Spyro: Year of the Dragon is the third game in the Spyro the Dragon series. It was the last Spyro game to be released for the PlayStation, as well as the last Spyro game developed by Insomniac. This is the only Spyro game on the PlayStation library to not be released in Japan.
X = jump
X mid-air = glide
Triangle = hover after glide
X, then triangle = horn smash
Square = charge
Circle = flame
X = jump
X mid-air = double jump
X after hitting the ground = jump higher
Circle + square = kick
Triangle mid-air = stomp smash
X = fly
Hold X = fly higher
Square = drop item
Circle = fire weapon
Hold triangle = aim
X = jump
Square = thump
Circle = spin club
Hold triangle = Look around
X = jump
Square = throw bomb
Hold square = aim bomb
Circle = fire weapon
Triangle = enter sniper mode
Spyro is assisted by many characters during the course of Year of the Dragon. Sparx functions as the player's health meter and assists the player in gathering gems; Sparx is a playable character in certain levels. Also aiding Spyro is Hunter, who teaches the player game mechanics and is a playable character at special racing levels. Four other playable characters are freed from Moneybags during the game; these include Sheila the Kangaroo, Sgt. James Byrd the Penguin, Bentley the Yeti, and Agent 9 the Monkey. The primary antagonist of the game is The Sorceress, a tyrant who rules over the Forgotten Realms with her forces. Aiding her is the apprentice Bianca, who attempts to hinder Spyro on his mission.
There are four Homeworlds in "The Forgotten Realms," all named after times in the day:
- Sunrise Spring: The starting Homeworld, this world is set during the morning with lush green hillsides, small woods and lakes.
- Midday Gardens: The second Homeworld, Midday Garden, is set during the day with a blue sky overlooking wide gardens and large towering castles.
- Evening Lake: The third Homeworld, Evening Lake, is set during the evening inside a large lake containing parts of a submerged Tudor-style castle.
- Midnight Mountain: The final Homeworld, Midnight Mountain, is set at night on top of a high mountain.
Each Homeworld contains:
- Four Normal Realms
- One Rebel Realm
- One Speedway
- One Sparx Realm
The game opens with a celebration in the Dragon Realms, where they are celebrating the Year of the Dragon, an event every twelve years where new Dragon Eggs are brought to the realm. During the celebration, however, a cloaked anthropomorphic rabbit girl, Bianca, invades the Realms with an army of Rhynocs and steals all of the Dragon eggs. As Bianca steals the last egg, she accidentally woke up Hunter causing him to release a yowl of pain that woke up Spyro and the other dragons. They were unable to stop her and she escapes with the egg in tow. Spyro, along with Sparx and Hunter, are sent down a hole to find the thieves and recover the Dragon eggs.
Pursuing the thief, Spyro discovers a realm once inhabited by the Dragons, but long abandoned and forgotten, now known only as the "Forgotten Realms", ruled by a queen called "the Sorceress", and under firm control of her Rhynocs army. Of the few that question the Sorceress' rule, the first is a kangaroo named Sheila. She is held prisoner by Moneybags within a cage, but is released after you pay a "small fee" to him. Sheila kicks him in the stomach and knocks Moneybags out.
As Spyro travels through each realm, acquiring aid from local inhabitants, and bartering with Moneybags for passage to new areas, Bianca abducts and imprisons Hunter. It is later revealed that the Sorceress is seeking not the baby dragons themselves, but merely their wings to concoct a spell that can grant her immortality. Once Bianca finds this out, she feels sorry for the baby Dragons, and defects to side with Spyro, Hunter, and the others who question the Sorceress' rule.
Celebrations resume after the Sorceress' defeat, although Spyro is unable to locate Hunter. Searching throughout the realm, Spyro's friends are reluctant to say anything of Hunter's whereabouts until the young dragon ultimately locates Hunter out on a date with Bianca, and laments about another hero "falling" for love.
