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The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning - GC - Review


Posted by: jkdmedia

Review Rating 6.0 Above Average

That cute little purple dragon is back again, but this time around he’s much more serious and not as playful as in previous games. Unlike his other adventures, A New Beginning is almost wholly a combat game, with very minimal platforming elements. There aren’t any locational puzzles to speak of, and hardly any collecting. About the only jumping involves jumping high up to deliver some type of one-two punch to enemies. Yep, Spyro has changed, but for the better? Our family doesn’t think so, but the final verdict depends on what type of game you prefer, a platform game or a fighting game.

In A New Beginning, Spyro learns that he really isn’t a firefly after all, but is really a dragon from a distant land (remember The Jerk?). He immediately sets out to discover more about his origins and soon learns that the Dark Master has enslaved the dragons, with the help of a very bad dragon named Cynder. In order to free the land from these two, Spyro must free the dragons. Along the way, he will also learn more about his true identity.

This story is unfolded by the use of many cutscenes, which are of a high cinematic quality. They are excellently animated and really neat to watch.  This is a good thing, because they also interrupt the gameplay to an annoying degree in the first part of the game. The intrusiveness is almost forgotten, though, as players watch these dramatic movies.

These movies set the tone for the entire game, as this game is darker and much more serious than previous Spyro games.  The plot of the game is a quest, where Spyro is on a dangerous mission to free the dragons from Cynder. His whole demeanor is serious, even his facial expressions. The silliness of the previous games is absolutely lacking, despite the punish names of some of the characters (manweersmalls are the names of some small characters).

It’s not only the movies that are beautiful; the entire game is a joy to watch, from the backgrounds and characters to the animated fighting between Spyro and the bad guys. It’s easily one of the prettiest games we’ve seen on the GameCube. The effort that went into the animation and cinematics is evident. But, pretty pictures do not a game make. Unfortunately, besides the wonderful graphics, there isn’t a whole lot going for this game.

It’s all about the combat. Really, there is nothing else going on here besides fighting. There are different levels, such as a fire world, an earth world, an ice world, a space world, etc., with a few, brief flying sequences thrown in, but that’s all that is different, because the fighting is the same from level to level. Spyro gains new powers in each level, but they don’t change the game any, except that he doesn’t die as quickly in his first encounters with the current level’s baddies. This is what happens in every location: Spyro runs into a location, the bad guys pop out of the ground or swoop down from the air, and the player immediately starts mashing buttons for combat combos. By killing the baddies and smashing items, Spyro collects gems which are used to increase his powers, essentially. While Spyro does become more powerful and harder to kill, there isn’t anything new or special about these attacks, as we’ve seen them all before.

Wham! Pow! Flame! Spyro is a whirlwind of flame and ice as he battles. It’s intense action, and fun enough the first few times, but as the enemies keep piling on, it becomes less fun, especially for younger players. This game is much more difficult than A Hero’s Tale, and young players will have a hard time of it. Older gamers who like a lot of combat may enjoy the higher level of difficulty, but the sameness of it all may pall on adults.

For starters, this is a one-pony show, with fighting the only thing to do the entire game. There is a constant barrage of combat directed at Spyro that he cannot avoid. Once an enemy is defeated, a ton more appear. There is literally nowhere to hide or escape; all enemies must be killed to advance. There are almost no collection items, except for the gems that are used as power-ups, and there really aren’t any locational puzzles to solve. All Spyro does the entire game is beat up the bad guys. The combat itself isn’t badly done; in fact, much of it is well-designed with good collision detection and good camera angles.  But it is repetitive and tedious after awhile, and there is no opportunity to rest or catch a breath between fights, as the baddies are constantly present. The gameplay becomes boring, and there isn’t anything else to do besides fight.  No mini-games, no collecting, no puzzles.

Whether gamers like the new Spyro over previous interpretations really depends on the type of gaming they prefer, platforming and collecting, or combat-oriented. Our family enjoyed A Hero’s Tale immensely, despite it not being considered a great game by the majority of reviewers. While not a technical marvel or a startlingly innovative game, A Hero’s Tale was a very entertaining family game, and one that everyone could enjoy.  The variety and amount of collecting was just right for young players, and it offered enough challenge to be interesting without being frustrating. On the other hand, A New Beginning is much more difficult, due to the intense combat which can’t be avoided. This higher difficulty could be considered a plus for older players, but the repetitiveness of the game as a whole and the utter lack of anything else to do besides fight ultimately negates any positive from the increased challenge.

The bottom line is that this isn’t the family friendly game that its predecessor was. It is a better-looking game, and is harder, but the drawbacks of the lack of variety and general sense of fun cancel out the good features.

Review Scoring Details for GAME NAME

Gameplay: 6.0
The endless combat palls after awhile, with no relief in sight. There is no escape or avoiding the fighting, and there isn’t anything other than fighting to do. There needed to be more things to do, like puzzles, mini-games, or anything besides fighting.

Graphics: 9.0
The graphics are absolutely wonderful!

Sound: 7.0
The sound effects are decent, but nothing above the average.

Difficulty: Hard
The game is difficult due to the endless combat that can’t be avoided.

Concept: 6.0
There isn’t anything new or different about this game.

Overall: 6.0
While this is one of the best-looking games we’ve seen and the combat, in and of itself, is designed well enough, the gameplay just isn’t any fun after the first hour of play. If it isn’t very fun, it isn’t very good.

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