Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, AKA Gateway to Glimmer, is a sequel that did EVERYTHING better than its predecessor.
|Publisher||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Purchase||Purchase from eBay.|
|Purchase (Collector’s Edition trilogy)||Purchase from Amazon.|
So it’s been a couple of years since I last discussed a childhood icon of mine, Spyro the Dragon. And for those of you out there who followed Breaking Canon for a while, you probably already know that I tend to branch out and cover a lot of different media. What? I can’t help it! There’s so much to talk about!
But with Spyro Reignited Trilogy about a month away from release, um… wait… they pushed it back two more months… fuck…
It’s probably a good idea for me to conclude my thoughts on the series while the hype is still around. Or at the very least, with the original PlayStation trilogy (which were all staples of my childhood).
Looking back at my old review of the original Spyro the Dragon, I still kinda agree with most of its points. There were a few things I wished I could’ve explained differently, but… eh, fuck it. I’m just going to move on. So many games worth playing on this planet, not nearly enough time.
Anyways, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! came out only a year after the original game, which pretty much the same thing happened to Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. With such a short amount of time, you’d think the games would be a bit messy. But just like with developer Naughty Dog at the time, Insomniac Games was on a roll. They came up with yet another PS1 classic.
And for whatever reason before the game reached Europe and Australia, Sony Europe decided to rename the game to Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer simply because they liked the name better. Really now. Like, why? I get liking the name, but it doesn’t really make much sense in the context of the game itself. They should’ve kept it as Ripto’s Rage!
Glimmer is the name of the first level. However, it was not the main focus of the game as a whole and only serves to be the tutorial level. The whole realm Spyro was at is called Avalar and the journey focuses on Spyro hunting down Ripto, henceforth Ripto’s Rage! makes more sense as the game’s subtitle.
Whoever in Sony Europe came up with the name change clearly wasn’t in the right mindset. You just don’t do dumb stuff like this on a whim.
Right… so let’s see if we can rage about Ripto’s Rage! Or just praise it for the wonderful PS1 classic it is… which would be boring.
Spyro Alone 2: Lost in Avalar
The plot shows Spyro the Dragon and Sparx the Dragonfly desiring a vacation at a theme park called Dragon Shores. So on a whim, they decide to visit via magical portal. But due to some residents of a different realm fiddling with the space-time continuum, Spyro and Sparx ended up at the realm of Avalar instead.
Shortly after, we meet the game’s antagonist: a short reptilian sorcerer named Ripto, who’s apparently causing trouble around Avalar. With no way to return to the Dragon Realms or Dragon Shores, Spyro was shanghaied into a new journey and must defeat Ripto and his cronies.
Overall, pretty basic plot. Good guy hunts down bad guy so he can go on vacation. I guess that’s passable?
Okay, to be fair, this is the first time that the Spyro the Dragon series has a more fleshed out story. Compared to the original game which ran with a basic plot with very few cutscenes, it’s a breath of fresh air to see Ripto’s Rage! actually have a more coherent story with plenty of cutscenes. The game also managed to establish a recurring cast of likable characters, so I’ll try not to complain too much about the story. Emphasis on try. Still, I’ll elaborate on it as we go along.
Chargin’ and Flamin’
As with the original Spyro the Dragon, Ripto’s Rage! is a collectathon adventure platformer where you play as a young dragon. You can breathe fire, charge down enemies with your horns, and glide in the air for a short time. This time around, the controls are smoother than that of the original game, so even the PS1 controller’s analog sticks work out better. For example, the glide can now end with a hover (triangle button) instead of stopping dead in the air, which gives Spyro slightly more height and distance at the end of his glide. No more clunkily attempting to reorient yourself before you glide across a large chasm. Well, mostly.
Sparx the Dragonfly serves as your health indicator, changing colors as he takes damage (yellow -> blue -> green). If Sparx is defeated, Spyro can easily die in one hit. But by killing fodder NPCs (random little critters scattered across levels), a butterfly will appear which Sparx will consume to restore his health.
So you might be wondering, “Do dragonflies actually consume butterflies in real life?” The answer is, sometimes. They mostly eat smaller insects like flies and mosquitoes.
