Replay Value: 8.6
Insomniac's Spyro games will forever be remembered as one Playstation's three best adventure titles. The first Spyro made a huge impact on the gaming world, with visuals that pushed the PS' limits to incredible depths. The gameplay was fairly long and quite challenging, and at this point many people herald Spyro the Dragon as one of the better console adventures out there. But Universal and Insomniacs weren't done just yet, they set out to start developing on Spyro: Ripto's Rage as soon as they noticed the positive feedback from gamers and critics alike. The second [Spyro] would push the system's hardware again just so the game would like a bit better, but thanks to the improvement in visuals, Spyro's second outing was even prettier than before and was even called "the most visually enhanced adventure game of the year" by some. The gameplay remained similar to the first but had more twists and of course a different story line. There was no doubt that Insomniacs would go back to the drawing board for their final Spyro game on the PSOne, to make it not only better than the first two, but to make it most memorable of the bunch. Now with the release of Spyro: Year of the Dragon, Spyro's last 32-Bit outing may very well be his best.
Oh man, oh man these visuals couldn't get any better for a PS adventure game can they? For one, the character detail has seen somewhat of a vast improvement over the last two games. Spyro looks much more polished and detailed than any 3 dimensional N64/PS character to date, and I am in no way exaggerating this statement. There are absolutely no seams between legs, arms and the head, the detail can pretty much be summed up as seamless. Spyro still moves as gracefully as he does in all of his previous games, and his sarcastic charm doesn't seem to have left him at all. The environments are lavishly overflooded with bright and vivid colors that light up the screen like no other game has done in the past. There isn't any noticeable pop-up or any kind of draw-in to distract you from the action so that is a sweet extra points towards visuals. The frame rates keep constant and never seize to fail at any time of when the game is in motion. The fluid colors are something that are straight out of a Disney flick and the remarkable character detail on screen is really something to awe over.
The first Spyro you had to rescue your clan of Dragons. The second Spyro set you through Ripto's World and now the third in a way is a story book set game that pushes Spyro through the "forgotten world" where a sorceress had crept into Spyro's world, while the dragons were asleep and kidnapped every single unhatched dragon egg. They left a wormhole-like opening the size of a gopher and once again you guessed it it's up to Spyro to save the day. So now Spyro, Sparx, Zoe and his feline friend have returned, along with some new additions Sheila who is a kangaroo and Byrd who is a penguin. Spyro's new adventure will now take him through a multitude of levels, such as snowy mountains, grassy plains, and even water levels, ooh ahh. And unlike other mascots who drown in water or need air in the water, Spyro can literally run around the water for as long as he wants. There are exactly 30 levels to explore along with a few bonus stages like skateboarding to keep the fun going. As Spyro progresses through his locale, he will come across help and also power-up icons such as flight wings to get him on top of those high to reach places. Around five new friends wait in Spyro 3, with every character being playable and having his/her own stage(s). Sparx Spyro's mosquito friend, has his very own 2D shooter stages, where you control the bug on a 2 dimensional plane. With all of these new additions to the game, Spyro's story never seems to fail and get over complexed like some motion-picture movies that focus on more than one story line. Though I wouldn't exactly call the other stages, side quests, but more of extra help that Spyro isn't able to accomplish. The gameplay is fresh and intuitive, and the controls are tight, but if you are looking for something completely different, then Spyro 3 may not exactly be it.
On the count of strong visuals comes some of the best acted out cut-scenes in an adventure game to date. The voice acting is on the dot and precise, with audio quality that is nearly perfection. The cut-scenes happen quite often, and I'm surprised that Insomniacs was able to create such as long title, with so many different audio clips, all on a 650MB CD. The special effects and background music are very nice and add to the environments to really bring out the feel of the game even better. Also voice acting features different accents for nearly every encountered character, Sheila has an Australian accent, the Mayor has a somewhat English accent and the goats have French accents that are incredibly funny to listen too. Great stuff in the sound area, nothing seems to be wrong.
The controls have remained exactly the same from the previous Spyro: Ripto's Rage. Jumping and attacking is done the same, the camera can be annoying because it either moves to fast or to slow, and at times can be a bit nauseating. The new characters also have new moves like kicks and double hops and even flying, so that means that you may have to take some time to find out all of the quirks that the new playables feature. The analog has great sensitivity and the dual shock is a powerhouse. Fans of the Spyro series you are welcomed home graciously, while new comers may get a bit queasy.
Spyro the Dragon's final game before he departs to other consoles including PS2, is a great one. Spyro: Year of the Dragon not only includes some amazing visuals, but the new gameplay characters are something that Spyro fans and maybe other fans will love. But if you are tired of Spyro's gameplay in general, then you may want to stray away from Year of the Dragon, otherwise go pick it up. Like many "final" PS games out there such as Madden NFL 2001, NBA Live 2001, NHL 2001 and more, Spyro: Year of the Dragon lives up to the final cast of PS games, just like all of those games listed above.