However, it later turns out that the Sorceress survived her previous battle with Spyro, and is found in the Super Bonus Round, waiting for Spyro on her UFO. Spyro and the Sorceress battle again, on two UFOs above a pool of unknown, but deadly liquid. Eventually, Spyro manages to shoot the Sorceress down, and she falls into the liquid below, presumably killing her. After she dies, it becomes apparent that she had the final Dragon egg, which hatches two baby dragons named Yin and Yang.
The baby Dragons then return to the Dragon Realms.
The gameplay is somewhat similar to its two predecessors. There are four homeworlds in this 3-D platform game and in order to proceed to the next world, Spyro must defeat the boss of the world. However, to travel to these boss arenas, Spyro must make his way to the four normal realms and the one rebel realm in that particular homeworld to rescue a villager who powers the vehicles which enables access to these bosses.
These realms are free to explore and wander in all directions without any time limit. The realms are littered with enemies which attack Spyro. Spyro can defeat these enemies, and as a reward receive gems, these gems can be used later in the game. Gems also lay all over the level on the ground and inside crates. The levels are also littered with non-playable characters which inform you on the state of the realm.
To enter all of these realms you must travel via portals, some portals can not be entered unless you acquire a certain amount of dragon eggs. To enter all the rebel realms, you must pay Moneybags gems that were collected to release the rebel who is blocking the way into the realm.
As said above, to access some realms, it is necessary to collect a certain amount of eggs; these eggs can be acquired by locating them or as a reward for completing one of the minigames inside the realm. There are many different minigames, which reward you with these eggs such as sliding down a slide, skateboarding, saving a wolf, collecting bones, catching thieves, or battling bosses.
Spyro can also run into Powerup Gates which give him special abilities for a period of time (time left can be seen on a bar on the right of the screen). These abilities could be superflame, superfly, or invincibility. Like in the last two games, there are some areas where you can supercharge, this means that when you charge on a certain track, you go super fast and can break heavy crates or catch fast thieves.
Once you have defeated The Sorceress, there is an option of getting 100% (which requires collecting 149 eggs as well as all 15,000 gems). Once you have achieved this, the last portal on Midnight Mountain will open; it is called Super Bonus Round and contains the 150th egg, as well as some extra minigames and tons of treasure.
- Sunrise Spring
- Midday Gardens
- Evening Lake
- Midnight Mountain
- Sparx Realms
- An Evil Plot Unfolds...
- A Powerful Villain Emerges...
- A Desperate Rescue Begins...
- No Hard Feelings
- The Second Warning
- Bianca Strikes Back
- Byrd, James Byrd
- Hunter's Tussle
- Spike Is Born
- A Duplicitous, Larcenous Ursine
- An Apology, And Lunch
- A Monster To End All Monsters
- The Dancing Bear
- The Escape!
- Deja Vu?
- A Familiar Face
- Billy In the Wall
- One Less Noble Warrior
- The End
Development of Spyro: Year of the Dragon spanned about ten and a half months, from November 1999 to September 2000; the development team was influenced by a host of other games, including Doom and Crash Bandicoot. Among the new features touted before the game's release was "Auto Challenge Tuning", which Insomniac CEO Ted Price described as "invented to even out the gameplay difficulty curve for players of different abilities". The levels were made much larger than those in Spyro 2, so that more areas for minigames could be added; to prevent player confusion on where to go next, these areas were designed to load separately from the main hubs. Price stated that the addition of critters was a way to make the game more enjoyable and varied, instead of just adding more moves for Spyro. The game was named "Year of the Dragon" simply because it was released during 2000, the year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac.
In previews, publications such as IGN and GameSpot noted that the graphics had been improved, and that there were many new characters and locations. The new minigames were previewed, and IGN pointed out that they offered enough complexity to back up the simple gameplay. In an interview with GameSpot, Ted Price stated that the emphasis for the title was on the new critters, but that Spyro would not be left behind in the story. Year of the Dragon also implemented crack protection, in addition to the copy protection previous games had contained. This helped prevent hackers from cracking the game until two months after release.
Upon release, Year of the Dragon garnered positive critical reaction, with the game receiving an average ranking of 91% at Game Rankings, and a similar score based on fifteen reviews at MetaCritic. According to Game Rankings, Year of the Dragon is the fourteenth highest rated PlayStation game of all time. The game sold more than two million units in the United States.