The ‘flight’ levels of the original game also make a return, now called speedways. With the better controls and new kinds of obstacles, they’re more fun than ever. And if you search these speedway levels carefully, you might even find a secret challenge waiting for you…
Immediately, you will notice that Ripto’s Rage! has a LOT of new additions compared to its predecessor.
For one thing, NPCs. While the original game did have some NPCs, they’re used mainly for traveling between home worlds. Ripto’s Rage! introduced numerous residents of Avalar that you can interact with, for instructions and side quests. Not only do they have many lines, but they’re all fully voice acted. That is a MAJOR improvement and a way to stand out from other collectathons at the time. It makes the game feel more lively.
There are also new collectibles to find. In the original Spyro the Dragon, there were gems, freed dragons and dragon eggs. The gems make a return in Ripto’s Rage!, as currency to pay off a certain brazenly avaricious, duplicitous, larcenous ursine.
Oh, I can’t wait to torch you next game…
Then you got the Talismans, which serve as the most important collectible for most of the game.
Then they became horribly insignificant after you reach the final home world.
And finally, you got the Orbs, which serve as the secondary collectible for most of the game, until the final home world where they’re needed to unlock a number of level portals (including the final boss).
The story kinda explains why you need these magical MacGuffins to make progress. But at the same time, not really…?
The only purpose of the Talismans is to force you to go through every level until you reach the exit portal, then confront the home world’s boss. Storywise, the Talismans don’t factor into anything else in the plot. They’re literally just there to take you to the boss.
For the Orbs at least, they can be modified to grant powers and can also be used as an energy source to power up portals. But those are mainly for plot purposes. Once you realize these things, it really downplays the importance of these collectibles. It ultimately comes down to if you want to collect these items for 100% completion. You don’t really have to, but you do get a nice reward post-game.
Swimmin’ and Climbin’
Spyro can gain access to three new abilities: swimming, climbing and the headbash move (which is basically Spyro’s version of a Ground Pound). Swimming is the only learned ability that I truly feel is essential to the game: there were a couple of levels that were heavily water-based while many other levels include water in them. I honestly thought it’s weird that a fire-breathing dragon can now easily dive underwater and stay there for a long time without the need to come back up for air (even though he sinks in water in the last game). But at the same time, it does make Spyro pretty boss.
Climbing, I guess, is… something. A few of the early levels require the climbing ability to gain access to new challenges to earn Orbs. Furthermore, it’s required to access over half of the levels in the Autumn Plains homeworld. But sometimes, it does feel a bit like annoying backtracking just for the sake of backtracking.
In fact, one ladder in the Sunny Beach level is only there to give you access to a few gems. But if you stand on this one turtle crate and do a charging-glide combo, you can actually reach the top of the ladder without the need to climb it. It’s most likely an oversight on the dev’s part. Still, it felt like one of those random lapses of level design that I felt was unnecessary.
Honestly, the only time that the climbing ability is used prominently is in the Magma Cone level. But even then, it’s short-lived and I wished the game did more with it. I guess it’s cool that Spyro can climb ladders like a bipedal person, but the ability itself feels underused.
And finally, the headbash. Again, an okay ability. But because you learn it pretty late in the game, there are few opportunities where you really need to use it (even during backtracking for items). It’s not even that practical of a move since flaming and charging enemies tend to be more effective. At the very least, it is a fun move to use and it does look like a very brutal attack.
On a smaller scale, Spyro has access to more abilities depending on the situation. He can easily skate across ice (resulting in a pretty fun hockey minigame at one point). He can carry projectiles (like rocks) in his mouth and perform a lobbing shot. He can operate stationary cannons to shoot down obstacles and otherwise invincible metal objects. These small touches do feel purposeful, especially when you consider how “useful” climbing is…
And finally, let’s discuss the powerups. In the original Spyro the Dragon, there are the superflame and supercharge. The superflame was just a buffed version of the regular flame attack while the supercharge was actually a pretty innovative gameplay mechanic used for obstacle courses.
