Monday, 29 September 2014

The Past and times of Yore: Spyro 2, Gateway to Glimmer, more features, more friends and some more good stuff

Release Date: November 5th, 1999
Genre: Platformer

Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Insomniac Games
Platform: Playstation
Players: 1

Classification: E (Everyone)

Awhile ago I reviewed the classic Spyro the Dragon, one of my favourite games ever so I decided to continue the aptly named “golden-age” of the Spyro series with Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer (named “Ripto’s” Rage in USA).

Gateway to Glimmer introduced quite a few new features to the game, first off the story introduces many new characters, some of which become a mainstay in the series appearing in several more games. The Professor, Hunter the Cheetah, Elora the Faun, Zoe the Fairy and Moneybags the Bear all make their first appearance as well as one of Spyro’s most notorious opponents Ripto as well as his hench-dinosaurs Crush and Gulp. Basically the story is that the Professor, Elora and Hunter accidentally allow Ripto into their realm of Avalar and Elora prevents him from going back by getting the fairies to spread the orbs all over Avalar. They then decide to get the help of a Dragon to get rid of him. Meanwhile in the Dragon Kingdom it’s raining and Spyro and Sparks decide to go on a holiday to Dragon Shores which is a vacation spot in the Dragon Kingdom but are intercepted by the Professor, Elora, and Hunter and are instead transported to Glimmer, which is the first realm of the game. The focus this time around is basically to defeat Ripto so that Spyro can go to there for a vacation, there’s no actual explanation given about the gems you need to collect this time (apart from needing them to pay Moneybags), I vaguely remember Elora commenting that you had to collect the treasure though the Orbs and Talismans are needed to progress through the game but the treasure is only to achieve %100.

The Professer, Elora, Hunter, Spyro and Sparx  near the portal from the Dragon Kingdom
Playing this game for the first time you can really see the changes, after he and Sparks have a short conversation with the Professor, Elora and Hunter, Elora gives you you’re Guidebook that is used to show your progress in the game. Interestingly the game starts in Glimmer which isn’t a homeworld but a realm, and you don’t actually go to the first homeworld of Summer Forest until you finish the level. You then automatically enter into a conversation with your first npc character Bounsa the Gemcutter who fills you in on what s happening in the realm and what they need help with, and as you progress through the level you meet other NPC’s who have various jobs and dilemmas for you to solve.

Spyro with one of the Gemcutters in Glimmer
They then reward you with Orbs in which they always have a different explanation for giving them as they never have any idea what they are, at the end of the main part of the level you meet a final npc who gives you a Talisman and then you gotta run around and find all the treasure and orbs you need to fully complete the level. Another slight change that you may not notice is that you can activate a map for the bottom left of the screen, but I didn’t bother using this much as the layouts are not really that confusing.

One of my favorite Talismans, the Idol Springs Jade Idol.
 Once you have completed Glimmer and go through the portal you find yourself in Summer Forest which is the first homeworld in which I did notice that it and the rest of the homeworlds no longer have enemies in them just the little creatures to flame, so they are basically safe apart from the ever-present abyss in most Spyro levels. Here is where you find several of the new characters such as Hunter the Cheetah who acts as a guide for various activities and you come across him fairly often throughout the game where he gives you various challenges in reward for Orbs he is also found in the various Speedways where once you have completed the main timed challenge you can find him or another character for another challenge unique to the speedway which include things like flying through rings while paragliding. Another new character (and way of saving your game) is Zoe the Fairy who zaps Sypro with her wand at certain locations throughout a level every time Spyro walks under her to save his game.

Hunter in the crystal cave in Magma Cone, these two orbs you get are one of the harder challenges.
Lastly, Moneybags the Bear is quite a character with his pompous British accent and dress, he charges Spyro lots of gems for services in realms such as extending bridges opening doors and activating portals and also trains you in various abilities which  include:

Swimming: Spyro can now swim on the surface of the water, meaning that not all sections of water are just pools that you drown in, Spyro can swim in almost all bodies of water apart from lava of course. Swimming is pretty fun, you just use the charge button to dive underwater and also charge enemies as you obviously can’t use flame, you can also swim along using the x button, I loved it the first time I did it as it adds a great alternative to the usually gameplay controls and collecting gems, especially when most of the level is underwater.

Climbing: This one’s fairly self-explanatory, there are walls with “ladder-imprints” on them which Spyro can climb and jump across.

Headbash: Spyro can headbash by pressing triangle while jumping and can break most contains inc the “headbash specific” ones.

These abilities are learned by talking to Moneybags and paying a “small” fee, they are learned in each of the three homeworlds. Often you can’t get %100 on some homeworlds and realms until you can get a certain ability where you have to come back to later.

