Spyro the little dragon is for sure one of the more famous game characters in this very gaming universe. Although his fame is not comparable to shinning “demigods” like Mario or Sonic Spyro always had a solid fan community to call his own. Now we witness his first appearance on the Nintendo Gamecube along with another visit to the Sony Console, and to tell the truth: we aren’t very happy with it.
Spyro returns with another 3D Jump’n’Run game, including hovering and gliding when in the air, and some new features like that Spyro can now breath bubbles, electricity and water among other things should make the game more interesting. In fact they do alright, and especially the graphics were improved to use the next-generation consoles powers so what is the problem with Spyro? One can sum it up in one word and I will do so: bugs. The game was probably pushed out too early so it can make it in time for the Christmas business – understandable from the economic point of view but still a shame, especially since one can’t expect patches for a console title.
Don’t get me wrong the game is not all bad but we have to cover certain issues – so let’s start right away. Very annoying on both systems but at least a little better on the Cube is that the frame rate often drops to horrible small numbers – a lagging console game – till now I only heard that happen with the competition from Redmond . A second issue regarding the graphics which wouldn’t be so obvious if the general looks of the game wouldn’t be quiet good is that some game character models didn’t get the attention they deserved. Popping out eyes are often the smallest problems these abominations that once were fluffy animal friends now have... Spyro himself on the other hand is detailed from horn to tail. The appearance of the main character is an important thing, alright, but in a major release like Spyro also the secondary characters have to be of a certain quality.
Far or close, who knows...
People who followed my work over the last years know that I normally don’t mention much about sound and music except for games in which it is exceptional bad or good. Spyro falls in neither category but since we are bug hunting we will pay the orchestra a short visit. Let’s remember some basic school knowledge first: sounds that origin from far away are more silent than sounds which are near us. Not so in Spyro. Something went very wrong with the sound positioning system. Sounds from far away often sound like directly in front of you. Puzzled by this you will expect enemies near you even if they aren’t. To make the so caused confusion worse sound samples are “unstoppable”. The ninja enemies for example have their static attack sound, approx. 4 seconds of *hu* *ha* *zoing**gna* - fry the guy with your flame but you still hear him till the sample is over. “I’m hearing dead people.” Thanks, Cole.
Once upon a time...
Graphics and sound have their flaws, so what about gameplay and story? *Sigh* so sorry Spyro I’m not done yet. The story is on the one hand very simple to make it possible for kids to follow the story line too – but even here are flaws that make the story unlogical most of the time. The game starts with a party at the castle which celebrates the junction between dragons and their dragon flies (although besides Spyro there is not a single dragon in sight). Only with a dragon fly a dragon gains his powers. Suddenly Spyro’s archenemy, Ripto, appears and tries to kidnap all the dragon flies. Bad for him that he uses the wrong spell and instead of being caught all the dragon flies disappear!
Ripto leaves but swears to return because without dragon flies the dragons are no match for him (so why does he leave in the first place??). Then all of a sudden Spyro’s friend Bianca has an idea (we never learn how she got it) and runs into the castle and - surprise - she finds Spyro’s dragon fly Sparx! We learn that the dragon flies were randomly scattered all around the realms and Spyro, now dragon fly powered again, has to bring them back before Ripto returns! To catch the dragon flies (the teleportation must have caused amnesia because the dragon flies now flee from Spyro and even laugh at you when you can’t catch them) he gets his first new breath: bubbles. When targeting the dragon flies with it they are safely transported back to the castle (they grant supreme powers and can communicate with their dragon counter-part but can’t ask someone for the way – amnesia again I guess). The goal for the rest of the game you can guess I guess. Fry enemies, catch dragon flies, fry more enemies, catch even more dragon flies - gotta get them all.
Looking at the mentioned issues it is true that most of the bugs are “only” irritating and annoying but a game that should be fun is ruined if you wonder most of the time what went wrong during development. Spyro could really have been a hit - most of the levels and especially Spyro himself are well detailed and you can enjoy exploring the large world the developers created. Various crazy looking enemies and sometimes even more crazy looking friends give you a good laugh. But flaws are flaws and a game that is often annoying although it has its good moments can’t get a top score even if it features Spyro.