In Ripto’s Rage!, the superflame is now a powerful ranged fireball attack while the supercharge remains mostly unchanged. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t utilize the supercharge all that much, so you won’t be seeing the supercharge courses like in the original game. There are also some new powerups: superfly, invincibility, spring jump and ice breath. To activate the powerup gates, you need to defeat a certain number of enemies to release spirit particles. As far as I know, this is the only Spyro game that has this mechanic.
Unfortunately, most of these powerups were only touched upon briefly and only give you a taste of some of the fun things you could’ve done with them. But the cool thing about these powerups is that they eventually culminate to a combination powerup, which is a superflame-superfly combo. And it kicks ass! It’s so satisfying to freely fly around a large area while launching fireballs everywhere. For the first time in the Spyro the Dragon series, it felt like you were a powerful dragon completely devastating your enemies. I would’ve loved to see an intense sequence where Spyro completely destroys an enemy fortress with this powerup.
Overall, the new abilities (learned or adapted) range from very fun to mediocre. They managed to add more ways to make for fun level designs, which is what mainly counts for a video game sequel. Are the new additions to the current gameplay formula innovative and open up new possibilities? Yes. Ripto’s Rage! passed with flying colors.
That THING used to scare me as a kid.
I often considered Avalar to be the most interesting setting of the Spyro the Dragon PS1 trilogy. While the Dragon Realms in the original game were pretty neat and had levels with a similar aesthetic (fields, badlands, swamp, etc.) grouped together, Avalar had much more to offer. For one thing, it had three homeworlds each based on a season: Summer Forest, Autumn Plains and Winter Tundra. But for whatever reason, there is no ‘spring’ world.
As for the individual levels, you have places like a valley where tiki idols were built, an underwater city, a power plant that always has stormy weather, a harbor for airships and steam-powered machinery, a prehistoric badlands filled with lava, and farmlands where there are electric fields instead of water. Aesthetically, these levels feel more unique than the ones we got in the original game. Instead of a generic canyon level, we got a desert palace and a desert oasis with a Middle Eastern theme. Instead of a couple of generic swamp levels, we got an upbeat beach level.
Not trying to bash the original game or anything, but I felt that Ripto’s Rage! had a stronger identity and more character for its setting. The tone was also different. The original game felt more gritty and low-key. Ripto’s Rage! felt more lively, colorful and cartoonish. It also helped that the residents of Avalar had more distinct and goofy designs, with plenty of silly and corny lines.
Ripto’s Rage! had a lot more cutscenes as well. Aside from the main story cutscenes involving Spyro, Ripto and the supporting characters, every level starts with an intro cutscene showing the mischief going on. And after you finish each level, you get an extro cutscene that shows a humorous resolution to the conflict (sometimes, some pretty dark humor too…) These brief cutscenes do an excellent job in the worldbuilding aspect. It made Avalar seem like a fun and unique realm to explore.
Stewart Copeland, former drummer of The Police, once again composed the soundtrack for this game. And just like with the previous game, it captured the jaunty fantasy setting that the game was going for. But with a more defined setting, I feel like the individual tracks are more befitting than ever. So once again, we got a solid soundtrack that I feel managed to outdo its predecessor.
For the most part, the sound design is okay but there are times when I felt that the voice recordings felt out of place. Sometimes when the actors read out their lines, it’s like the microphone don’t have any pop filters and you can hear them inside a room. Some NPCs also have inconsistent voices; for me, the main culprit is the fairy Zoe. Sometimes, she sounds like a normal girl. But in other times, the pitch of her voice is turned up, making her sound like a talking mouse. It’s jarring when you hear different voices come from her within less than a minute.
Please, No More Trolleys…
As much praise as I had given to Ripto’s Rage!, the game has flaws. Mildly annoying stuff that can kill your enjoyment of the game.
Overall, I enjoyed the game’s side quests. There is a good variety of different kinds of tasks, like killing a certain number of enemies, some fetch quests, some obstacle courses, etc. But some of them can also be VERY frustrating!
