The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night
The legendary, purple dragon moves on to a second game featuring his all-new make-over. But with such high expectations, can The Eternal Night hope to compare to its prequel, A New Beginning?
Note: The Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS versions of The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night are not the same as the Wii and PS2 version. Because of this, the following review may or may not apply to the handheld versions of this game. This is a review of the Wii version.
The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night is the purple dragon’s second installment in the Legend of Spyro series. Though the announcement of Spyro’s new make-over from a cute little sheep-burning dragon to a Lord of the Rings-like warrior has pleased many to no end, there are still those who are not determined to accept Spyro’s transformation.
The first game in the trilogy, A New Beginning, met with relatively positive reviews, but does the sequel follow suit? Or has the beginning of this series’ reboot already started its downhill slope?
Days have passed since Cynder was redeemed by Spyro, and the two dragons now live within the shelter of the Dragon Temple with Ignitus and the other guardians. A peaceful night reigns outside… and yet not all is as it should be.
Spyro has been the target of re-occurring visions–his battle with Cynder in Convexity, a mountain draped in shadow, two moons in orbit coming together… And yet, as Spyro’s visions grow hopeless, a voice calls from the distance, “I am the Chronicler. Seek me out.” Of course, this has resulted in many a restless night for Spyro, as Sparx seems to notice. Perhaps these visions are due to Spyro’s weakened state and lost powers… or perhaps they mean much more.
With Malefor’s release from Convexity, Spyro has become the target of the Dark Master’s forces. One night, when Cynder secretly leaves the others because of the overwhelming guilt from her past, the Temple is attacked.
Spyro begins to realize the reason for his mysterious visions: the celestial moons are drawing to an eclipse, an event that will cause Malefor to be resurrected and brought back into the Dragon Realm once again. Spyro’s only chance at stopping him is to find the mysterious dragon from his dreams–the Chronicler–who may be able to offer some hope during a hopeless time…
As Gary Oldman (voice of Ignitus) once said of the Spyro series, “[The Legend of Spyro] is not inventing the wheel. It’s the light and the dark. The good VS evil…” Spyro embodies this classical battle of good VS the evil. Spyro and his friends stand on one side while Malefor and his army stand on the other. One redeemed character goes through a visible struggle to overcome their guilt from being on the dark side for so long.
After Cynder goes missing, Spyro makes it his mission to find her. He later makes a choice to rescue Cynder, rather than insure his own protection.
Many characters are loyal, sacrificial, and brave. Even Sparx shows some real character when he chooses to go with Spyro to Mt. Malefor, rather than stay behind and be safe. In another scene, we see Sparx offering himself as a distraction in order to keep Spyro safe.
The Chronicler often speaks of Spyro’s destiny. “Our path through life is not always the path we choose. Sometimes our paths are chosen for us… and it is out destiny to follow it. Wherever it may lead,” he tells the purple dragon.
For a game of this genre, I was surprised at how light the spiritual content was.
Of course, Spyro has some dragon-like abilities. He can breathe fire, ice, electricity, and earth, as well as manipulate time to give him an advantage over enemies.
A main part of the plot involves Spyro’s recurring visions. Through these visions, his powers are restored and he gradually learns what he must do to stop Malefor. When he enters a vision, Spyro collapses, going into a sleep-like state.
All of the enemy characters are named. A few enemy characters, which are walking statues, are referred to as “So-and-so the Demon.” This is more a title than anything else. There is nothing demonic about the actual enemies.
One enemy in the game is a cartoony ghost. When Spyro enters the celestial caves, he must face four, armor-clad knights, referred to as “spirits.” Really, though, they could have been called anything else.
*SPOILER WARNING* Spyro learns that the Ape King, Gaul, is trying to resurrect Malefor on the Night of Eternal Darkness, the only night in which the celestial moons create an eclipse. On this night, the spirits of the dead return to Mt. Malefor and linger there for a period of time. The mountain is thus called the Well of Souls by those who live there.
On the Night of Eternal Darkness, Spyro is knocked into the beam of light created by the celestial moons. Absorbing an amount of Malefor’s power, he transforms into a form known as “Dark Spyro,” which gives off a rather “evil” aura. *END OF SPOILERS*
Cutscene Violence. The Eternal Night keeps its violence tame and appropriate for the E+10 rating. Using his fire breath and tail, Ignitus defeats several apes in a battle cinematic. He finally resorts to his fury blast, annihilating all of them. An artwork shows Spyro being struck on the head and captured. Sparx punches an enemy character, knocking him out. Cynder is seized around the neck and flung into a wall, becoming unconscious. Spyro is struck by a beam of energy. Cynder tackles Spyro and the two have a brief tussle. A scene suggests that some spider-like creatures begin to eat the apes.
