The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning is a reboot of the Spyro series, changing the genre from platformer into more of a beat-em-up with platforming elements. It was developed by Krome Studios for PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and GBA and published by Vivendi in 2006. Amaze Entertainment handled the NDS version released the same year. This is a review of the console version.
Spyro is raised from birth alongside the dragonfly Sparx and soon finds out that he is destinied to save the world from the Dark Master who threatens the world. As such, Spyro travels the world, and saves the dragon elders who can help him win the battle.
It's clear early on that this take on the purple dragon aims to put its focus on storytelling, something the the other games only did the bare minimum of. In spite of the increased focus, I don't really care about what the story puts on offer.
First of all, it's a chosen one narrative, and a bland one at that thanks to Spyro's milquetoast personality. He's such a timid little thing, with nary a sign of his old characterization to be found. He is such a bore, but his casting is on point though, even if I can't help but picture Elijah Wood's sad faces from Lord of the Rings whenever Spyro opens his mouth. It's really distracting.
But as if to completely undermine the whole thing from the start, David Spade plays Sparx in an incredibly unfitting surfer dude voice where he cracks ”modern” jokes at every oppurtunity. It really pulls you out of the grounded tone the rest of the cast has. Aside from the loud-mouthed monkeys you fight, of course. Those are pretty silly as well.
And worse yet, there aren't any arcs to be found in this thing! Spyro and Sparx are best buds from the start and do not change at all. And the villains have no presence, save for being vaguely threatening in the background. Even if we account the sequels, there's only like half an arc to be found. In a trilogy! Focused on telling a story!
It's just such a plain plot. Go to a level, banter a bit, maybe find a local, fight a boss, save an elder dragon, talk about some prophecy crap and go to the next level. The end manages to be slightly interesting, but it's nowhere near enough to excuse the rest of the game. Makes me think they split the original plot between three games.
With platforming put on the backburner (and Spyro being very sluggish in the air unless you only jump straight forward), this game tries it hand at actually having a combat system. But it mostly just boils down to button-mashing.
Spyro has a standard combo that can be turned into a launcher at the hold of a button. In the air, you can continue the combo, or perform a horn dive to launch the enemy into another one. And if you really want to, you can use the charge, but that's so ineffectual you'd be better off dodging near a ledge and hope enemies fall down it.
That's about it for melée. You'll notice that there aren't any different combos to use, nor much complexity to be had. I understand them not wanting to overwhelm kids, but God of War (2005) is incredibly simplistic, yet still features a bunch of combos to pick from.
Spyro's breath (and special projectile) attacks would be perfect for this, but as is, they don't flow into melée attacks in the least. You can combine the two, but it almost feels like an accident that you can do so. And just like in A Hero's Tail, the different elements at your disposal don't lead to more complex mechanics.
In fact, going for the highest damage possible breath attack is the way to go. You'd think that the ability to whip enemies around with lightning or freezing difficult enemies while you take care of small fry would be worthwhile. But alas, spamming your strongest breath until you run out of magic (or earn a screen-nuke Fury attack) is optimal throughout the whole game.
One reason being that the game completely swamps you with enemies. It's frankly ridiculous just how many monkeys fight over screen real-estate in a single encounter. Every battle is a chaotic mess.
I guess I should be glad that the framerate holds, but tech doesn't excuse just how mindless the game is. In fact, since upgrades to elemental breaths barely give you new contextual abilities and you fight the three types of monkey so often, you can pretty much experience everything this game (and the following sequel) has to offer in the first half hour. You might just be better off with of the portable versions. They should at the very least be shorter.