The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning
The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning, as the title suggests, is an all-out new adventure for the small, purple dragon with lots of spunk. Critics are already heralding it as the best in the series and it aims to be a re-birth and a benchmark for the franchise for the years to come. And it is true what "they" say; New Beginning is stupendous and surpasses those before it in more ways than one. It looks wonderful with vibrant and detailed graphics, has talented voice acting from world-renowned actors, and is a well structured game. However, all of these comments and opinions are generated mostly from reviews and impressions of the console versions. The question here is: How does it shape up on DS?
Sadly, as one would expect, the DS version of New Beginning is basically a simplified version of its console counterparts. Instead of being 3D, it has had to be degraded to 2D sprites and environments, and has a fixed birds-eye-view rather than a free roaming camera. Trying to fit everything onto the two small screens of the DS does not work and with characters and environments alike at a low level of quality, the overall outcome is a game that looks far from impressive.
The player controls our hero Spyro, a young, purple dragon who was found at birth and raised by dragonflies. Odd. One day, when the game starts, he discovers that he himself is not a dragonfly but a real, flying, fire-breathing dragon and sets off to find out who he is and where he truly belongs.
As with most handheld ports, especially on Nintendo platforms, the game has been simplified all round, including the battle system. You can perform three basic attacks against enemies; Melee attacks, breathing fire and make use of a high damage Mega Fury attack that hits all enemies on screen at the same time. Your melee attack consists of butting your head into anything that moves and the Mega Fury attack is also performed easily enough. Your fire breath attacks though come in various forms, forms that can be upgraded through the collection of gems that give Spyro extra power. It is nice to see that some variety has been kept within this version rather than having a single flame attack, which is something.
Some areas of the environments are also destructible, although not to a high degree. It mainly consists of smashing rocks or tearing apart trees and plants which is all done through the stylus. This very much feels as though it was a last minute thought, making you stab at the screen to perform moves that could have easily been done by Spyro's normal attacks anyway. This does not help on a further note as it is extremely difficult to juggle the stylus in one hand as you try and press both the D-pad and buttons to perform other attacks at the same time.
This is clearly evident with one of the enemies you face. The foes in question are large baboons (oh yes) who throw explosive bombs at you. The only way to defeat these baboons is by grabbing the bombs mid-air with your stylus and then hurling them back at them...simple. However, when there are also different types of enemy fighting you at the same time, enemies who need to be killed using your melee and fire breathing attacks, you will become a very tangled up dragon indeed.
Thankfully, Amaze Entertainment has put the stylus to good use for the puzzles within the game. The most common one you will face is the opening of the Crystal Gates that lock each dragon shrine you travel to. To do so, you will need to position mirrors in certain...positions...to bounce a beam of light from a crystal around obstacles to hit another corresponding crystal.
Sadly there is nothing special about New Beginning on DS. The machine itself and its functions are not used in a highly innovative way and the stylus and two screens are simply used for dragging, maps and pause menus. The presentation is a particular let down, as you can hardly see anything of what you are doing because everything is so small and blurred in 2D mode. If it was not for some short and well-edited cut scene added in from the console versions then the game would in fact seem very dull indeed, without much personality or emotional interaction.
The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning is not a particularly bad game; it has a very solid formula. It does not do anything wrong but then it does not really do anything right, or to a noticeable degree. What could have been a killer IP for the DS, one that could have possibly rivalled Nintendo's own for some big sales, is not really flying or even "falling with style". It simply falls.