NINTENDO DS REVIEW: SPYRO: SHADOW LEGACY

Spyro's flame isn't getting any hotter with this lukewarm entry. by Mike Chasselwaite

January 10, 2005 - Spyro: Shadow Legacy is a great-looking game. Spryo and his surroundings have never looked better on a handheld. Unfortunately the gameplay is not very memorable. This should have been a cartoon instead of a game.

There can be no denying that Spyro has been steadily going downhill. It as though his fifteen minutes of fame is over and the resulting struggle to regain a few precious minutes in the limelight is a pathetic struggle of futility. The recycled gameplay that is aimed at not-so-talented kids does little to bolster Spyro's status as an iconic gaming mascot.

Spyro takes a vacation. When he returns to the Dragon Realm he finds that all the inhabitants have been whisked away by a mysterious force to the Shadow Realm. This new realm is dark and foreboding. It contains strange, aggressive and powerful creatures. Spyro is able to enter into this realm through various vortexes that are located throughout the map. Because he is purple he is unaffected by the force. The captured dragons are red and have limited powers. Once inside the Shadow Realm, Spyro will combat monstrous insects, collect items, gain experience and free the inhabitants of the Dragon Realm.

Some of the characters that Spyro will free include various animals such as bears, cheetahs and armadillos as well as wizards, cavemen and fairies. The most important of these characters are the Dragon Elders which when freed will be able to impart new skills and magic to Spyro. These new abilities include special attacks, magic spells, Martial Arts moves and magic abilities such as teleportation which allows you instant access to different areas on the map. Using RPG elements, these new abilities will be available when you level-up Spyro with experience points and are invited to visit the temple where you will meet with the Dragon Elders. You can gain experience points in battle and by performing side-quests which are really nothing more than simple fetch quests.

Simplicity is the name of the game. While I can appreciate that Spyro doesn't profess to have the depth of a strategy game I would certainly expect the gameplay to be fun. The various powers that Spyro acquires are not really necessary for completion of the game. The magic spells require that you draw a magic symbol with the stylus to active them. It's a good idea but in the heat of battle it's not practical especially since it slows the pace down and you can finish the enemy off with what powers you already possess. The character interaction is reduced to a series of overly annoying "Thank yous."

Spyro's powers differ in the Shadow Realm. He can float a little longer but he's can't breath fire and set things ablaze. You will experience things in the Shadow Realm that you won't experience in the normal world. The Shadow Realm is like a twisted parallel universe where different laws of physics, magic and evil reside. It also looks a lot creepier with darker tones. Items and enemies that appear in the Shadow Realm may have to be taken care of to make progress in the Dragon Realm. You will experience an invisible wall only to find that there is an obstacle in the same location in the Shadow Realm. Use a magic spell to move it and then you may proceed in Spyro's normal world. We've seen this kind of dual-world gameplay before and it's been done better.

Spyro's basic moves include double jumping, blocking attacks with his wings and gliding. He can also perform magic in addition to his breath attacks. As I've mentioned you will acquire more moves as you go but other than the novelty factor you don't really need most of them and you probably won't use most of them.

As far as your moves are concerned, you will interact with the DS using the touch controls, the stylus and the buttons. Most of the action commands are relegated to the buttons with the exception of the magic spells which are drawn with the stylus. Inventory, stats and what should be an overhead map, but isn't, appear on the lower screen. The map displays active quests but give you very little detail as to where to go and where you are.

The buttons are limited and as such perform double duties. For instance, pressing the X button for attacks in a context sensitive area can cause you to inadvertently enter a portal or another room.

Not all of the quests have to be performed but there are some which need to be completed to finish the game. Needless to say the game doesn't tell you which ones you need so you will be advised to do them all. Also, you might find that you have to restart the game. This can happen when you enter an area in which you are insufficiently leveled-up to defeat the enemy. You can't go back and you can't go forward. Your only choice is to restart the game and it might not save your inventory.

There are a lot of bugs in this game that seriously decrease the enjoyment value. Slowdown occurs when multiple enemies appear onscreen. The framerate of the sprites may be smooth but the scrolling background is jerky in comparison. The camera angle tends to hide some enemies from view and the collision detection system will find you clipping, getting caught in scenery and missing your platform jumps. Add to this the overly-loud and distorted sound effects and you'll wonder why you should care about this game when it's obvious the developers didn't.

Overall the gameplay is simple and repetitive. So much more could have been done with it - but fix the damn thing first. Even if you want to collect all of the Dragon's eggs and complete all of the side-quests there nothing stopping you from completing this game in a day.

Features:

  • For the first time, the series will have magical powers, RPG elements, and martial arts fighting included in the gameplay.
  • More advanced and interactive features
  • Earn experience points that allow you to improve Spyros strength and abilities.
  • Takes advantage of the DS dual screens, touch screen, wireless capabilities, and 3D graphics.
  • Draw symbols to cast spells or use the second screen as an overhead map.
  • Trade collectible creatures with other players nearby via wireless availability.

By Mike Chasselwaite
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Spyro: Shadow Legacy (DS)
4.2
Graphics
Spyro and the other characters look great, until they stop moving. The backgrounds are also nicely detailed but a little jerky when scrolling.
3.0
Control
Not very precise controls though most of it can be attributed to the poor collision detection system.
4.2
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects are distorted. The soundtrack is varied and nicely recorded.
2.2
Play Value
Extremely limited replay value since it might be too much to ask to finish the first time.
2.7
Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: DS
Dev: Amaze
Pub: VU Games
Released: Oct 2005
Players: 1
Review by Mike C.

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best