Spyro Year Of The Dragon

a game by Sony Imagesoft, and SCEA
Platforms: Playstation PSX
Genre: Action
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 4 reviews
User Rating: 9.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Spyro Games
Spyro Year Of The Dragon
Spyro Year Of The Dragon
Spyro Year Of The Dragon
Spyro Year Of The Dragon

What's the deal?

It's the newest in a line of impressive Spyro the Dragon games. Year of the Dragon still has the cartoony 3D action we've come to know and love, except with some additions to the gameplay. The game now has a variety of characters to use--each with its own homeland and unique abilities--who help Spyro achieve certain objectives. And you won't have to worry about backtracking with multiple characters like you did in a certain ape-riddled N64 adventure. "Since most of the time Spyro and the critters do not exist in the same areas, there's no confusion about which character you should be playing at any point in the game, said Ted Price, president of developer Insomniac. This sequel packs plenty of mini-games, too. In one, Spyro can hop on a skateboard and bust out moves and combos on ramps and half-pipes.

So why is it a must-get game?

Insomniac's Spyro games have consistently been well-made. Even i when they're on the easy side, there's no denying how fun and impressive-looking they are.

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Game Reviews

Insomniac is already hard at work on the third Spyro platform adventure, set for release this November. Year of the Dragon (working title) follows Spyro and Sparx on an all-new adventure through 30 worlds in their quest to rescue dragon eggs from an evil sorceress. Check out all these added features: boxing, skateboarding, and sharp shooting sections, as well as submarines, tanks, and speedboats you can control.

Spyro's back, and he's en fuego The dragon eggs have been stolen from Dragon World, and it's up to our diminutive purple hero to rescue them all.

Year of the Dragon features the same cartoonish graphics, secret-laden levels and kid-friendly learning curve that made the original Spyro games popular; however, developer Insomniac Games has tossed in a bunch of new extras to make this third edition to the series stand out.

First of all, there are four new playable characters--Sheila the kangaroo, Sgt. Bird the flying penguin, Bentley the Yeti, and Agent 9 the super-intelligent monkey--each with his or her own special abilities. For instance, the flying Sgt. Bird can pick up objects and drop them onto desired targets with great precision, while Agent 9 is equipped with a blaster gun and zoomable sniper scope. He can also lob bombs over walls or other obstacles to give enemies a nasty surprise.

Year of the Dragon also expands on the minigames found in the last Spyro, including boxing, skateboarding and sharp shooting. Once unlocked, gamers can play these areas as either Spyro or as one of the other new characters. Plus, you still get the same racing bonus rounds and Sparx stages found in previous Spyro titles. (For those unfamiliar with the series, Sparx is Spyro's dragonfly sidekick/ health gauge. His hidden rounds play like old-school, top-down shooters, complete with shot power-ups like tracking missiles and smart bombs!)

As if that weren't enough, the developers tossed in a bunch of new controllable vehicles, including a submarine, tank and speedboat. There's even a rocket that lets Spyro ascend to all-new heights. Perhaps most impressive of all, the game's main levels are said to be 150-200% larger than those found in Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! Each is chock-full of secrets and spools directly off the disc with virtually no load times. Even though hardcore gamers might scoff at Spyro, simple but solid games like this make it clear Sony is committed to keep their current PS audience happy, even as the PS2 launch approaches.

Overview

An evil sorceress and her henchmen have stolen a bunch of dragon eggs and it seems only our vertically challenged hero can get them back. In this third Spyro outing, the stage is set for a platform game to rival the likes of Mario and Rayman. High praise? Read on.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

With so many 3D platform games on the market, ranging from great to horrible, it is hard to make one stand out. Innovation, in the case of Spyro: Year of the Dragon (SYOTD), does not come from redefining the platform game genre, but adding so many different styles of gameplay that it is almost as inventive. However, this makes describing the gameplay an exercise in futility. Sure, you control Spyro -- jumping, floating, and shooting fire as he grabs gems and rescues eggs. Then, to add variety, you rescue four different playable characters: a kickin’ kangaroo, a flying penguin with rocket launchers, a large yeti (i.e. abominable snowman), and finally a space monkey. Each has unique moves and styles of gameplay.

At this point I couldn’t help but think most games would get drawn into a repetitious switching between characters.SYOTD, however, gets you just familiar enough with each character then switches you to true retro-gaming madness. Whether it’s a rail shooter, a boxing match, a ride on a skateboard, shooting sharks from the back of a manta ray, a 2D side scrolling platformer, an overhead Gauntlet-style runaround, or even a Doom-like first-person romp, SYOTD just keeps throwing surprises, new experiences, and different gameplay styles at you. These are just a few of the different types of levels, each offering something new and extra. Even each new main boss encounter seems vastly different from the last. Sure, Mario64 had the huge amount of gameplay and Rayman 2 had the variety of playing styles, but neither combined both into so nice a package. Almost every level in the game made me regret how soon it was over and just like the two previously mentioned games, SYOTD can appeal to both the young and old gamer.

The length of gameplay is directly proportionate to how much importance you place on getting every item in the game. If you want to get every gem, every egg, play all the bonus levels, and then get all the skill points, you can easily add 20 hours to the length of time it would take just to finish the game.

Graphics

The graphics in SYOTD could definitely be better, but I’m sure the designers tried hard to make good use of the aging PlayStation engine to create graphics that are both clear and cartoon-like. The graphics aren’t nearly as impressive as Rayman 2, but despite a little graininess, they are adequate.

Audio

Basically the same as in the graphics department, the audio for SYOTD just doesn’t measure up to other games in this same area. The tunes are cutesy and, although they try some interesting musical styles (sometimes making me question what style was trying to come across at all), they just don’t seem very important. The best thing I can say about the music is that it never interferes with the gameplay, just kind of staying in the background. The voice acting, on the other hand, was usually quite good with a wide variety of accents making each area better defined and the well-written dialogue is spoken as it was intended. (Did I mention that _SYOTD- is really quite funny at times?)

Bottom Line

To me, Spyro: Year of the Dragon is one of those exceptional games where the great gameplay makes up for mediocre graphics and sound. If it could have combined all three, it would have got a 90 or higher, but for being just too much fun, I give it an 89.

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