Spyro, the friendly dragon hero, has been around since the early days of the Sony PlayStation. It has always been hailed as a unique and original premise. There simply aren’t many dragon hero games out there worth playing. Enter Dawn of the Dragon, this year’s Wii entry to the series, and the third of the Spyro trilogy. Much of the style and content from the previous entries is here, but so are some hitches that hold this game back from what it could have been. This one picks up where the last game left off, except this time Spyro is paired with Cynder, now a “good” dragon, to battle evil as a team. Yes, a second player can play as Cynder in a brand new two-player co-op mode, which is a nice addition.
The two characters have very different skill sets, with Spyro boasting his usual fire, ice, electric, etc. attacks, and Cynder, the quicker dragon, using shadows, wind, and more to sting enemies. The pair will be together the whole story, so you had better get used to it. No dragon gets left behind! There are vast amounts of power-ups available in this game. You’ll find all sorts of crystals and balls that will give you new powers and energies. It’s not always easy to tell what a certain pick-up did for you, but you can be sure it’s something good so you’ll find yourself frantically using whatever you have in a fight, and trusting that it’s helping you. The system could be a bit more clear but it works well enough. Flying, of course, is the coolest part of this game, especially since now you can fly whenever you want to. There are plenty of annoying invisible walls, but flying is still a blast.
Controlling your dragons is intuitive and easy, for the most part. However, there are some problems that will annoy you and slow down your experience. You’ll spend tons of time just trying to get past pointless obstacles that shouldn’t be difficult at all, but some design issues and camera/control problems cause hiccups. Unfortunately adding to the problem, the game gives you almost NO feedback, hints, tips, or anything to help you along with the controls and combinations. So get used to painstaking trial and error sessions to get past certain spots. It’s really a shame too, because so many awesome gameplay situations are really held back by iffy controls.
All that said, Dawn of the Dragon works most of the time, and quite well. You’ll have a blast simply flying around and exploring, even if you don’t quite know what you’re looking for. There are tons of details to find, secrets to unlock and enemies to battle. The story is a bit overdone and cliché, but it’s what you’d expect from a fantasy game of this sort. Plus, if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll be glad to know it’s more of what you already know and love.
This game looks beautiful. It really does. For the Wii, this is as good as visuals have gotten so far on the system. The environments are lush and bright, the colors are vivid, and the atmosphere draws you right into the game. Even the characters and animations are satisfying. While flying around, the game keeps up well enough, and objects pass by smoothly and intact. Even the cutscenes looks like they are taken from a fantasy movie. I do have a few complaints about the visuals, but I think I am going to excuse them from this review, because the good FAR outweighs the bad in this department.
The sound in this game is also very, very well done. We’ll start with the voices. The voice acting is all done by high-profile professionals, and you won’t find a lacking character in the game in this area. The music is some of the best I have ever heard in a fantasy game. The soundtrack always seems to match up perfectly with what’s happening, whether exciting, intense, sad, happy, and so on. The effects, such as waterfalls, wind, action combat sounds, are all very believable and appropriate for this wistful, serene, fantasy setting.
Dawn of the Dragon brings so much to the table. It looks fantastic and sounds great. There are new places to explore, new secrets to uncover, new enemies to fight, and new ways to do it, all while being able to fly at will. The co-op mode is an awesome addition, and playing with a friend only adds to the experience. With all that good, though, it’s a shame that there are a solid number of hiccups and frustrations that hold this game back from being what it could have been. For fans of the series or for fans of fantasy/adventure games in general, I can recommend this game. If that’s not your cup of tea, however, this is not the game to draw you in, because of the number of issues.