Spyro: Year Of The Dragon is a very nostalgic game for me. Released in 2000, the actual year of the Dragon, it’s a fan favorite from the Playstation. It was given to me by my friend Kat on my seventh birthday, and I played it nonstop in the following days. This is the game that got me into the Spyro series, but does it still hold up 18 years later?
Spyro: Year Of The Dragon is a lot more gimmicky than the first two games in the series. Year of the Dragon places heavy emphasis on animal buddy characters, that Spyro frees from Moneybags. These animal buddies have their own levels are can be played as in minigames specific to them. These animal buddies are Sheila the Kangaroo, Sgt. Byrd the Penguin, Bentley the Yeti, and Agent Nine the Monkey. I really don’t enjoy playing as these animal buddies, as they feel tacked on and way too gimmicky. Sheila is just Spyro but she jumps high and kicks, Sgt. Byrd flies around and shoots things, Bentley is super slow but can break any gem crate, and Agent Nine is a run and gunner but controls terribly. All of these animal buddies feel like a chore to play as, and their missions aren’t fun. Other than the boring animal buddies, the Spyro gameplay is fun, but can get gimmicky too. Spyro now has skateboarding missions, and races, and more boss fights. The bossfights are fun, but the skateboarding and racing feel out of place. The game looks and controls the same as Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, so the controls on Spyro are perfectly fine. Sheila and Bentley also control fine, but Sgt. Byrd and Agent Nine, hoo boy. Sgt. Byrd’s missions are completely flight based, and Byrd turns like a tank. There are several times that I spend nearly a half hour on his missions because of how hard they are to control. Agent Nine’s missions are unlocked in the final quarter of the game, and his missions are incredibly difficult. Two of his missions go into first person mode randomly, and are some of the most infuriating missions in the game since they aren’t designed well. Agent Nine is my least favorite partner by far a of the difficulty. The oversaturation of minigames is weird in Spyro 3, since it feels like Insomniac ran out of ideas. Instead of getting through levels and participating in small tasks for Orbs like in Spyro 2, you take a portal to a separate area in the level and do something completely eclectic to the rest of the level. It feels unnatural. Spyro 3 is way too gimmicky, but the gameplay isn’t objectively bad. Some of the stages are still super fun, like Lost Fleet, which might be the best level in the entire trilogy. Of course, for every good level, there are bad levels as well. Haunted Tomb is by far my least favorite Spyro Level on the PS1. The goal of the gameplay is the same as ever: beat levels, collect gems, and collect the main plot macguffin: Dragon Eggs, since the game celebrates the birth of baby dragons. The gameplay is a huge mixed bag, but if you like the eclectecness, more power to you.
The graphics and music are phenomenal as usual. The game looks very similar to Spyro 2, which isn’t a bad thing. The game is a joy to look at, and even though by today’s standards it’s a bit aged, it’s not horrible. The music is great. Stewart Copeland only composed around half of the soundtrack, with Ryan Beveridge composing the other half. Beveridge’s tracks are just as good as Copeland’s. The music is still great today, while the graphcis are okay.
Spyro: Year of the Dragon is a mixed bag of a third installment. It’s got a ton going for it, but relies on gimmicks way too much. While Spyro 3 hasn’t aged horribly, it hasn’t aged super well either.
You may be asking why I reviewed Crash and Spyro’s sequels pretty close to each other. Well, recently, all of these games have been remade! Next article will be a new subseries, entitled “Games Grown Up” where I compare and contrast each game with its remake!