GameSpot noted that while Year of the Dragon made no significant changes to the formula of its predecessors, the combination of new playable characters, more detailed graphics, and the variety of minigames made the game worth the buy. IGN praised the game's appeal to all ages and the polished levels, as well as the successful multi-character focus. Game Revolution thought that while the game's premise itself was simply a rehash of previous titles, "the story that unfolds as you actually play the game is flawlessly interwoven and quite entertaining". GamePro noted that the ability of the game to automatically drop the difficulty if players get stuck was an excellent feature. Next Generation Magazine's Kevin Rice provided one of the most positive review in which he stated the top-notch level design, intuitive controls and excellent graphics made the title the best Spyro game to date, and arguably the best PlayStation game overall.
Stewart Copeland's score was generally well-received, though several critics sharply disagreed with the general consensus. Publications like PSXExtreme thought the music helped bring atmosphere to the varied worlds, and Allgame enthused that "Insomniac should be commended for realizing the importance of music in games; it seems to enhance the whole experience." Others, such as Joseph Parazen of Game Revolution, thought the background music sounded "identical to every other 3D, cartoony, action platformer I've ever played". Other points of praise were the voice acting and character development. Among the few complaints aside from the story included the game camera, which could be difficult to control and led to unjustified enemy attacks. Some publications warned that the game might feel too much like its predecessors, with a similar plot and objectives.Spyro: Year of the Dragon
- Each realm's portal in the homeworld is based on the structures within the level itself.
- In cutscenes where it is day or night, before the cutscene starts, and the title is displayed, the background will be the opposite time from the time the cutscene is actually taken. An example is; in "An Evil Plot Unfolds...", the picture shows the cutscene at night, but when the cutscene starts, it's day.
- This game was released in 2000, therefore it was indeed the Year of the Dragon in real-life at the time.
- This game is named after an animal or creature from the Chinese Zodiac, most specifically the Year of the Dragon.
- If they want, the players can stand in a certain ally's way just for fun or for a different reason. For example, in Bentley's Outpost, if you stand in front of Bartholomew, he'll say, "Hey you're in the way. Move it!". This also works on the pandas in Bamboo Terrace as well but it will take more than a while to actually get this to work properly. This may be considered to be one of the easter eggs.
- This is the first game in the series where you can play as more characters than just Spyro.
- There are many glitches in Spyro Year of the Dragon, including the swimming in the air glitch.
- The original non-Greatest Hits version has several audio errors, including some tracks being re-used more than once (i.e. Evening Lake using the Sunrise Spring theme.)
- In the original non-Greatest Hits version of the game, there is a glitch in Country Speedway. The glitch will occur if you decided to race against the flying pigs and chose to give up in the middle of an unfinished race and leave the area. When you come back and re-do the race and if you win it, Sparx won't give you an egg no matter what you do, whether you try the race again or move on to the next task. In order to avoid the glitch, you must complete the tasks in order: first the Time Trials, next the race and finally, Hunter's mini mission without leaving the area. This seems to only happen in the United Kingdom and European versions of the original non-Greatest Hits version of the game.
- The super-charge roadways return from the first game. It was available in the last game, but not in the arrow road form.
- There is a reference to Crash Bandicoot in Haunted Tomb. When the dog asks you a riddle, one of the answers is a bandicoot.
- If Spyro charges, flames or headbash the non playable allied characters in any level, they will make a reaction depending any of the characters.
- In the NTSC version of the game, the cutscene "Spike is Born" is omitted for unknown reasons.
- In the cutscene "A Monster To End All Monsters", there's an error in which Scorch, his comrade and the cage with the ally disappear in some shots and reappear in others.
- In the European PlayStation Store, the game has been released to the NTSC version.
- At the start screen, if the player presses L1, R2, and square simultaneously, he/she will be taken to a demo of Crash Bash.
- It is the last Spyro game to be developed by Insomniac Games, as they went to develop the Ratchet and Clank series.
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