Yes, you know the kinds I’m talking about! The above screenshot you’re seeing is one of the most infamous side quests in the Spyro series, as well as one of the worst escort missions I ever played in a video game. In this side quest, you have to escort an elderly alchemist in Fracture Hills to your friend Hunter. The problem with this mission is just how poorly designed the escort path is. A single hit from any of the Earthshaper enemies will prompt you to restart the mission.
This dumbass alchemist moves in such a random, erratic pattern; he’ll move straight towards an Earthshaper for a couple of seconds, then make random turns into a different path. Instead of taking a single straightforward path to Hunter and not waiting for Spyro to clear out some enemies, the alchemist just goes wherever the hell he wants. Just when you think the alchemist is about to approach Hunter, he suddenly turns around and takes a different path! What is this crazy old man doing!? Is he blind or suicidal!?
If you memorize the exact path on where he’s going, you can clear this side quest easily. But if you don’t know the path, no amount of skill and reflex will save you. But here’s the “fun” part: you must complete this side quest to play a different one on the same level, but you need the headbash move to actually play it. If you don’t have the headbash move, you need to come back to this level and complete this alchemist side quest again to play the new one. Ugh!
Just don’t bother with it until you get the headbash move. Easily one of the least enjoyable side quests in the PS1 trilogy.
Another heavily discussed side quest is the trolley minigame in Breeze Harbor. Once I learned how it works, it’s not as bad as some people make it out to be. But I can understand why so many people dislike this side quest.
Trouble with the trolley, eh?
For one thing, changing lanes on the track is very jerky. The trolley suddenly slows down when it changes over to a new lane, before going back to normal speed. This makes it easy to crash into obstacles that should’ve otherwise been easy to avoid.
Also, it wasn’t entirely clear on how you could avoid the explosives placed on the track. The TNT barrels are straightforward: you only need to shoot them with your cannon to clear them out. Simple enough. However, the small explosive crates are the problem. They’re too short to destroy with your cannon. So what do you have to do? You have to jump over them instead, which still causes them to explode (but somehow doesn’t cause you to crash). It’s not an intuitive design choice and it used to confuse the hell out of me as a kid.
Then there’s the crystal popcorn minigame in Magma Cone. It’s a two-part side quest where you compete with Hunter to collect 10 crystals in the first round and 15 in the second round. Doesn’t sound hard at all.
However, the uncooperative camera controls will be the death of you. Hunter will gravitate to the nearest crystal popcorn he can grab (and he almost never misses a catch). But because the camera is working against you, you can barely tell where the nearest crystal popcorn will appear.
So how do you easily beat this minigame? Be an asshole!
Just follow Hunter around and grab every crystal popcorn that he’s trying to get. It may be a cheap and unfair tactic to steal your opponent’s targets, but it’s not like this minigame places you on equal grounds with your opponent anyway. Just do whatever you can to collect the Orbs. I actually did manage to beat the second round once without letting Hunter collect a single crystal popcorn, so it’s definitely possible.
This minigame wouldn’t be so bad if it had something like a fixed top-down camera instead. It’d still be challenging for sure, but at least both you and your opponent can easily discern where your next target will be.
I also have some, ahem… dishonorable mentions.
I was never a fan of this turtle soup minigame in Sunny Beach. This minigame used to annoy me a lot because of the turtles themselves. Why are they voluntarily trying to commit suicide by jumping into the soup? Are they just completely braindead or something? I never understood it.
But as for how the actual minigame works, you have to push the turtles into the small pool in the background to “save” them. But because the camera is in this weird angled, fixed position, Spyro feels more slippery to control. So often, I charge into a turtle from the wrong direction and they just ricochet around the area instead of going to the background pool. I eventually got used to it, but eh. I never really had much fun with this minigame.
Then there’s the Little Bo Peep side quest in Zephyr, where you have to rescue the cowleks and bring them to the animal pen. Let me summarize it in one sentence. Why won’t these fucking cowleks stop moving around!?
I also didn’t like the trade side quest in Mystic Marsh. It’s more like a puzzle minigame where you need to figure out where you can trade a specific item to, but it involves spitting the item into a specific area. Where do you set the egg? You have to find a bird’s nest and spit it there. Where do you set the seed? Find a random flowerpot just lying around. What about a radish? Eh, just throw it inside this random cauldron inside a cave. What.
