Tag Archives: dragon

All of Spyro: Year of the Dragon’s eggs are up for grabs

gd-spyro-3-year-of-the-dragon-ps1-early-impressions

I completed Spyro the Dragon, at 71%, despite the wonky camera, frustrating platforming, and that final fight against Gnasty Gnorc. Then I took on Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!, collecting a mighty number of gems, talismans, and orbs. After that, I moved on to Spyro: Year of the Dragon, the third installment in the series despite it missing a number in the title, but alas, I’ve still not finished it off and most likely won’t…well, not the PlayStation 1 classic version I have downloaded on my PlayStation 3. Why, you ask? Well, there’s a little thing called Spyro Reignited Trilogy coming out next month–that’s November, y’all–and I’m mega-stoked to revisit the series with hopefully better controls and camera options. Oh, and it looks gorgeous too.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon opens with a celebration in the land of the dragons, where Spyro and his kin are celebrating the titular “Year of the Dragon,”, an event that occurs every twelve years when new dragon eggs are brought to the realm. However, unfortunately, during the celebration, a cloaked rabbit girl named Bianca invades the Dragon Realms with an army of creatures called Rhynocs and steals all of the dragon eggs. She brings them back to the Sorceress, an evil ruler of all the Forgotten Realms, who scatters the eggs throughout several worlds. Spyro, along with his trusty lifelong pals Sparx and Hunter, are sent to recover the dragon eggs.

Well…my save file says that I’m at 64% completion for Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Go me. That more or less equates to 10,110 out of 15,000 gems and 90 out of 148 dragon eggs, according to the in-game Atlas menu. Which, if I can say, is really handy for tallying up all your accomplishments, along with the objectives still to finish off in each distinct world. This is good information to have because you often need a certain number of dragon eggs to move forward to the next area, and most of them are easy enough to collect, except for the ones based on mini-games, like skating or boxing.

The gameplay is, more or less, the same as the it was in the previous two games. In this one, Spyro will explore over 30 worlds, defeat enemies, complete puzzles, participate in mini-games, and collect eggs and the usual colored gems. He doesn’t have any brand-new moves, but the controls are still fine, if a bit iffy when trying to both charge forward and jump; often, I would just send our poor tiny, purple dragon right off a cliff’s edge. The camera remains a constant opponent. That said, it’s still a lot of fun to explore these worlds and find all the hidden-away gems or see a dragon egg in the distance and figure out how to reach it.

Spyro’s quest to recapture the dragon eggs stolen by the Sorceress is aided by a number of furry and fuzzy friends. Such as Bentley the yeti, Sheila the kangaroo, Sergeant Byrd the flying penguin, and Agent 9, a blaster-wielding space monkey. These characters are represented in unique levels to highlight their different powers and abilities, with puzzles only for them. For example, Sergeant Byrd, has large, open levels to match his ability to fly and long-distance attacks. There’s also Sheila, who has much more vertical levels to make use of her double-jump ability, and these sometimes look like a traditional 2D platformer.

Spyro: Year of the Dragon‘s graphics, sound, and charm all work together to create something special. Yes, even some eighteen years later. The character designs, while low on the polygon count, still show off Insomniac’s knack for creating iconic characters that are the step-stones for what’s to come down the road, namely the Ratchet and Clank series. Honestly, I’m excited to revisit all three games next month, and I promise to get all them dragon eggs back from the Sorceress. Why? Well, mostly because they’ll be tied to Achievements. Ha, I can’t quit caring about those digital bursts of dopamine.

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This Dragon Quest also requires keys to open doors

dragon quest armor games impressions capture

All right, a slice of honesty here: I didn’t play Dragon Quest the other day in what one might consider…a legal manner. I gave it a fair shake through browser-based emulation that I will not link to here. That said, while performing a Google search for this possibility, I stumbled across another game called Dragon Quest, playable over at the Armor Games website. Here, I’ll happily link to it. To me, it is a big and bold move to name your game the same title as that of a beloved franchise some nearly 30 years in the making. Either it’s a quick grab for knowledgeable gamers’ attention–hey, it worked on me–or there’s a specific and unchangeable detail to the plot that requires such titling.

Here’s the gist: in this Dragon Quest, one must explore a deadly castle on a mission to get back a stolen best friend who was kidnapped by a dragon. I mean, if that stolen friend was named Princess Gwaelin and change the dragon to the Dragonlord, then we’re one in the same with that other mega-popular Dragon Quest. Still, this isn’t an RPG where you have to select the stairs menu option to go up or down staircases, but both titles do have a fixation on finding keys to open locked doors. In fact, that’s the only way you’ll save your stolen friend here, as well as dodge that dragon’s attacks in three separate boss battles.

I’m going to use quotation marks to highlight the descriptive text the creator of this Dragon Quest wrote when describing his or her creation. Basically, there are over 20 levels of “insane physics puzzles” that you need to solve using the “twitch reflexes of a platforming game.” I take issue with both of these claims. Insane is a descriptor better saved for puzzles like late-game Portal or Fez or Silent Hill‘s poetry riddles, not figuring out how to smush the skeleton to get a key to pop out; there’s only one way to do it in each level, and the solution is visually telegraphed based on whatever new elements are added each time. As for the twitch reflexes, you move no faster than Mario without the run button, with none of the momentum. You can jump and change direction in midair, which helps once or twice, but otherwise there is no need to keep your finger hovering over the keyboard for the swiftest of key presses.

