Spyro: Year of the Dragon

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Spyro: Year of the Dragon box cover art

Spyro: Year of the Dragon is the last of the original PS1 trilogy. While still a great PS1 game, it did miss out on some of its potential.

ConsolePlayStation
DeveloperInsomniac Games
PublisherSony Computer Entertainment
Genre3D Platformer
Release Year2000
Game Number3
PurchasePurchase from eBay.
Purchase (Collector’s Edition trilogy)Purchase from Amazon.

So with the release date of Spyro Reignited Trilogy moved to November 13th, there’s plenty of time for me to go over the Spyro the Dragon series. While it is a bummer that there’s a delay, it’s for the best. Really. We all remember what happened with Enter the Dragonfly! We’re definitely willing to wait!

But while we wait, we get to enjoy some new footage!

Oh, geez. Elora… WHY ARE YOU SO FLIPPIN’ CUTE!?

So now, I have more than enough time to talk about the last entry of the Spyro the Dragon PS1 trilogy, Year of the Dragon. Just like how developer Naughty Dog ended development of the Crash Bandicoot series to work on Jak and Daxter, Insomniac Games ended development of the Spyro the Dragon series to work on Ratchet & Clank.

It’s strange how similar these two developers were to each other back then—though keep in mind that they both worked with publisher Universal Interactive Studios. Both developers had successful animal mascot characters on the PlayStation, each with three well-regarded video games and each entry roughly take one year to develop.

In fact, do you know that Crash Bandicoot: Warped has a hidden demo of the first Spyro the Dragon, only accessible through a cheat code? And vise versa? And other games of each series also have hidden demos of each other’s games?

Hell, you can play a demo of Crash Bash in this game, right on the title screen. Just hold the L1 and R2 buttons together, then press the square button.

Damn, I just went on a tangent there… why does this always happen?

Anyways, to reiterate, Spyro: Year of the Dragon was the last entry Insomniac Games was involved with before the developer moved on to Ratchet & Clank. For whatever reason, this game didn’t get a Japanese release, which must have been a real shame for Japanese fans of the series. As an American fan of the Fire Emblem series, I’m used to this kind of disappointment…

And before I babble about a separate topic again, let’s dive right into the game.

 

Egg-Nappings by Creepy Witches

Year of the Dragon takes place after the events of Ripto’s Rage!, with Spyro the Dragon back at the Dragon Realms. Every twelve years, an event known as the Year of the Dragon occurs (coincidentally, the real world Year of the Dragon did occur for the Chinese calendar in the year 2000) which is the time when new dragon eggs are introduced to the world. Considering the Spyro series had yet to show female dragons up to this point, we probably had to ask ourselves some disturbing questions to discern where those eggs came from…

A rabbit witch-in-training named Bianca and a group of creatures known as the Rhynocs stole all 150 dragon eggs, at the behest of the Sorceress. The eggs were taken to a place known as the Forgotten Realms, which were the original homes of the dragons before the Sorceress banished them.

Spyro, Sparx and Hunter (who is in the Dragon Realms instead of Avalar, for some unknown reason) were the only ones able to follow the Rhynocs’ trail. So a new journey begins, in a series of worlds untouched by dragons for over a thousand years.

When I first played Year of the Dragon, I actually found this premise the most fascinating in the PS1 trilogy. For one thing, there’s actually a reason to care about what’s going on. A powerful villain decided to kidnap a new generation of baby dragons, raising the stakes of the plot and giving Spyro and the dragon elders a good reason to act immediately.

In the original Spyro the Dragon, the antagonist Gnasty Gnorc attacked the dragons barely a minute in after being called ‘ugly,’ with nothing really giving you a reason to care about what’s going on. In Ripto’s Rage!, Spyro simply had to deal with a ruined vacation, which doesn’t sound all that interesting on paper. Then boom! Suddenly, there’s a bad guy! Go take care of him… pretty please.

I know the series is more memorable for its gameplay and characters, and not so much the plot of each game, so it’s nice to see something a little more relatable this time around. But as with the rest of the PS1 trilogy, the storytelling is still the weakest point of Year of the Dragon, which I’ll elaborate as the review goes on.

