Set before the first PS One Spyro game, this episode in the life of the purple dragon tells of Spyroís origins, starting out with how he was raised by dragonflies alongside his would-be brother Sparx. However, one day whilst playing in the forest, Spyro accidentally discovers he can breathe fire when Sparx is abducted. Confused and a bit scared, the two returns home and their parents tell Spyro the truth. From here, he sets out to discover his roots.
It isnít long before Spyro comes across Ignitus, another dragon much bigger than Spyro is. Ignitus tells of a time when dragonís roamed the land freely and of how he and 3 others were guardians of eggs Ė eggs that were later all destroyed. Well almost all of them! Spyro was born from one such egg and is in fact the prophesised purple dragon set to stop the Dark Master from returning to the world and Ďcasting a shadow upon the realmsí. And so the quest begins!
While there are a lot of cut-scenes, the game doesnít keep you waiting to get into the gameplay. After the few initial scenes, players will take control of Spyro and start about their adventure. The first thing players will notice is that the series is no longer a platform-puzzle based one, and is instead, the central focus of gameplay is some very nice combo-attacks that bear a more than fleeting resemblance to God of War or even Mortal Kombatís Konquest mode. Thatís right; I just compared the latest instalment of the game franchise that, almost 10 years ago, brought Playstation to kids all over the globe to two of the most gory, bloody games to date. Obviously this release isnít full of blood and gore Ė in fact there is none of it Ė but the combat style was very obviously created under heavy influences of the aforementioned titles. Still donít believe me? Well let me describe the basic mechanics of TLoS: ANB.
Your basic attacks are simple Ė you just press circle over and over, stringing together 1-3 attacks at a time. On the third attack, if successful, your enemy will be launched into the air, when you can jump up and complete another triple-attack in the air, finishing with an additional horn-dive pushing the enemy back towards the ground and flying away from you. If, on the way, that enemy hits another, they will be dealt some damage. There are a few other basic melee attacks, but this is more than likely how you will be dealing with the bulk of enemies in the game. Itís simple and thereís not a lot of variation to be done, but it is fun and it works.
Each of these abilities can be upgraded by collecting crystal shards, which can be found after defeating enemies and in various objects in the game. These are very much like the orbs in; you guessed it, God of War, and even home in on Spyro when he gets near enough. Some of these shards will add to the experience points for upgrading abilities, some will give back some health, and some will give back some of your energy (which is used for each ability-based attack).
Combat aside, the game is fairly basic and simple, but thatís not to say itís boring. Levels are more or less linear and the basic God of War advancement (defeat all enemies in the area before continuing to the next) applies. Occasionally some sections change this formula, such as the mine-cart race and flying sections, but they are few and far between. At the end of each of the 5-themed worlds, there is a boss to battle. Unfortunately boss battles are fairly straight forward and pattern-based, providing little challenge.
On thing that is more of a personal annoyance than a problem, is the fact that when you die, Spyro seems entirely aware of it upon being resurrected, saying things like ďItís alright, we can try againĒ. It isnít going to hurt the score really, but it gets to me a bit that the main character is aware of the fact that he has died. Also, bosses do not get back their health when you die Ė meaning that there is little sense of self-preservation at these points.
Graphically, this is the best Spyro has ever looked. Levels still arenít particularly detailed, but that is more than likely due to trying to keep to a similar feel to the older games. It canít be easy to make a new game based on old source material without changing it Ė still levels could look a little less bland by occupying them with more foliage or something of the like. That aside, the game does look quite nice; with bright, vibrant colours, as per usual, and fairly decent character animation (some of Spyroís facial expressions are priceless!), it keeps the cartoony-platformer feel, but doesnít look too dated. CGI cut-scenes are very nice and in-game cut-scenes are decent enough. However, two aspects of the gameís visuals deserve a bit more discussion.
The other part of the way this release looks that deserves some extra attention is the remarkable way that the story and feel of the game is delivered by a very cinematic approach to cut-scenes and camera control. From the opening moments, hell from even the menu, it is clear that a lot of time, effort and money have been put into making Spyroís story feel like a real story instead of a cheesy game plot. Cut-scenes always appear at just the right moments and are beautifully scripted, mimicking some very nice filming techniques. In addition to this, the first time players play through a flying sequence itís hard to ignore the beauty of Spyro flying through clouds and over some very colourful islands. It may not be next-gen material, but its hard to complain about the on-screen display of this release.
Being another Spyro game, the response towards The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning was always going to be a bit mixed Ė but here at Futuregamez.net, we give it thumbs up. There are certainly areas that could do with a bit of work, and it is obvious that the game is still aimed at a younger audience, but those fans who have gritted their teeth over the last few years will be happy to know that Spyro is on a comeback. Given that the game leaves opening for a sequel, we can only cross our fingers and hope that the next instalment fixes the few problems here. But for now, Spyro has gained a bit more respect in our eyes.