Spyro's back and, in the James Bond tradition, now that the repetitious nature of the series has started to wear a bit thin, this time a gritty, harder-hitting prequel, that reveals Spyro's early days. Whereas previous games in the series were very much in the Mario mould, ?A New Beginning? attempts to take this legacy, and start afresh. Spyro is now his own dragon, rather than some (human) plumber's understudy.
In The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning, we are taken back to the days of yore, when strife and turmoil raged across the dragons? world. Spyro is a rare Purple dragon, born only every ten generations (and it's not made clear, but we get the impression that dragons live a VERY long time). Ignitus, guardian of the dragon eggs, takes Spyro's egg and hides it in a distant swamp, where Spyro is adopted by two dragonflies. As luck would have it, Spyro hatches the same day that the dragonflies? natural son is born, Sparx, and the two grow up as brothers. Now, as we've noted, dragons often live to venerable ages, whereas dragonflies are notable the brevity of their lifespans (large ones live up to four months as adults ? but that?s their lot). So how the two grow up together without the dragonchild graduating Fly Shool, reaching his midge-life crisis and dying of a swat attack before Spyro is even a dragon-year old is a testament to the magical world in which the game takes place.
Like many adopted kids, Spyro stumbles across the secret of his origins. For many this involves finding a photograph or a hastily written note, stained with tears... for Spyro it comes from the discovery that he can breathe fire ? a skill not common among your average Anisoptera (dragonfly to you). Unlike most adoptees, instead of simply exercising his rights under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to know the identity of his birth parents, Spyro has to go on a long and adventuresome trek to the land of his origin. Initially this is purely for the sake of curiosity, but early on in his travels, Spyro is re-united with Ignitus, and learns of the drama and tragedy that has been wrought on the Dragon race by a big bad bully dragon called Cynder. Fiery little character that he is [see what I did there?], Spyro resolves to head to Dragon Town and take on the mighty Cynder single-handedly (Shurely, ?single-pawedly? ed.
), except for his 'twin brother', Sparx, (oh, and with the watchful, and helpful, but strangely hands-off Ignitus by his side).
The animation that introduces a New Beginning cannot be skipped in any way, and every time you start a new game, you have to watch it. But it is of a good quality, and will possibly entertain the target audience as much as Disney's recent (non-Pixar) output. As with most post-Pixar animation the voice-over is witty and pacy, rather then the naive wide-eyed tosh we used to have to tolerate.
Thus begins a Spyro game unlike any other, and all of the others have been pretty similar to tell the truth. That's not a criticism; the earlier Spyro games did what they did well. The PlayStation had no Mario game, and Spyro set out to right that wrong. The result was a brightly coloured, free-roaming affair that appealed to kids and (in our experience) thirty-something year-old women alike. Sure the game was untaxing, which limited its appeal to the aforementioned demographic sectors, and it could be a little repetitive. But as an introduction to videogaming, it was good, addictive fun. And pretty as a button, or bright as a bell, or whatever it is people in those old western movies say. Even this reviewer spent altogether too long on earlier Spyro games when a joypad was left lying around.