 

A Literal Easter Egg Hunt

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Cloud Spires

Spyro: Year of the Dragon follows the same gameplay formula as its predecessors, though with some small changes. For the main portion of the game, you play as Spyro the Dragon, who can breath fire, charge enemies with his horns, and glide in the air for a short time. He controls pretty much the same as in Ripto’s Rage!, though maybe a tad bit more smoothly. Out of the original PS1 trilogy, I had the least amount of problems trying to reorient Spyro.

Following Spyro is Sparx the Dragonfly, who serves as the dragon’s health indicator. When Spyro takes damage, Spyro changes in color until he dies (yellow -> blue -> green). To restore health, Spyro can kill fodder NPCs (like sheep or lizards wandering in the levels) to release butterflies. At one point in the game, Sparx can even gain one extra hitpoint permanently.

Like with previous Spyro the Dragon games, the graphics are excellent for its time. But personally, I feel that Year of the Dragon is the best-looking game out of the PS1 trilogy. It has some of the most colorful and striking environments and memorable character designs in the series, which is definitely saying something.

Stewart Copeland also returned as the composer, this time teaming up with Ryan Beveridge to create yet another solid soundtrack.

List of Tracks

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But… keep in mind that the original version and all PAL region versions of Year of the Dragon had an incomplete soundtrack, resulting in many repeated level tracks and mismatched music. In fact, the most hilarious example is the final boss battle playing the first hub world theme, which really doesn’t fit and outright ruins the tone of the whole thing! So if you want the optimal way to play Year of the Dragon, be sure to get the North American Greatest Hits version.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Sunrise Spring

Numerous features of past games return. There are a total of four home worlds in Year of the Dragon, each with several level portals. You can speak to NPCs just like in Ripto’s Rage! for dialogue and side quests. Spyro can use the abilities he learned in that game, which include diving underwater, climbing ladders and the headbash ability (which is Spyro’s equivalent of a Ground Pound). Spyro can pass through powerup gates to gain temporary abilities like invincibility, superfly, superflame, and supercharge. Really, the gameplay for Spyro himself is pretty much the same as Ripto’s Rage!, except there’s a little more to do. And I’m fine with that. Some of the abilities that Spyro used in that game were underutilized, so it’s nice to see him making use of those abilities again.

In past Spyro games, there are various collectibles you could find. But in Year of the Dragon, there are only two: gems and dragon eggs. Which is not that bad, I think. In hindsight, I felt the same way about Ripto’s Rage! after realizing that the Talismans weren’t particularly useful for anything.

Besides, you know how the imprisoned dragons in the original Spyro the Dragon had unique appearances and personalities? Well, that kinda makes a return in Year of the Dragon. After every dragon egg hatches, you’re treated to a short but cute animation of the baby dragons… simply being baby dragons.

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Don’t be surprised if you contract diabetes at this point. The fact that these baby dragons are so adorable to watch really comes to show just how far the original PlayStation progressed at the time.

So I’m not all that disappointed that there are only two types of collectibles. Finding the dragon eggs in Year of the Dragon feels quite satisfying in comparison to most of the collectible in the whole series. The orbs in Ripto’s Rage! felt like busywork to collect…

So guess who else is back!?

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 MoneybagsOh, no, not this motherfucker!

Yeah, Moneybags is certainly one of those love-to-hate characters in the Spyro series. Mainly because this brazenly avaricious, duplicitous, larcenous ursine loves to charge you “a small fee” for just about everything. And the “best” part? He’s even more transparent about scamming you in this game than before! It’s like Moneybags knows how much of a greedy douchebag he is and he actually enjoys it!

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 MoneybagsUrge… to kill… rising…

But here’s a nice touch to Spyro’s dialogue choices towards Moneybags. Instead of the standard “yes” and “no” answers, you get some hesitant “fine” answers and some “fuck off, loser!” answers. Well, okay, not that profane, but you know what I mean.

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I simply love these responses. While giving Spyro more character, it can be pretty satisfying to insult Moneybags. But the absolute best part?

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 Midnight Mountain torch Moneybags

You get to punish him for all those times he scammed you and take back the literal thousands of gems you’ve paid him. Think on that when Spyro Reignited Trilogy comes out, folks!

