The Spyro games started out as a series of fairly fun action-adventure platformers for the PlayStation. They were funny and kid-friendly, without being overly kiddie. Recently, the series has enjoyed releases on the PS2 and Game Boy Advance. Spyro: Shadow Legacy is the latest incarnation of the series and it's available on the Nintendo DS.
Shadow Legacy's new gimmick is that there are two worlds to explore: the normal world that we all know and love, and the shadow world, which is filled with monsters, dark corners, and other beasties. It's a gimmick that we've seen before (Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver comes to mind, as does the Silent Hill series) and Shadow Legacy doesn't really do a whole lot to make it new or even interesting.
When you visit the Shadow Realm early on, you're told that you can enter doors that are locked in the real world by simply passing through them. How do you accomplish this wonderful feat? Well, you pass through doors in the Shadow Realm the exact same way you enter doors in the real world. You fight different enemies in the Shadow Realm... in the exact same way that you fight enemies in the real world. You have jumping segments in the Shadow Realm... that you navigate in the exact same way you do them in the real world.
Do you see where I'm going with this? The Shadow Realm is the real world with the brightness turned down. It doesn't warp or change or really deliver anything different beyond monster types and maybe access to various buildings.
The plot at its most basic is about a rescue mission. Most of the Elders were trapped in the Shadow Realm by a mysterious power and need to be rescued by the only person who can get to them: Spyro. Spyro has to zip into the Shadow Realm, find them, and then kill a certain number of enemies until the Elders are free. The number of enemies varies, but the Elders' cages have a handy-dandy display on them telling you how many enemies you have to kill to free them.
That's a great plan, there, Mr Mysterious Power. It's on par with leaving your one lone weakness underneath the Welcome mat in your dark, evil lair.
Spyro: Shadow Legacy is competent at best as an action game, but that's about all the praise I can give it. Fighting boils down to jamming on one or two buttons and hoping that the enemies get stuck in loops so that you can slam them forever. Don't believe me? Try headbutting a few of the early enemies, rapid-fire style, and see how often you get hit. The AI seems to enjoy falling for simple exploits. The touchscreen magic system is a neat idea, but it's pretty handily felled by the fact that you have to change the lower screen by clicking an icon and then draw the spell. Opening the spell menu also deactivates the menu that gives you access to your restorative items, meaning that if you botch a spell at the wrong time, you might mess around and end up dead.
What do you get when you have a story that's pretty by-the-book, lackluster gameplay, and a gimmick that's really just a smokescreen? I'll give you three guesses, and if the first one isn't "Spyro: Shadow Legacy" you're dead wrong.