The PlayStation purple dragon is presented in his premiere platformer for the GameCube. Does it pack a punch or perform poorly?
I've always been eager to play a Spyro the Dragon game, as I never had a PlayStation, and there were three games that were originally created (Insomniac has now moved on to other games). As Universal owns the franchise, rather than letting it die, they've gotten their own game designers to mimic the original games and thus allow it to continue. While this seems like a good idea (keep established fans in familiar territory, and introduce new players to the series) it works terribly, as Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly seems to have been rushed out the door to meet a slipping release date.
Spyro's adventure begins at the end of the 'Year of the Dragonfly' festival, where young dragons are given a dragonfly companion. Dragons everywhere come to see this event take place. However, Ripto and his henchmen turn up and Ripto casts a spell, which instead of capturing all of the dragonflies for himself (as it was supposed to) scatters them across the land. As dragonflies are incredibly fast and difficult to catch, Spyro is given the ability to breathe bubbles to trap the dragonflies in.
I don't normally complain about frame rates in games, as a little dip or flicker in the graphics doesn't overall ruin gameplay. However, what Spyro has is not a little dip or flicker. This game runs about as fast as a snail on valium. While running around the Dragon Realms (the overworld of the game) if there's too many sheep or moving characters on screen, the game will skip frames excessively. It also happens while running or flying through levels where there are a lot of characters, and even sometimes when there aren't any characters in the area! This is just unacceptable. Once, while opening up my Atlas (where all your game statistics are stored) rather than showing the book, it showed a black screen with nearly invisible writing.
On the bright side, the graphics themselves are fairly good. The flames look nice and realistic, and there are areas such as a Dojo with blossoms on the trees, a castle up in the clouds, a forest dripping with honey and a farm with a disturbing amount of aliens and abductions. It's good to see that the designers were creative with most of the levels, rather than having the stock standard lava level, the forest level, the snow level - while the elements from these levels appear, they also have their own unique flavour. When it comes to characters aside from Spyro, they appear to be rather simplistic, with not many textures on them (Moneybags the Bear, for instance, just looks like a brown polygon on top of a blue one).
Music and sound effects are also a mixed bag. The sounds are okay, they're the standard cartoony sounds that you'd expect from a game like this. The speech, although average and bordering on damn well irritating, can be skipped, which is good. But the music - oh, the music. Each note is like a rusty nail being driven through my fingers. The bland overworld theme is an ambling mesh of instruments that sounds more like elevator music than anything suited to a place known as "The Dragon Realms". No music really stuck out for me as memorable - not even the music for the Thieves' Den level. I think I'm subconsciously trying to block it all out.
As for the gameplay, well, that's equally as infuriating. Due to the awful control you have over Spyro when he's flying, you'll be plummeting off cliffs, missing switches you're trying to ground pound, swerving all over the place while trying to land properly and falling off small platforms for no reason at all. Magic elevators that lift you do so by swirling you around and around, and you don't know where the hell you're ending up - no less than five times did I fly off into oblivion on one particular elevator. Chasing after dragonflies and catching them in bubbles is a pretty cool idea...well, it would be if the collision detection worked. It doesn't register when you blow bubbles at a dragonfly, and you'll have to try over and over while hearing the most irritating "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!" ever. One dragonfly I had to catch was on the last of three tiny stepping stones suspended in the air - you would always slide off the last one for no reason. When I finally got to the dragonfly, I was shooting it with bubbles for 10 minutes straight, and it still wasn't registering. It's lucky I wasn't using my WaveBird. It would have been perfect for lobbing right at that stupid dragonfly.
One thing I did like though was the flying racing. This is really cool, and although challenging, it isn’t due to poor control. There are two modes - one was an obstacle course where you have to fly through 10 lamps and breathe fire to light them, then land on the ground and knock out 10 rickshaws, then jump up and fly again and knock out 10 hang gliding Riptocs. The other is a straight out race against the local villains. You have to fly through rings as you race, and if you miss a ring, you fail - but you also have to strategically go off course to get flying boosts and make it back to the rings, all while trying to beat the other racers!
If you have enough patience, Spyro 4 would probably last you for a very long time due to the amount of dragonflies and gems there are to find throughout the levels to earn 100%. You only need to complete the main objective for each level to meet Ripto and beat him, although there wasn't any ending for that - I'm guessing the ending appears when you get 100%. When you beat Ripto in the PS2 version, your dragonfly, Sparx, becomes a gem detector, which would be really helpful. I honestly don't understand why they took that out of the GameCube version. Overall, I'm really frustrated and disappointed with my first Spyro game. I'm positive the first three games can't have been this bad, as they were made by Insomniac, and... Well, if you've played Ratchet and Clank, you'll understand. If you have Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, trade it in for a PS1 Spyro game and hope for the best. But please, do not play this game all the way through. Innocent minds will be lost.