But just like how you had no choice but to pay Moneybags to get access to certain abilities in Ripto’s Rage!, you have no choice but to pay Moneybags to play as new characters.

Oh yeah! That’s right! We’re going to the main draw of Year of the Dragon: new playable characters!

 

Variety!

You know how back in the day when video game series reach their peak, they resort to adding more variety of minigames in hopes it would make the game more fun? That was certainly a hit-or-miss tactic. Even Final Fantasy VII, one of the most famous PS1 games of all time, did this. And boy, it did NOT age well!

So where does that leave Year of the Dragon? With numerous playable characters and even more minigames than before, did it age well? Eh… sorta… maybe… kinda? Well, let’s see.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 Moneybags and Sheila the Kangaroo

So in each hub world, you can find Moneybags with an imprisoned animal companion. And you know the drill. Pay him a bribe and he’ll release the animal companion. After that, you can play their levels and side quests.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Sheila's Alp

Sheila the Kangaroo is fairly straightforward. She can kick and stomp her enemies to the ground. She also has strong jumping ability, allowing her to reach high places. She’s okay, though it’s easy for enemies to gang up on her.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Sgt. Byrd's Base

Sergeant James Byrd is a flying penguin armed with homing rocket launchers mounted on his shoulders. An awesome idea, but executed sloppily. His handling is clunky at best while in mid-flight and his rockets are not that great in seeking enemies. He can also lift heavy objects and bombs using his feet, but sometimes aiming downward can be rather tedious. Still, it’s pretty badass that you get to play as a flying penguin who can shoot rockets and lift iron weights with his feet!

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Bentley's Outpost

Bentley the Yeti is a powerhouse armed with a big club. He’s the slowest animal companion and has the worst jumping ability out of them all. His gimmick is smashing big enemies and large objects, which can be fun. He can also deflect certain projectiles by spinning his club, which is pretty badass. Too bad you don’t use it that often. Otherwise, going through his sections is a literal slog.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Agent 9's Lab

The last animal companion is Agent 9, a trigger-happy chimpanzee armed with a laser gun. He can strafe about to help shoot enemies and can also enter first-person sniping mode. Strangely, he moves slow too despite his thin build. He can also pick up and use bombs… though they require precise aiming to use. Personally, I think that ability is the worst aspect for playing as him. Thankfully, you don’t get to use it that often.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Sparx the Dragonfly Crawdad Farm

In a surprise twist, you can even play as Sparx the Dragonfly. His gameplay is basically a top-down shooter with labyrinthine levels and plenty of powerups. A lot of fans of the game hate these levels, but I personally love them for their challenge. Admittedly, it’s easy to get overrun by enemies in the Sparx levels, especially when Sparx himself gets no after-hit invincibility. So if a few enemies attack Sparx at once, he can die very quickly.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Mushroom Speedway Hunter the Cheetah

You can even play as Hunter the Cheetah! Well, minigames starring Hunter. Unlike the other playable characters, he doesn’t have his own moveset. He only plays in specific minigames hidden in speedway levels. For the most part, these minigames… are just okay.

While I don’t have major problems with the other playable characters, none of them control as well as Spyro the Dragon does. Their levels and side quests are noticeably more slowly paced, since their controls are clunkier (and sometimes, you would have to wrestle with camera controls during gameplay). Otherwise, their addition to Year of the Dragon is a welcome change of pace.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Honey Speedway

The speedway levels also make a return! With Sparx the Dragonfly being given dialogue… oh god… I don’t know who decided that Sparx should be able to talk in the series, but it was a mistake. No offense to voice actor Andre Sogliuzzo, but Sparx’s voice was annoying! Basically, he speaks in these high-pitched cutesy “BZZT! BZZT!” sounds, cuz… you know, he’s a bug! But really, these dialogue sequences just feel unnecessary for the character.

For the most part, the new speedway levels are pretty fun, even if Sparx outright tells you how to complete the challenges. Because of that, these are the easiest speedways in the PS1 trilogy. But the best thing about them is the new addition: the flight races.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Harbor Speedway race

These new sequences are actually quite fun and even somewhat challenging. You have to pass through all of the rings on the track while defeating the champion team of the speedway. In addition to the twisting and turning three-dimensional racetracks, there are also speed boosters and missiles to slow down your opponents. I had a lot of fun with these minigames.