For a soldier decked out in shiny armor and wielding a sword, the hero of Dragon Quest is quite the pacifist. He never directly kills a skeleton with his blade, often using the environment around him and the skeletons’ dim wits to do away with them. You use the sword to hit switches or cut ropes mainly. When it comes to battling the dragon, which you do thrice, the soldier must avoid the dragon’s fireballs and attacks, using them against him to deal damage. I’m not here to say I need man on dragon violence to satisfy me and my dark desires, but thought it was an unusual observation nonetheless. I wonder if it was a conscious choice or something that happened due to the nature of the puzzle mechanics.

In the end, Dragon Quest is a mediocre way to kill fifteen minutes and mildly flex your brain muscles, but it probably should’ve been called something more like Door Key Quest or The Mighty Quest to Smush All Skeletons. Here’s hoping that the next time I’m talking about Dragon Quest on this blog of mine, it’s related more to that Enix joint, even if I have to admit to being killed again and again by red slimes. I’m okay with violence against them.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Breath of Fire III

I have a strange, uneven relationship with the already pretty strange and uneven Capcom RPG franchise known as Breath of Fire.

First, for the introductory title and its sequel in the series, games found originally on the SNES, I only got to play them much later in life when I learned all about emulating ROMs on the computer, and even then I never got far with either. They were just something I tried out to see if the tech could actually work. During my PlayStation 1 heydays, I picked up a copy of Breath of Fire III, played a decent bit of it, and then traded it in like an idiot, which should be obvious considering the name of this post. Missed out on Breath of Fire IV completely, and later picked up Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter for the PS2, which for all intents and purposes in basically the fifth game in the series. That one probably deserves its own post, but let me just say that it is a confusing game, one that encourages death and replaying the same areas over and over again, and one that I’ve tried a good number of times to figure out without much luck.

Nonetheless, each game in the series is sort of the same interchangeable story: a boy named Ryu can turn into a dragon and goes on adventures. A girl named Nina also appears frequently, as well as characters from other games in the franchise. Battles are turn-based, and fusing into different kinds of dragons is often the key to victory. Fishing and bright colors, too.

Well, how dragon Ryu (before becoming a boy) enters the world in Breath of Fire III is probably my favorite part of the game, and a really strong contender to a classic first hour. Here’s an animated GIF, but I’ll use words below it, too:

(EDIT: Okay, I guess I can’t host animated gifs on Grinding Down. Boo. So go here instead to see.)

That open sequence and probably the hour or so after it are probably the reasons why I like this game the most from the whole franchise. It’s endearing and nicely paced, as well as quite colorful. As you can see above, the graphics for the first Breath of Fire on the PlayStation 1 were a mix of hand-drawn sprites and polygons–and dang it, I love the mixture.

Anyways, it all starts with a pair of miners–Gary and Mogu–as they search through a mine, pontificating on the nature of the magical creatures and the valuable ore called chrysmThe two miners find a giant chrysm with a preserved baby dragon locked inside it. They plan to blow the crystal apart with TNT, and when they do, the preserved dragon, to no one’s surprise but the miners’, turns out to be alive, and it attacks them. Just like that, we’re thrown into the game’s first battle, and we’re totally in control of the dragon, not the humans. With ease and shock, we turn the miners to ash. Farewell, Gary and Mogu–we hardly knew ya. The young dragon is not a ruthless monster though, attacking back against miners only when they strike first. It is, in actuality, an innocent boy, and this is conveyed strongly as miners beg for their lives and are let go.

Eventually, a bunch of miners knock the dragon out with a crane, cage it, and put it on a train headed for a bad place. Luckily, Ryu the dragon wakes up during the journey and is able to knock its cage off the train and down a ravine. We then cut to a scene involving a cat-like man stalking a wild boar in the woods. The falling cage ruins his plans, and the man is somewhat surprised to see a naked little boy inside the cave. So is whoever is playing the game, as we last saw a fire-breathing dragon in there. Despite living in complete hunger, the cat-like man decides to bring the boy home, meaning another mouth to feed, and welcomes him into his surrogate family. What follows after that is that Rei, the cat-like man, and another orphan named Teepo teach Ryu how to be a thief as a means of surviving. This character-building and -bonding is important, as the trio eventually gets separated, and a large part of the game involves finding friends and rebuilding homes and generally growing up.

And that’s all I can recall. There’s a big white space after the intro and whatever happened next. Though I do remember getting far enough into Breath of Fire III to unlock the Faerie Village, which allows the player to rebuild an entire village for magical flying critters. Doing so unlocks special benefits like rare weapons for sale, mini-games, and a sound test mode. Can’t really recall how far into this element I got, but it stands out as a charming way to spend time. Another aspect that stands out as pretty neat and something that was also later found in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was being able to study under a Master, earning different skills and benefits this way.

I dunno. Games like this and other PS1 classics now long gone do have me seriously considering picking up a VITA–it just recently got announced that the Sony handheld would be receiving PS1 compatibilityone day. Well, them and that updated version of Persona 4. Yeah, I know; I’m losing my mind.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #15 – Dungeons & Dragons Daggerdale

A halfling mage walks
Into a dungeon, grinds, grows
Kills dragon, the end

EDIT: Greg Noe submitted a haiku review of his own for Daggerdale, and as a lover of alliteration, I have to share with y’all. See it here:

Dwarf diviner ducks
To dungeon, drudges, deepens
Defeats dragon, done

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.