Swimming is great fun, especially wiping out pots and enemies while zooming through the water.
Other then these changes Spyro has relatively the same controls as before, he can jump, glide, charge and is protected by Sparx the same way as before. A new ability is that when you are gliding you can now press triangle for Spyro to hover upwards a bit then fall giving you that last little bit of height needed as opposed to the previous game where if you misjudged the glide there was really nothing you could do but fall, Spyro also loses his L1 and R1 side rolling ability. Defeating enemies this time does not always yield gems but adds a spark to the Powerup gate which when neough enemies are defeated gives Spyo abilities such as superflame, supercharge, superfly, invincibility and spring jump which is pretty damn fun.

Me re-doing a gliding and hovering challenge that Hunter takes you on early in the game, was a cinch the first time too :D

Another feature which I am very glad they added is the “Gem radar”, when you press all shoulder buttons Sparks points to the location of uncollected treasure, man that saves a hell of a lot of time searching around. Spyro now interacts with other characters a lot more, before it was just the one line of Dialogue when you rescued the other Dragons, now you see a Dialogue box pop up when talking to the various different inhabitants of that particular realm which you can talk to for additional dialogue even after they have finished your initial conversation.

A dialogue box that appears in the game.
The realms in the game are fairly diverse in this instance as you go from places like Sunny Beach to Skelos Badlands. There seems to be much more technology around now with realms like Metropolis and Robotica Farms compared to the first game where the worlds were more fantasy/medieval with only a few parts where Gnorcs used electricity or industrial objects like steel and cannons. There are some levels which feature larger amount of water sections such as Aquaria Towers where you help the Seahorses to fill up the towers with water. Spyro also has various new animations where when he touches lava he now jumps in the air with a burnt derriere until he loses Sparx and then gets burnt to a crisp as well as the angry slap he does when he falls into the water while flying in the Speedways which also make a return in this instalment with a bonus feature of you being able to find a character hidden somewhere in the level with a special challenge for Spyro which is always done with Hunter or from Hunter himself.

Aquaria towers is a level where you are under the water almost all the timr.
The graphics in the game are mostly fine, I again used an emulator to play the game so it looks much better than playing with the original Playstation, the locations may look slightly more cartoonish and not as beautiful as the first game. Though there were still some very beautiful locations including: Summer Forest, Magma Cone, and Zephyr which were some of my favourite looking places even Hurricos which is in a constant stormy state of rain, dark clouds and patchy sunlight looked amazing. The design and architecture of the levels is good too, with places like Skelos Badlands.  and Fracture Hills really fitting into their theme with the building design.

Hurricos, one of my favorite looking zones.
The emulator does make the models look so much better with the anti-aliasing options though unfortunately it doesn’t quite work with everything, I could see that the sparks from explosions and the sparkles that Sparx emits (lol that’s fun to say) are basically just yellow pixels. You can also see that any large non-3d text or graphics appear slightly pixelated as well, but these are minor things. The overall look and feel of the game is great and even though the locations in Avalar aren’t quite as equal in beauty as the Dragon Realms they are still a slight step up in detail from the previous game as you’d expect with a new installment.

Who sees some pixelated sparks! and Sparx! lol
 The music in this instalment of the game is great as before, there’s more of a variety of instruments  and sometimes voices which are used prominently at the start of a soundtrack, this is especially the case in Scorch, Shady Oasis and Colossus, I think Colossus has one of the best soundtracks in the game. Although this game retains basically the same kind of music from the original, there are a few gems here and there (pun intended) which are pretty damn good with some of my favourites being, the music from Magma Cone with it’s upbeat action-oriented feel and the calming Summer Forest tone (which is the same for all home realms) are great to listen to and especially come back to after completing a level.

The Colossus level music

The sound effects are good as usual and not much has changed from the usual sound effects and skips and jump and flame breath. Some of the audible cues are back such as the bouncing of an orb somewhere in the level which works the same way as a dragon rattling in crystal. Though the biggest change has got to be Spyro’s change in voice, in the first game he sounded very childish and naive, though since the voice actor change to Tom Kenny he seems to have matured a little bit and has a much more pleasant personality and I must say I liked him much better in the 2nd and 3rd games.

Spyro 2 was a great advancement in the Spyro series, it couldn’t obviously be the masterpiece that was the first Spyro game but it did everything it could to improve and it did it well, improving sound, graphics and introducing new game feature and abilities for Spyro. As I mentioned before this was the 2nd game in the “Golden Age” of the Spyro series on PS1 which culminates with Year of the Dragon. I’ve played this game many times though once you’ve actually finished the game there is little to do, the replayability comes with going through the whole game again and as always I highly recommend playing through the original PS1 sytem, emulator or the Playstation store as it is one of the best games on from the PS1 era.


Story - 9
Gameplay - 10
Graphics - 9
Music - 10
Sound Effects - 9
Play Time - 9
Replayability - 8

Overall: 9

Older, wiser and friendlier.

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