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Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon Package Art
Tantalus Media

Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon

Few non-Nintendo gaming stars enjoy the longevity that Spyro the Dragon has found in the years following his debut on the original PlayStation. Unfortunately, after a few promising titles, most of that time has been spent wallowing in mediocrity. It seems as though thereís a new Spyro title every year -- on a multitude of systems -- and after a while it has become the gaming equivalent of white noise. His newest title, Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon seems to be an attempt to restore Spyro to the levels of attention and acclaim he once received. But even with a slick presentation and a new attitude, Dawn of the Dragon falls short of returning Spryo to his past glories.


While the back of Dawn of the Dragonís box showcases beautiful 3D skyscapes, much of the game is spent confined to traditional sidescrolling labyrinths. The visuals in these sections are decent, if a little drab. They are also completely 3D, a rarity in even high profile releases on the DS. The effort is certainly appreciated even if the results arenít particularly inspiring.

The flying sections depicted on the box are much more impressive. Rarely do games on the DS feature lush 3D outdoor environments with a decent draw distance and good framerate, but Spyro delivers. While the art direction itself isnít very distinctive or unique, the visuals in the flight portions hold their own with the best the DS has to offer.


Imagine a Saturday morning cartoon crossed with a Renaissance Faire and youíll get a pretty good idea of how Dawn of the Dragonís music sounds. Itís completely unremarkable, but never outright bad and it does fit the dragon theme well enough. Dawn of the Dragon also features voice acting which is mostly limited to cutscenes. Itís standard fare -- not too cheesy but not very memorable either.


Dawn of the Dragonís gameplay comes in two distinct flavors: sidescrolling platformer and on-rails shooter. The platforming segments are solid fun with decent level design and many types of attacks to choose from. Both Spyro and Cynder are playable, each featuring four different elemental attacks ranging from fire to poison. Certain enemies are weak to specific elements, which gives combat a bit of a rock-paper-scissors feel. Other than that, the two dragons play identically, so the ability to swap characters is more of an aesthetic change than anything.

The rest of the game is spent in the skies as either Spyro or Cynder. Itís pretty standard on-rails shooting with a few flaws that bring the experience down. The controls are a pastiche of buttons and touchscreen, relying on the d-pad for movement and the touch screen for aiming and shooting. It controls reasonably well, although steering with the d-pad does not offer the precision required for weaving between enemy bullets. In addition, any and all attacks will drain Spyroís energy bar. Itís a little frustrating to run out of ammo in a mode that encourages fast and furious blasting and it doesnít help that evasive maneuvers also drain the energy bar. The constantly drained bar ends up causing a lot of downtime and damage from unavoidable enemy attacks. What could have been a fun mode alternates between frustrating and boring thanks to an arbitrarily limiting gameplay mechanic.




Confused parents looking for a game to put under the tree next to that new DS could do worse than Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon. Itís an all-around solid, if not particularly exciting, handheld experience that stands above the mountains of shovelware piled onto DS month after month. Dawn of the Dragon may be lacking the polish and spark of big name DS titles, but itís a solid time-waster. Now that there is a good foundation to build from, perhaps Activision can work on bringing some life to Spyroís next outing.

final score 6.5/10

Staff Avatar Shawn Warren
Staff Profile | Email
"Why so serious?"

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