*SPOILER WARNING* At the end of the game, Gaul is killed when Spyro strikes him with a blast, turning him into a statue of charcoal before he disintegrates. *END OF SPOILERS*
Gameplay Violence. Like the cutscene violence, The Eternal Night keeps a very restricted gameplay-violence limit. Spyro can whack enemies in his one-two-three combo, using his horns and tail. If he thrusts an enemy into the air, he can jump up after them and perform another combo on them, or give them a mid-air shove, sending them flying backwards in a slow-mo, dramatic moment. There is absolutely no blood. Enemies are struck with a satisfying “thwak” and flash with a starburst. Defeated enemies vanish almost instantly, though some may fall to the ground and struggle to rise for a moment. The violence is so cartoony that some enemies can even be flattened into the ground in a true, Looney-Tunes-styled fashion.
There are no curse words in The Eternal Night. In fact, real “language” is almost non-existent. Sparx says “my gosh,” and “stupid” (referring to a tree) once. “What the-” is left unfinished three times. Sparx refers to Cynder as the “evil-psycho-she-dragon” and the “female-of-fright.” He also calls a pirate a “crazy-eyed mangy drool mutt” and a “gurgling nitwit.” A bird refers to Spyro as “lazy fool” and “chump.” Gaul calls Spyro a “whelpling.”
Sparx belches a few times after eating something. His final burp is exaggerated.
Nothing at all!
Other Negative Content
I was disappointed that Sparx took revenge on an aggravating enemy character and wasn’t even reprimanded for it. Sparx punches the character, knocking him out, though there is no real call for such action.
Sparx is sarcastic to a fault. This sometimes causes him to be uncaring. When Cynder blames herself for what she did to the guardians while under Malefor’s influence, Spyro assures her that it isn’t her fault. Sparx assures her that it is. Cynder runs off. What does Sparx say? “Now, can we finally get some sleep around here?”
The Eternal Night is Spyro’s first time ever on the Wii. So, how does it take advantage of the Wiimote and Nunchuck?
Gameplay uses both the Wiimote and Nunchuck to maneuver Spyro through his adventure. Though virtual motion is available throughout the game, it can be avoided in almost all sections. For example, players can make Spyro attack by rapidly pressing the B button or by swinging the Wiimote around for the same effect. The thing with The Eternal Night is that, where there is one enemy, there are fifty more that you’ve got to fight through. With that being said, guess which fighting method is easier? The button mashing. Plus, swinging the Wiimote just doesn’t seem to be as effective and really isn’t worth the risk of another death.
There are only a few other places that virtual controls are included, and, in these following cases, are absolutely necessary to complete your quest. Dashing, for example, is done by thrusting the Nunchuck forward. A fury attack is released by swinging both the Wiimote and Nunchuck up simultaneously. Performing an air-drop smash requires you to swing down with the Wiimote. To shove an enemy in mid-air, thrust the Nunchuck forward. All of these techniques work fairly well, though there may be a few times when you have to try these maneuvers more than once in order to get them to work right.
As with all sequels, The Eternal Night brings with it some all-new features–for example, the power to manipulate time. Early in his quest, Spyro will be given the ability to slow down time, and everything around him, to a crawl, in order to give him various advantages. Some enemies are much easier to handle in slow-motion, and sometimes Spyro must retreat from a mass of enemies in order to preserve his life. Some puzzles in the game also challenge Spyro to use his time ability. There will often be platforms that must be slowed before they can be landed on. Sometimes, doors remain open for only a brief period of time, and Spyro must slow down time in order to get through them quickly enough.
In addition, Spyro’s breath attacks have also gotten a few make-overs… not all of them positive ones. For example, earth is now better than ever because it lasts much longer and reaches much farther than it did in A New Beginning. On the other hand, electricity is not so much fun to use anymore. It has been downgraded from streams of lightening, to a small ball that Spyro aims and shoots at enemies. Lightening just isn’t as fun as it was in A New Beginning.
New element attacks have been added. For example, a special electric attack puts Spyro in a tornado of high voltage. His special fire attack throws him into a blasting cork-screw. Just watch out where you use it–you may find yourself plummeting off an edge!
Of course, the loveable fury attacks have all returned and they’re beautifully done. Unlike A New Beginning, the fury attacks in The Eternal Night and larger, longer, and show a dramatic, cinematic-styled moment each time they are used.
This game may be targeting pre-teen gamers, but its difficulty is brutal. In fact, it may be too difficult for some to find it enjoyable. As I said earlier, where there are five enemies, there are going to be ten more waves of various enemy types arriving soon. I confess, fighting is a lot of fun. In fact, something about Spyro’s attacks, breaths, and fury blasts (and the solid thwack sounds that occur each time you strike an enemy) make combat enjoyable… so long as you aren’t fighting fifty waves of enemies. The nice thing about The Eternal Night is that the fighting style can be changed to suit the player’s interests. Upgradeable breaths will be a joy to those who love Spyro’s elements. Others may want to stick with melee attacks only. Some, like me, enjoy a healthy combination of the two.