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The other minigames and side quests in Year of the Dragon are generally better than those of Ripto’s Rage! Before you tear me a new one for saying that, let me remind you that game was filled with objectives that require you collect a certain number of an item or kill a certain number of specific enemies. A little too many, in fact. After a while, those side quests get fairly repetitive.

In this case, variety in Year of the Dragon is good. Really good.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Lost Fleet skateboard race

Probably the best minigame of the bunch is the skateboarding one. It has a system of tricks you can perform in midair and over a half-pipe. There is even a racing variation of the minigame where you ride a rocket-powered skateboard! While it’s not quite Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (remember how popular that game was?), it has enough depth to it to warrant plenty of replay value.

But yes, like with Ripto’s Rage!, there are some major stinkers. And I think you know which ones.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Frozen Altars yeti boxing

If there is any reason not to play as Bentley the Yeti, look no further than the boxing minigame in the Frozen Altars level. This is quite possibly the worst minigame in the whole PS1 trilogy. I do not make that statement lightly. I think it’s even worse than the alchemist escort side quest in Ripto’s Rage! At least during that side quest, you can memorize the alchemist’s walking path. It’s just baffling how bad this boxing minigame is!

The worst thing about this minigame is the controls. They are unresponsive and seem to not work when you want them to. And when they do work, there is a one-second delay before Bentley delivers his attacks. There’s almost no point in blocking the enemy yeti’s attacks. You might as well just keep spamming the two strongest punches with no real strategy until he keels over. God, I hope Spyro Reignited Trilogy improves this minigame vastly…

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Frozen Altars cat hockey

Then there’s the cat hockey minigame, also in Frozen Altars. While not outright terrible, it’s tedious as fuck because of the ice physics. Basically, you have to freeze some cats and get them into your goal. Getting them into your goal is the hard part—you are literally pushing big ice blocks across a slippery floor. Even when you freeze your Rhynoc opponent to prevent him from scoring points, he still has better control over pushing his frozen cats to his goal than you.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Spooky Swamp Sheila firefly bomb escort

Want a reason not to play as Sheila? Take a look at the escort missions in the Spooky Swamp level, which is basically alchemist escort 2.0. Sheila has to smash rocks and stomp down mushrooms to clear a path for these two possibly legally blind fireflies, so they can free two dragon eggs stuck inside cages using bombs. The first mission is not too bad, as the firefly’s path is more straightforward. It’s the second mission that makes you want to kick those fireflies a hundred times. The second firefly decided to be a contrarian and take a more unusual path to the dragon egg (also, he moves faster).

I swear, what is up with Spyro the Dragon NPCs lighting a fuse and putting their lives in more danger by keeping a lit bomb with them? And what is up with them running straight into dangerous obstacles!?

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Fireworks Factory Agent 9 first-person shooter

Next up is Agent 9’s side quest in the Fireworks Factory level. In a jarring transition, Agent 9 switches to a first-person perspective. Yeah, Spyro: Year of the Dragon has a FPS segment! I didn’t think I would see that when I first played this game as a kid.

I don’t think this FPS side quest is too bad, though I can see why some people don’t like it. For one thing, Agent 9 is pretty slow, whether it’s moving around or rotating to aim his reticle at a fast-moving enemy. Also, there are enemy-spawning boxes everywhere, so you need to destroy them quickly or risk getting overwhelmed. And of course, the Rhynoc ninjas tend to ambush you in large groups, usually close to the enemy-spawning boxes.

If you find the area’s hidden powerup, it’s easier to deal with the hordes of enemies. Keyword being hidden.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Dino Mines water tunnel

The last side quests I want to bring up are the two water tunnel sections. I never liked them because of how sensitive it is to steer Spyro while he’s being pulled by the water current. Whenever you want Spyro to defeat enemies while in the water tunnels, it’s not always a feasible task as he can easily steer away from the enemies, even when you don’t mean to. Just another case of having to deal with finicky controls. More trial and error.

