry to the growing DS catalogue. A lack of spit and polish in integral areas doesn’t detract excessively from the game’s impact, and the shoehorned interaction with the touch screen is certainly forgivable on this occasion. Spyro: Shadow Legacy is not a revolutionary experience, and though some pundits blindly expect every DS release to conform to that expectation, the game is entertaining, it is appealing, it is addictive, and it is worthy of your time. In short, it’s solid and accessible fun, and in today’s often-dreary marketplace, that’s no bad thing.