Something worth noting is that The Eternal Night only saves at pre-determined points in the game. This means that you must play to a certain point each gaming session in order to actually make progress. These points are also pretty spaced-out so once you get on, plan to play for awhile.
How long is The Eternal Night? Not much longer (or shorter) than A New Beginning. In fact, The Eternal Night could be beaten in a day if you were willing to play from sun-up to sun-down. Those who space out their playing time, however, will beat it in less than a week.
Does The Eternal Night have any replay value? Well, yes, it does. However, the replay value isn’t too motivating. After their first play-through, players will unlock five dragon challenges. If these challenges are cleared, a new element is unlocked for Spyro to re-play the game with. In addition, there are plenty of Scriber’s quills scattered throughout the game that were probably missed on the first play-through. The determined will want to go back and search for them in order to unlock all of the special artwork available. Really, that’s the only replay value available.
In the few times that I replayed The Eternal Night, I did notice some minor glitches. None of them were game-ending serious, however, and were generally harmless. For example, during one cutscene, the camera panned off in the wrong location. Thus, I could hear the characters talking, but couldn’t see them. During the final boss battle, Spyro’s feet often froze in place, even though he continued moving. I noticed this second glitch almost every time I played the final boss, but it is completely harmless.
The graphics used in The Eternal Night are well-presented, though the PS2 roots do show through. The models for the dragon guardians, for example, are well-crafted, but show evidence of a lesser graphic quality than is expected, especially for a Wii game. All-over-all, though, once you’ve accepted the graphics as the best available for the game, they look fine.
Backgrounds are beautifully crafted and add to the realms of Spyro. The celestial caves, for example, contain some very rich fantasy scenes, such as candles, landscapes, books, vials of liquid (etc.). It’s all very nicely done.
Of course, the fully animated CG sequences are the best-looking of all, though they are sadly few-and-far-between. While the CG of The Eternal Night can’t quite compare with the CG of a series like Sonic or a game like Smash Brothers Brawl, it is still quite acceptable, and character motion is well-animated.
Sound and music is possibly the most impressive aspect of the Legend of Spyro trilogy as a whole. The music is jaw-dropping gorgeous. It is completely orchestrated with a real choir singing every other track or so. The music is so reminiscent of a movie soundtrack that it could easily have been made for a film rather than a videogame. From pulse-pounding boss themes topeaceful cutscene scores, The Eternal Night knows how to create emotion through music. The main theme, as well as the trilogy’s first song “Broken Soul,” are arguably the best of the soundtrack.
Voice acting is nigh impeccable. Why? Well, let’s just say it’s all performed by the professionals. Famous faces within the movie industry lend their voice talents to make The Eternal Night, as well as the rest of the series, nothing short of epic. Elijah Wood (known as Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings) voices Spyro while Gary Oldman voices his mentor Ignitus. Billy West and Mae Whitman give life to Sparx and Cynder. The rest of the cast, though not-so-famous, is equally as good.
The Eternal Night carries on the legacy of A New Beginning quite nicely. In many ways, the combat system has improved, though the difficulty of the enemy swarms and (in some cases) the downgraded breaths cause it to sink in its ratings. New additions like Dragon Time, however, do give The Eternal Night a certain freshness about it.
Most gaming critics consider The Eternal Night to be a step down from its predecessor A New Beginning. Though fans will more-or-less agree, the die-hard will find the second of the series’ installments to be lots of fun, and pulled along nicely by the plot begun in A New Beginning.
The Legend of Spyro trilogy is one of the cleanest fantasy series I’ve ever played. It isn’t as dark as Zelda, isn’t as mature in its themes as Fire Emblem, and is certainly clean in its departments of violence, language, and sexual content. Some may not like aspects of the spiritual content found in The Eternal Night, but it’s far milder than that of any other contemporary fantasy game on the market. If you’re looking for a clean fantasy series with a compelling story and excellent music and acting, The Eternal Night is certainly one to consider.
…Just be sure you play A New Beginning first, okay?
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+ Satisfying combat
+ New gimmicks like "Dragon Time"
+ Impressive audio and musical direction
+ Atmospheric backgrounds
+ Continues the plot nicely
+ Themes of heroism, sacrifice, courage, forgiveness, and destiny
- Brutal combat segments
- Nigh-useless motion controls
- Spaced-out save points
- Somewhat out-dated graphical direction
- Minor (albeit harmless) glitches
- Some thematic spiritual content and fantasy violence