However you approach all these minigames, I think we can all appreciate the greater variety here. While they’re not quite perfect, most of them are functional and can be fun to play with.

 

Dragon Vs. Crocodile Witch

Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm! So… the story! I usually criticize this aspect the most in the Spyro series.

To be fair, it’s more focused than either that of Spyro the Dragon and Ripto’s Rage!, which is a good thing. Instead of the individual worlds being invaded by random groups that have nothing to do with the villain, they’re all being terrorized by the Sorceress’s personal army, the Rhynocs. While the first game did this too with Gnasty and his Gnorc army, you never felt that the main antagonist Gnasty Gnorc was present throughout the game. As a villain, he felt like an afterthought.

Also, Year of the Dragon has plenty of cutscenes that move the story forward. However, I do miss the intro and extro cutscenes that played for each level in Ripto’s Rage! Those were great. But hey, the characters are quite charming to boot.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 Bianca

Bianca, one of the antagonists of Year of the Dragon, is the Sorceress’s apprentice attempting to study magic. And the reason she follows the Sorceress’s orders is because the Forgotten Realms were slowly losing their magic, due to the lack of dragons who were apparently the source of magic. The lack of magic was even causing some of the level portals to stop working, preventing the residents of the Forgotten Realms from returning home. So supposedly, the baby dragons would help restore magic to the Forgotten Realms, which is actually a pretty good motive for kidnapping them.

And in spite of Bianca trying to intimidate Spyro and Hunter, she fails hilariously at being a scary villain. She comes across as more Adorkable than threatening, which is what makes her particularly endearing. This is literally one of her first lines of dialogue towards Spyro.

Those eggs belong to us now, and I’ve hidden them in places you’ll never find in a thousand years!

Yeah… with many of these dragon eggs just lying out in the open, with no one guarding them. Solid job there.

It probably helps that she was voiced by Pamela Hayden, who was best known as the voice of Milhouse Van Houten from The Simpsons.

Oh god… I just realized something. The Spyro fanbase imploded when Reignited Trilogy Elora was revealed. What will happen when developer Toys for Bob reveals Bianca…?

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 Sheila Buzz's Dungeon

The animal companions you free are also pretty neat. Sheila is laidback (and rocking that Australian accent). Sergeant Byrd has that authoritative stiffness to him, while rocking a British accent. Bentley has a massive vocabulary (“Why, you brazenly avaricious, duplicitous, larcenous ursine!”) while also rocking a British accent. And Agent 9 is batshit crazy. He giggles when he’s about to shoot somebody. Some find him annoying. I find him hilarious.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 Bianca and the Sorceress

And for the most part, the Sorceress is a great villain in the Spyro the Dragon series. Compared to the likes of Gnasty Gnorc and Ripto, she’s one of the darkest villains. She manipulated her apprentice to steal 150 dragon eggs in the guise of a good cause: to restore magic back to the Forgotten Realms.

But in reality, the Sorceress wanted immortality. And the way she’ll get that is using dragon wings as an ingredient.

This could go one of two ways:

  1. Committing infanticide against the baby dragons, then stripping their wings off their little corpses.
  2. Restraining the baby dragons, then painfully clipping their wings off while keeping them alive.

…….

……………..

HOLY SHIT! I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE IS WORSE!

And keep in mind that this is the original Spyro the Dragon canon! Not the darker The Legend of Spyro canon. The original cartoonish setting with the goofy animal characters!

And you can feel the Sorceress’s presence throughout the Forgotten Realms. The residents of the worlds resent and despise her. And whenever you try to enter side quest portals where you need an animal companion (but haven’t freed that companion yet), you’ll find a note from the Sorceress taunting you.

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Wow. The Sorceress has a lot of sass to her.

So you might be wondering why Ripto appears in later Spyro games, but the Sorceress is reduced to short mentions and cameos—even though both met similar fates. Well… I have a theory on that, which I’ll discuss in a little bit. Because I think it’s important to know that in spite of the ambitions that Year of the Dragon displayed, there was plenty of missed potential.

 

A Wussy Toad and a Monster to End All Monsters

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Spike's Arena

Much like with Ripto’s Rage!, the boss fights in Year of the Dragon are solid overall. But if there is a small critique I’d like to give, it’d be that the bosses are still too easy.

