The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning
Content at a glance:
Mild Violence: Melee-style combat against non-human enemies, enemies can be set on fire and some splatter when defeated.Spiritual Content: New breath powers can be obtained, magic gems are seen, storyline references prophecies, other gods, and possible ancestor worship. Rude Humor: Sarcasm and disrespect are played for humor. Mild Language: One exclamation of "oh my god."
Author’s Note: This review only covers the console versions of this game, specifically the GameCube version. Some or all of the content sections may not apply to the handheld version.
A dragon, a dragon, I swear I saw a dragon…oh wrong story.
I remember when the dragon was usually the thing the hero fought against. The lines got a bit blurred somewhere down the road because now we have an entire game series devoted to those scaly creatures with breath that could roast a few turkeys…and everything else too. Instead of fighting dragons, the Spyro series put gamers into the shoes, or rather paws, of one: a purple dragon for whom the series is named for.
For whatever reason, in 2006, the Spyro series got a reboot and a makeover. That was the year that The Legend of Spyro began. This game is unrelated to any of the previous titles, except for the same purple dragon and his little dragonfly companion, Sparx. It begins an entirely new story that took three games to tell, and as the name suggests, this is the first chapter if you will.
Note: This review contains spoilers
Spyro’s story begins very much like you’d expect a dragon’s tale to begin: with an egg. When an army with evil intentions lays siege to a dragon’s nesting place, one egg is sent floating down the river to protect it. The egg is discovered by a pair of dragonflies who take it in and raise it and the hatchling that comes out of it alongside their own young one, Sparx. Time goes on and the little, purple dragon named Spyro soon discovers that he is in fact not a dragonfly (since he and Sparx look nothing alike, it should’ve been really obvious). After learning the truth, Spryo sets off to discover who and what he is. He gets some answers in the form of a large red dragon named Ignitus, who is also a dragon guardian and the master of fire. Ignitus tells Spryo the true destiny of the purple dragon and sends the young one off on a journey to master his powers, rescue the remaining three guardians, and defeat Cynder, an evil black dragon.
A New Beginning is set up very much like your typical platformer. Controls are basic and easy to understand, but that doesn’t mean this game is easy to master. The game is divided into six stages and two sub-stages which consist of rail flying. In these sections, Spyro will move forward on his own, and it falls on you to direct him.
There are three meters that you’ll want to keep an eye on. The first is your health meter, for obvious reasons. Next comes your breath meter, which shows you how much power Spyro has to use his breath abilities, and finally is the fury meter which fills after collecting gems. Fill it up all the way and Spyro can unleash an attack that is nothing short of devastating.
In the event you lose all your health, and it’s usually pretty likely, you won’t see a game over screen. You’ll just be taken back to the last spot the game saved. It’s either really handy or really frustrating.
Spyro engages enemies that resemble plants and anthropomorphic apes in melee-style combat. The little guy makes use of body strikes that sometimes manage to throw enemies into the air. Sometimes the camera slows down for some real stylized combat. With a couple of his breath powers, namely fire and electricity, Spyro can cause enemies to writhe and twitch a little from his attack. Speaking of fire, enemies will be set on fire for a brief time should you use that breath against them.
In a lot of cases, enemies will simply fall over and vanish, but some of them will splatter yellow goo all over the place. None of this is particularly graphic, but the splattering is a little bit disgusting.
In this legend, there are dragons that can master and control one of four elemental breath powers, fire, electricity, ice, and earth. But in the case of Spyro, he can control all four a la The Last Airbender. It’s hard to decide whether or not Spyro’s powers fall into the category of magic or simply naturalistic traits. The game also mentions prophecies that foretell the birth of a purple dragon and what sort of impact it will have on the world.
The dragons also apparently worship their ancestors. At least twice, Ignitus asks them to watch over everyone, almost as a form of prayer or blessing. Spyro’s world is also filled with magic gems said to be gifts from the ancestors.
In one of the levels, Spyro encounters a tribe of llama-like creatures who are said to be deeply devoted to their gods. It would appear that they have room for more because we see them treating Spyro as a god, complete with some of them praying to him, after the level is completed.
It becomes apparent later on that Cynder is not the real enemy, but she serves a being known only as the Dark Master. It’s suggested that this unseen figure possesses some evil powers that he uses to manipulate and control his followers. It’s this fact that motivates Spyro later on at the end, but more on that later.
I could sum this bit up with one word: Sparx. Spyro’s foster-brother is sarcastic in just about every situation. He cracks jokes, some of which are pretty disrespectful, at every turn. One of his lines is a bit suggestive when he calls another character “sexy” although this too is played for laughs when you consider the character he’s talking about is another dragon.
Again, the only offender is Sparx. At one point, he exclaims “oh my god.” I don’t know how this would be rated considering the game takes place in a world where gods are a dime a dozen. But still, in the real world, it’s something worth raising an eyebrow over.
Spyro is a hero through-and-through. Even when told there is no hope, the little dragon is willing to push on, and he’s told there’s not much to hope for pretty early and pretty often. He’s willing to brave a lot of dangers for something bigger than himself, even though his life before learning his true identity wasn’t all that bad.
The purple guy is even willing to take risks for his enemy. After defeating Cynder, Spyro is unwilling to leave her to a worse fate. He seems willing to forgive her for all she’s done though it looks more like he’s blaming someone else for what the black dragon became. Still, the fact that he’s willing to save someone who was previously his mortal enemy is worth noting.
I was never much of a Spyro fan I’ll admit. I only played one game, and it got me to roll my eyes instead. So when I heard there was a new game, I wasn’t all that thrilled. I have to say this is a vast improvement. I was especially impressed with the story and the voice acting. I thought everyone fit their characters very well, especially the voices for Spyro, Sparx and Ignitus.
But sadly, this game isn’t as clean as the title I played. While the Spyro games, to the best of my knowledge, had a bit of magic to them, its magic was usually well within the realm of fantasy. That’s not to say that most of A New Beginning isn’t: Spyro’s breath powers may be in the same ballpark as something like The Last Airbender, but it could also easily be seen as perfectly natural considering the world the game is set in. But they do add a bit more problematic content with what counts as ancestor worship and polytheism. And while Sparx’s humor could be overlooked, his one use of language isn’t so easy to excuse.
But if you don’t feel bothered by this, I’d recommend starting out your Spyro collection with this title. It’s a shame I can’t recommend it more readily.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.
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