Spyro games have been my primary source of entertainment for around a month now, and the moment I began, I knew this day would come. When starting something new, despite what it is, I tend to do this thing where I have some level of existential dread surrounding the idea of the end of the said thing. The literal day I commenced my Spyro adventure, knowing full well that I had countless hours of fun ahead, I found myself continually betrayed by my brain. The start of something new is also the beginning of the end, and while I struggle to grasp this truth, I have learned to make the most of something before I reach its inevitable destination. All digressions aside, let’s dive into my thoughts on the Year of the Dragon.
The game starts with about as strong of a plot device as the other entries. Whatever excuse the Dragons can muster to send Spyro on a collect-a-thon throughout the Dragon world. This time, every Dragon egg got swiped while Spyro & Co. were sleeping. Oh, and don’t forget to collect more treasure along the way.
Within the first world, you are introduced to a new mechanic, playing as a different character. If you recall my thoughts on Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, one of my small nit-picks was the backtracking, and it was to my dismay that Year of The Dragon was setting itself up for an entire game full of backtracking from the get-go. Spyro 3 handled returning to a previous level far better than Spyro 2, instead of returning to bash open a few boxes with your Headbash, you return to play as one of the 4 new characters in a completely new area. No more retreading of old ground, and the varied gameplay and mechanics of each character made revisiting past levels a surprising treat some of the time. Out of the 4 new additions to the roster, my favorite by far was Sheila. Her control set is relatively limited, but she does have the ability to kick enemies, which make for some very satisfying gameplay. Bentley was my favorite in terms of personality, he is a top-heavy Yeti wielding a massive club made out of ice, but is well-spoken and eloquent in his mannerisms. The other two characters are okay, but I found their gameplay styles to be a bit on the clunky side and just overall, not my preference.
Another notable change from the previous two games includes the Speedway/Flight levels. The level begins, somewhat jarringly, as you are greeted by Sparx the Dragonfly, and he proceeds to explain to you two different styles of challenges thought the level. The “Time Trial” is remarkably similar to the standard formula of the first two games Speedway, with the only difference being the inability to add time to the clock by flying through rings/defeating enemies. I struggled to complete most of these in the past, and the satisfaction of finally finishing the level was quite high. This time around, these portions of the Speedway levels are too easy as I found myself being able to complete them blind upon my first run of the course. While the bout with these challenges was somewhat of a lightweight fight, they pulled no punches with their newest addition: Races. Your goal is to fly through rings in a predetermined path and finish first. What makes the Races so frustrating is that you move at a consistent speed the entire time, as do your enemies, however, they fly just ever so slightly faster than you do. If you plan on completing the game to one hundred percent, you must hit almost every speed boost located within the track. They are always out of the way and often times found near some dangerous hazards, most of which will cause you to fail immediately or cost you so much time that you may as well restart the course. While I did welcome the added challenge of the Race, most of them felt like I was consistently cheated due to Spyro’s freight train like handling in the air. However, this could be more of a commentary on my own shortcomings and not a gameplay flaw.
The final stand out feature of Year of the Dragon is the Sparx controlled levels. After finishing a boss, you backtrack (sigh) to the previous world to complete what feels a “gauntlet-style” shooting style mini-game. It’s a top-down shooting game where you shoot small pellets from your mouth to defeat various types of enemies. These provide a welcome variation in gameplay from the standard Spyro formula and offer different upgrades for Sparx as he accompanies Spyro in his adventure. None of his missions are overly challenging, and the rewards make it well worth completing. If you are going for the Platinum Trophy in this game, this might be the very last trophy you pop before the platinum, and that kind of adds an anticlimactic feeling to the experience. I suppose that’s what I get for trophy hunting. Since I was keen on the Trophies before finishing, I did set it up in such a way that I was able to complete this as my second to the last trophy, so I ended the game on a much more satisfying note (to the tune of 8,000 treasure).
Finally, and quickly, I want to touch on the consistency of all three games. With the retrospective of having finished all three, it really felt to me as if the second game in the entry was somewhat out of line in terms of consistency. The first and the third both take place in the dragon world, both require you to kill enemies for gems, and both have egg thieves. Ripto’s Rage was also the only game that featured cutscenes for each level, one at the beginning and one at the end. These differences are subtle and have no implications, nor do they make me feel any certain way regarding the second entry. It’s just curious to me that they seemed to have returned to some of these mechanics and abandoned others introduced in game 2.
As someone who typically is outspoken in their opinion surrounding the lack of gameplay variety in platforming games, I can safely say that these three games have revolutionized the way I think about the genre. Each game was a tremendous delight to experience, and while I have taken a massive bite out of the meat that is the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, there are some things for me to return to if I feel so inclined one day. I did not focus on the Skill Points in each game, and the somewhat large post-game for Year of the Dragon is left for me to complete.
I genuinely hope that Toys for Bob brings the series back to its roots. I’d be over the moon to play a 4th entry in the same vein as the first 3, or perhaps they will reboot the series entirely (and not take the toys to life route). I know I say that these blog postings are “not reviews,” but in my own way, I suppose they are. I’d like to think that maybe one day, if I choose to revisit this series, I can accompany that with returning to these posts to see if my opinions have changed or remained consistent.
I totally forgot about the skateboarding. It’s better than the swimming.
To celebrate the completion of this trilogy I’ve decided to add a gallery of some of my favorite concept art. Enjoy 🙂