Often times, the third entry in a franchise is where the series reaches a peak. Super Mario Bros 3. A Link to the Past. Super Metroid. Halo 3. Devil May Cry 3. The list goes on and on. Often times, these are the games that define what the series will be going forward, or are so good that they make every following entry feel completely inadequate.
Spyro 3 is not one of those games. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a bad game. But all throughout my playthrough, I felt oddly… exhausted. When I played Spyro 2, and even Spyro 1, I had an irresistible urge to keep playing. Year of the Dragon, on the other hand? I could barely finish a single level per session!
So, what’s the problem? Why doesn’t Year of the Dragon work the same why it’s predecessors do? Well, the answer is simple: it didn’t innovate. Rather, it throws all that it can against the wall and hopes that they stick.
Spoiler alert: they don’t.
Story: SAVE THE KIDS!!
In the first game, you were saving dragons. In game two, you were getting orbs. How do you follow that up? DRAGON EGGS, OF COURSE!! THEY’RE LIKE DRAGONS AND ORBS!!
During the Year of the Dragon celebration, in which new dragons are brought into the world, an army of rhinos attack and steal all the eggs, bringing them back to their master, the Sorceress. Spyro, being the heroic dragon he is, rushes off to save them. Along the way, he’ll make friends with a slew of new playable characters, Sheila the Kangaroo, Sergeant Byrd the Penguin, Bentley the Yeti, and Agent 9 the Monkey, to aid him in his quest.
At this point, you should know what you’re getting into with a Spyro game. It’s not a complicated plot. This one kind of tries to be, giving one of the villains a simple but effective and fun redemption arc. But at its core, this is still basically a playable Saturday morning cartoon. It’s not about characters overcoming their own faults to become better people. It’s just ‘beat the bad guy and save the day’.
And once again: I love it. Sometimes, you just need something simple and easy to digest. Few franchises can give you that like Spyro.
Still, looking at the story, I would say that this one isn’t the strongest. I’d say that it’s slightly better than Spyro 1 while being just a bit behind Spyro 2, putting it at second best in the original trilogy. Not a bad place to be.
Presentation: Toys For Bob Nail It Again
It’s literally the same look as in the other two games. I’ve already discussed it before. It’s bright, it’s colorful, it runs smoothly, it all looks amazing. Visually speaking, this is the best version of the Spyro games. Moving on.
Gameplay: Put a Dragon on a Skateboard
Uh… why? Were you really so desperate for new ideas? Who thinks ‘yeah, a dragon on a skateboard, that totally works!’
In terms of core gameplay, Spyro: Year of the Dragon functions exactly the same as Spyro 2. All of the dragon’s moves from that game are available right off the bat. In that regard, this game literally doesn’t change anything from the other one.
So, how does it stand out? By throwing a billion different things at you at once, of course!
You wanna play Tony Hawk before Tony Hawk was a thing?! Welcome to the skateboarding segments! The most bare-bones, boring skateboarding gameplay I’ve ever experienced! All you do is move around a way-to-open field, doing basic tricks and completing simple objectives. Thankfully, these are few and far between. But when they show up, I can’t help but groan.
They also try to spruce the game up with other playable characters. Unfortunately, each one only has a few levels out of the many, and their movesets are super weak. Sheila jumps and ground pounds. Sergeant Byrd can fly and shoot things. Bentley hits stuff real good. Agent 9 has a gun and throws grenades. While it is nice to play as someone other than Spyro, it definitely would’ve done better to give these characters a bit of extra depth to make them a bit more… what’s that word… oh yeah! Fun!
And… yeah, that’s about it. Aside from those additions, this game plays exactly like Spyro 2. Only with less interesting levels and a lack of proper focus. Is it still fun? Well… not really. If you play this game after playing the other two, all you’ll really find here is more of what you already had, just not as exciting.
Which is super disappointing.
You know what I just realized? This trilogy of reviews is the polar opposite of my Crash Bandicoot reviews! In my Crash 1 review, I was negative, with a few positives. In Crash 2, I was overwhelmingly negative. In Crash 3, I was fairly positive. In Spyro 1, I was positive, with a few negatives. In Spyro 2, I was overwhelmingly positive. Then, at last, in Spyro 3, I was fairly negative! What an odd twist of fate!
Alright, sorry. Getting back on subject.
Admittedly, my burnout may have been my fault. Playing all three of these games back-to-back for these reviews (man, I’ve had them on the backburner for a while) may have skewed my view in regards to this game. But I still feel that my assessment is a fair one.
I would say that you should, at some point, play Spyro: Year of the Dragon. However, I must strongly advise that you don’t do it immediately after playing the first two games. As tempting as that may be, it’s a quick way to burn yourself out. Take a break, play something else, and come back to it at a later time.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of the original Spyro games. I’m sad to see them go. But who knows? Crash Bandicoot got a fourth game (no, I’m not playing it, don’t ask)! Maybe Spyro will get one too!
Please, god, let him get one too…