How about this annoying fire lizard side quest in Skelos Badlands? This one is a two-part minigame where you need to take down all of the fire lizards before one of them eats a single NPC. But you barely have a few seconds to kill them as soon as they hatch out of their eggs. Furthermore, you need to memorize the sequence in which the eggs hatch to find the fastest path to kill them.
Again, this is one instance where the camera controls work against you. You can barely rotate the camera fast enough to see which lizard eggs have already hatched. This side quest is not too bad, but it still felt like a lot of trial and error.
And that’s about it. I liked most of the side quests in this game. But the ones I mentioned above? Ugh, those weren’t fun…
Dragon Vs. Magic Dinosaur Man
So let’s get back to the story at hand since it’s more or less prominent in Ripto’s Rage! It’s… a lot of fluff basically. Like, only 15% of it had anything to do with Ripto causing havoc across Avalar. Or at least, I think so…?
Honestly, I don’t know what the hell is going on throughout Avalar. For whatever reason, every single world in Avalar comes under attack by these random groups of monsters… at the same time. It was never clear if these monsters worked for Ripto, had any connection to him or simply acted on their own accord (which is probably the most likely choice). But according to Elora, Ripto is the one causing trouble across Avalar. But it’s not clear how he’s causing trouble, other than taking over some castles.
Why are the wooden idols taking their creators captive in Idol Springs? Why are the Gear Grinders harassing the Electrolls in Hurricos? Why are the Water Workers trying to steal the water in Aquaria Towers? Why are the Breezebuilders and Land Blubbers in war with each other? What exactly are those strange kids Handel and Greta and what was their ‘secwet mission’ at Scorch?
None of these were ever explained. Spyro just helps the residents of each world and goes off to do his own thing. It’s kind of annoying how all these events have very little in common with each other. I understand that this is a kid’s game and this is the first time the series tries to flesh out a full story. But looking back, it’s not even a competent story. It feels like the story has no idea what to focus on, so it just throws all these scenarios at you with nothing tying them together.
In fact, you rarely see Ripto at all. Which sucks, because he’s actually a pretty cool villain.
While Gnasty Gnorc in the original game had a cool character design, that’s all there is to him. He has little to no personality and only spoke a few lines of dialogue (at the very beginning of the game). And the fact that he goes down from only two flame attacks while barely putting up a fight comes to show how much of a disappointing villain he was.
Ripto, on the other hand, owns every cutscene he’s in. Despite his short stature, Ripto managed to be a real threat to Avalar due to being a powerful sorcerer with two powerful minions (Crush and Gulp). He’s an egotistical, short-tempered, power-hungry madman with a Napoleon complex. Also, he. Hates. DRAGONS! NAAAARRRGGGGHHH!!!!
Just from his character design and Saturday morning cartoon villain personality, he’s much more interesting than Gnasty Gnorc. Or hell, more interesting than most of the characters in this game.
And this takes us to a new tangent. Remember the “boss battles” in the original Spyro the Dragon?
Yeah… most of them sucked. They don’t really qualify as “bosses.” They’re more like slightly stronger versions of regular enemies.
But in Ripto’s Rage!..
By god. These are actually fun. Yeah, there are only three bosses in Ripto’s Rage! but they actually fight like bosses! Crush was a good first boss that teaches you how to time your attacks and dodges. Gulp teaches you how to constantly adapt between weapons and strategies. But Ripto?
This is the best fight in the whole game. Hell, I would even call it the best boss battle in the whole PS1 trilogy!
Ripto is a three-phase boss where you must rely on powerups to defeat him. While the regular flame and charge attacks can stall Ripto, they don’t do much damage at all. So to defeat him, you have to collect three Orbs in the arena to use a powerup, which can be either a superflame, supercharge or even a new powerup called plasma bombs. But the big challenge here is that Ripto can also use the Orbs for his own powerups. But even without the powerups, Ripto is a good shot with his magical scepter. During the final phase, you fight Ripto in the air using the superflame-superfly combo.