The first boss Buzz is pretty easy, even as he switches up his attack patterns. He barely does much to actually hurt you. The second boss Spike is easily the hardest boss in the game due to his accurate projectile attacks and the fact that he can utilize powerups during the fight—making him somewhat similar to Ripto. The third boss Scorch is strangely easy, despite the Sorceress referring to him as “the monster to end all monsters!” And of course… the Sorceress herself…

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Sorceress's Lair

The Sorceress is probably the most disappointing boss fight for me in the whole PS1 trilogy. And here are my reasons why.

  1. There’s hardly any buildup to it. There is no cutscene that plays before the fight, like what happened when Spyro confronts Ripto. This would’ve been a great way for the Sorceress to speak her last words before her sendoff.
  2. There is no on-screen interaction between Spyro and the Sorceress in any part of the game! As I mentioned previously, it would’ve at least benefited from a cutscene right before the fight. This is the same problem with Gnasty Gnorc in the first Spyro the Dragon.
  3. The Sorceress had no more dialogue after she created Scorch. Her presence got reduced to that of a silent villain for the remainder of the game.
  4. This boss only lasts one phase and it relies on one mediocre gimmick to defeat her: using cannon-mounted vehicles. You only used those a few times during the whole game. From a game design perspective, why rely on a rarely used clunky mechanic for a final boss?
  5. The Sorceress doesn’t really change her tactics unlike all of the previous bosses, making her the most predictable boss in the game.
  6. It’s more tedious than fun, because you’re using clunky vehicles to try to hit a fleeing opponent who occasionally counterattacks you.

Compared to Ripto in Ripto’s Rage!, this boss fight feels anticlimactic. The Sorceress felt like a legitimate threat in the story, but she somehow fared worse than expected. Sure, some of her attacks are a bit hard to dodge, but you’re spending most of the fight just running away from her anyway. Furthermore, you’re trying to hit her with inaccurate projectiles the whole time, making the fight feel longer than it needs to be.

This fight would easily be better if you just used powerups instead, just like with Ripto. But even then, it’s not much fun if the Sorceress used the same tactics throughout the whole fight. By the end of the battle, I felt unsatisfied and wished there was a lot more to it.

And if I’m feeling a bit spoiled, I would like to point out the missing potential for the boss fights in Year of the Dragon. You spent a large portion of the game playing as Spyro’s new allies: Sheila, Sgt. Byrd, Bentley and Agent 9. And even though they do join the boss fights to assist Spyro, they don’t do much and are just there mostly for support! You don’t get to play as them!

Sheila just spends her time wandering around in Buzz’s Dungeon until you push Buzz into the lava, when she stomps on his head. Sgt. Byrd drops weapons for you to use in Spike’s Arena. Bentley tosses missile pickups for you to use in Scorch’s Pit. And Agent 9 provides you with cannons and tanks in the Sorceress’s Lair.

Granted, they do something during these boss fights, but they usually don’t directly attack the boss. They’re capable fighters too, so why are they just standing on the sidelines while Spyro takes all the beatings? Wouldn’t it be cool to control Sheila for a while and constantly kick Buzz? What about shooting rockets with Sgt. Byrd and dropping multiple bombs on top of Spike? Or using Bentley to deal with Scorch’s tougher spawns? Or playing as Agent 9, sniping the Sorceress from a distance and throwing bombs at her?

This is just some food for thought, so feel free to disagree with me on this topic. I doubt Spyro Reignited Trilogy will take risks and change these fights up to something more ambitious, but I feel this needs to be brought up at least. If I were to choose which game had the best boss fights, it’d be Ripto’s Rage! The bosses in Year of the Dragon are alright for the most part, though there are a couple of mediocre fights.

There is still a little more for me to talk about before I conclude the review, so let’s get to the final moments of the game.

 

Super Bonus Round

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Super Bonus Round

So after you defeated the Sorceress, kicked Moneybags’s ass, and collected all of the gems and dragon eggs, you can access the game’s final level: Super Bonus Round.

