GAMECUBE REVIEW: SPYRO: A HERO'S TAIL

Those Spyro fans frightened off by Enter the Dragonfly are sure to be appeased with this latest adventure Spyro: A Hero's Tail. Although it's a standard platformer, it's got all the bells and whistles you have come to expect from other top-shelf platform games while remaining true to the Dragon Realm universe.

Just about everything that we complained about in the last game has been addressed. This is one great platformer. It doesn't take the genre to new heights but instead incorporates virtually all of the best elements of other classic platformers. Not only does Spyro have new moves, but you can play as four other characters, each with different abilities. This gives you unprecedented variety for a Spyro game. Not to mention that the controls have been tightened to make your adventure the best it can be.

Thanks to Red, the Dragon Realm is in trouble again. He plans to gain control of the domain by planting evil Dark Gems throughout the land. These gems turn the beautiful and peaceful areas of the realm into dark and dangerous wastelands filled with evil creatures of all description. Spyro and his four companions trek through the realm in search of these gems which they must destroy to reclaim their territory.

Spyro's basic moves include running, jumping, double jumping, gliding and dashing into enemies. New moves include the tail swing which allows him to use his tail like a lasso. Spyro can also bounce between relatively close walls to rebound his way to the top. Since the controls are tighter, you can maneuver him much more easily this time, avoiding attacks and landing more securely on platforms. As an added bonus, a cliff hanging feature will ensure that you don't miss the platform by a hair if you can't quite perfect your landing techniques.

The game has been made a little bit easier but it's not dumbed down. It's still challenging but the frustration level has been severely diminished. The AI will put up a decent fight but you can still eliminate most of them with a fire breath. Armored enemies (Gnorcs), have to be rammed first to break through their armor before you can finish them off with a blast of breath.

Spyro doesn't just breathe fire, he's capable of a lot more than that. Different breath attacks can be purchased at Mr. Moneybags' shop. Aside from the standard fire, ice and electricity, Spyro can breath water and spew puke to vanquish enemies. Okay, so I made the puke breath up - save that for Leisure Suit Larry.

While on the lookout for the Dark Gems, there are various Easter eggs and dragon eggs to keep an eye out for. There are plenty of surprises in the eggs and it creates a wave of excitement when you spot one. It's really addicting.

To round out the platform experience, four other playable characters bring a new dimension to the Spyro universe. As Hunter the Cheetah you will use a bow and arrow to take enemies out from a distance. He's also a capable hand-to-hand fighter with punch and kicks moves. Sparx is a tiny dragonfly that can access small areas the other guys can't get into. Blink the Mole can climb and burrow, planting explosives or using his laser weapon to take care of enemies. Sargent Bird is a flying penguin (we all know that penguins can't fly - don't we?) that can drop bombs and missiles from the air. All of the new characters handle as well as if each were the star of the game.

Watching the environments change back from the effects of the Dark Gems is truly spellbinding. Both dark and beautiful environments have a fairly-tale-come-to-life quality to them. Everything is colorful and well animated. The soundtrack is also great with heavily orchestrated themes that add significant weight to the mood. The voiceovers are good but some of the characterizations seem a little forced.

Spyro has branched out to share the spotlight with new characters. It's a concept that works well within the context of the story and certainly adds lot of variety to an already solid platformer. It's short on replay value but it will still take you 20 some hours to get through it.

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System: GC
Dev: Eurocom
Pub: Vivendi
Released: Nov 2004
Players: 1
Review by Daemia
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
5.0
MUSIC/FX
4.5
VALUE
2