Ripto isn’t that hard of a boss, but it’s so much fun when Spyro and Ripto are throwing all these crazy powerups at each other. It even comes with a badass operatic score.
Well, okay, maybe the operatic voice was over-the-top. But that’s part of what makes it so epic. It’s grandiose, kind of like Ripto himself.
The point is, I rather fight three well-designed bosses than seven crappy ones.
So that’s about it, right? Well… There are a couple of things I want to discuss. Remember what the plot used to be about? Spyro wanted to visit Dragon Shores to take a vacation. After you defeat Ripto, it actually happens! Let’s see what the big fuss is about!
Yeah, not gonna lie. Dragon Shores was pretty… boring, especially compared to everything we faced up to this point. It’s just a few easy minigames where you collect 10 Tokens to unlock a theater mode to rewatch all of the cutscenes. Eh…
Ironically, the best minigame here is the rollercoaster one, which is just a modified version of the trolley minigame at Breeze Harbor. Kind of disappointing that this is the vacation that Spyro’s been wanting the whole time.
But we all know what the best part about Dragon Shores is. If you actually went through all the effort in collecting all gems and Orbs, you unlock a permanent superflame powerup that will never fade away. And if you decide to start a new game on the same save file, you actually get to play the whole thing with the superflame powerup! That’s pretty damn cool.
You might think that’s it, right? Well…
Did you know that Ripto’s Rage! actually has an epilogue? Seriously. You can finish the whole game and find all of the collectibles, and not notice it at all. Why and how, you ask?
Have you heard of Skill Points? If not, it’s a hidden mechanic that is very similar to achievements in today’s video games. By performing a specific obscure task, a unique sound effect will play and you will earn a 1-up butterfly.
Some of these tasks include playing a perfect game of hockey in Colossus, destroying all of the miniature windmills in Hurricos, destroying all of the seaweed with the superflame powerup in Aquarius Towers, completing speedway levels under a certain time, etc. There are a total of 16 hidden Skill Points in Ripto’s Rage! And if you managed to find all of them, you unlock an epilogue in your guidebook.
Now, some of you might hate me for this. I’m probably going to hate myself for saying this too. But…
In defense of Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly… oh god, that left a bad taste in my mouth…
Ripto didn’t actually die at the end of Ripto’s Rage! Yeah, Spyro defeated him and Ripto sank into lava, presumably burning to death. But…
The epilogue shows Ripto being alive and well… somehow… I don’t know how he survived getting submerged in lava, but he did. So the fact that he appeared in Enter the Dragonfly as the main antagonist is NOT a continuity error.
No, the real continuity error here is how Ripto still has a scepter in the epilogue, even though Spyro took the red crystal from him after his defeat.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Enter the Dragonfly is still a shit game and probably shouldn’t have existed.
So that was Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! This game broke a lot of ground for the Spyro the Dragon series. It felt like it surpassed its predecessor in just about every quality. It delivered the same solid gameplay, but added a lot more to it. While a bit flawed in some areas due to being an early 3D collectathon game, it’s still a solid game in the PS1 library. If you haven’t tried this game yet, I highly recommend it.
So very soon, I’ll be discussing Spyro: Year of the Dragon before the release of Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Maybe I’ll go over more of the Spyro games that came out after to see where the series went after its initial success (and how it fell apart).
Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!Price Varies
- The core gameplay is more fun than before, with better controls, new abilities, new powerups, and lots of fun new level designs.
- The addition of fully voice acted NPCs who give out side quests to earn more collectibles.
- The story is more involved with the game unlike the last one, which is a step in the right direction.
- Generally, a more creative setting than the last game.
- The boss battles feel like actual boss battles and are actually a lot of fun.
- Stewart Copeland's compositions make a return.
- While the story has plenty of fun moments, it's kind of a muddled mess that seems to forget its own villain sometimes.
- Many of the powerups are barely utilized.
- Some of the side quests are harder than they should be due to camera issues or poor design choices.
- Sometimes, inconsistent voice acting and sound design.