Basically, this level is a big callback to Gnasty’s Loot in the original Spyro the Dragon, where you get to plunder the antagonist’s personal treasury and see the true ending. The main differences here are that it includes minigames to gather more gems and another boss fight. And speaking of which…

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 gameplay Super Bonus Round Sorceress

At the end, you obtain the 150th dragon egg. But not before you face the Sorceress again in a final showdown. And guess what? Once again, no buildup to the conflict and no last words from the villain. Bianca just gives you some exposition and you’re thrown into the fight.

And basically, it’s a watered down version of Ripto’s final phase in Ripto’s Rage! Instead of using the superflame/superfly combo powerup, you have to pilot the clunkier flying saucer to defeat the Sorceress. And this fight is even easier than your previous battle with the Sorceress. It’s just so underwhelming.

So Spyro defeats the Sorceress once again, where she presumably dies from sinking into the pink lava. Then you’re treated to a happy ending, concluding the Spyro the Dragon PS1 trilogy.

It’s kinda tragic just how possibly the best antagonist in the series got cheated out of a proper sendoff towards the end. Both Gnasty Gnorc and Ripto made appearances in the later Spyro games (they even appear in this game’s epilogue!), somehow surviving. But the Sorceress got reduced to cameos and short mentions, which led fans to believe that she truly died at the end of the game.

I get that Ripto is a fun and popular villain in the series, which is probably why he keeps coming back. He is a short-tempered (as well as short!) and egotistical character, which makes him a perfect foil character to the laidback and confident Spyro. But I think the Sorceress deserved better than showing up as a giant float balloon in Enter the Dragonfly.

Anyways, Year of the Dragon has a teeny, tiny bit more to it. Aside from the numerous fun cheat codes that you can play around with, the game also features the Skill Points system from Ripto’s Rage! This time, it’s a bit easier to find them since the Atlas will tell you which levels contain them—good luck trying to complete yeti boxing in two rounds, LOL. And after you find them all, you’re treated to an epilogue, marking the departure of Insomniac Games from the series.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 epilogue Gnasty Gnorc and Ripto
See? I told you Gnasty and Ripto are still around.

Behold, the original premise of Enter the Dragonfly, before it got tragically rushed to meet a holiday deadline! Man, it’s like that game is the bane of everyone’s existence. And we’ll certainly get to that monster at some point…

So now that I’m done with the Spyro the Dragon PS1 trilogy, does that mean I’m quite done with the series until Spyro Reignited Trilogy? No. In fact, I’ve been curious about where the series was headed after its initial success.

After Year of the Dragon, there were Game Boy Advance titles, home console sequels that didn’t live up to the quality of the PS1 trilogy, and a reboot trilogy that took a different direction in its story. And of course, Skylanders, which I have zero interest in. I want to see if those games were any good and how the franchise originally ended. And yes, that includes the bad Spyro games.

So will Spyro Reignited Trilogy bring anything new to the table? Or will it just take the safe route and remain largely the same as the original games, just like with Crash N. Sanity Trilogy? I’m placing my bets on the former, though I welcome a risk or two. So until then…

Spyro: Year of the Dragon PS1 epilogue ending

Spyro: Year of the Dragon

Price Varies
8.8

GAMEPLAY

9.5/10

STORY

7.5/10

GRAPHICS

9.0/10

SOUNDTRACK

9.0/10

Pros

  • The Spyro gameplay is largely the same as Ripto's Rage!, which is still solid. However, there were more opportunities for Spyro to use his recently learned abilities from the previous game.
  • Compared to most past collectibles, finding the dragon eggs is a real joy.
  • The new minigames, especially the skateboarding minigame and speedway races, are varied and quite enjoyable to play.
  • The new playable characters are definitely interesting to play around with, even if they don't control as satisfyingly as Spyro.
  • The story is more focused this time around, with higher stakes and a more relevant antagonist.
  • Just as with past Spyro games, fantastic graphics for its time and a great soundtrack.

Cons

  • The original version of the game, as well as PAL versions, have an incomplete soundtrack. If you want to buy this game, get the North American Greatest Hits version.
  • Some of the minigames are tedious at best. At worst, they control horribly (especially the yeti boxing minigame).
  • The final boss fight is disappointingly mediocre, especially compared to the final boss of the previous game.
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