Since you probably never thought you would see me bother to review a Spyro game, let me cut to the point — Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night on the Gameboy Advance ROCKS. I can honestly say that this game can easily be put in the same league as Metroid Fusion, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and Astro Boy: Omega Factor as the best action games on the Gameboy Advance and put up a phenomenal fight.
The fact is, the GBA version of Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night takes many of the best elements from all three of these games and effectively combines them into a late GBA release that will knock your socks off. (Keep in mind that the GBA version is nothing like the DS or console versions)
Hopefully at this point, you won’t disregard this review just because this is another installment in the Spyro the Dragon series, a franchise that is typically reserved for simple platformers geared towards the younger crowd. It’s a good thing that you’re still here because this portable Spyro installment is definitely made for old-school gamers.
The Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night doesn’t do anything particularly innovative with the gameplay, but instead borrows many concepts from other successful games. Personally, I see nothing wrong with that, as long as the incorporated concepts work well together. In fact, I have quite a soft spot for what I refer to as “hybrid” games.
The Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night is definitely not one of those platformers that just take a bop on the head to kill off an enemy. Eternal Night borrows the idea of having a large number of attack types despite having a limited number of buttons on the GBA. Without getting into the specific moves, your standard melee move and jump are the standard face buttons and your triggers are used to switch between and use your different elemental attacks that you accumulate through the game (like fire, earth, and others). Other attacks are learned throughout the game and executed with different combinations of the face buttons and directional pad. Learning them one at a time throughout the game prevents you from being overwhelmed with the options and lets you get accustomed to your newest move before learning another.
Like Devil May Cry, you will be using a lot of combo attacks and be juggling the enemies in the air to achieve some of the most effective combos. Overall, the combo system is both easy to pick up and quite flexible. The casual player can easily perform initially-impressive combos, but they can slowly get a better feel for the system as they progress and master the different attack types to pull off some killer multi-hit attacks.
Some measures were taken to ensure you don’t get too carried away with the combos. Supposedly, you can’t do infinite combos, and so far I can only get a 6-hit combo. However, supposedly, the more attacks you learn and the better you get to know how the attacks work, you get higher combos. (The demo video shows off a 50-hit combo)
Of course, because of the combo-based beatemup style of the game, many comparisons could be made to Treasure’s Astro Boy: Omega Factor. While the games do have some things in common, I think Eternal Night is still worth owning if you have played and enjoyed Omega Factor, and vice versa. They each have their strengths and complement each other nicely in the GBA library. Both have a varied amount of attacks and a lot style, but Eternal Night doesn’t have a single special attack to bail you out like Omega Factor does with the Machine Gun.
The way you navigate and interact with the enemies is very reminiscent of both Castlevania and Metroid. You can wander around the levels freely, but the levels aren’t quite as expansive to the point of needing a map to find your way around. (This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you look for in a game)
Much like Metroid Fusion, you will spend a good part of the game finding artifacts throughout the game that will give you new attacks, build up your health meter capacity, and other power-ups. In addition, there are different colored jewels that you can collect to increase your capabilities. (Red restores health, Green increases your elemental power, and blue are redeemable for upgrading your characteristics) These add a bit of an RPG feel and depth to the game.
Another similarity with the Metroidvania concept is that you don’t necessarily have to defeat every enemy to progress. If you want, you can try to evade them and keep chugging along. However, unlike most other games, even the simplest enemies manage to track you down in order to continue the fight.
At one point, I was finding myself low on energy, so I was trying to run off and find some place to restore my health, but unfortunately the enemies I was dodging were staying on my tail and working with the other enemies down the road to team up on me and finish me off.
With Eternal Night, you can no longer run off to another room to reach safety. Even if you climb up some stairs or down some ledges, your enemies will find a way to get to you if it is physically possible for their character type. Every enemy actually seems like it has some decent AI built in to make your battles interesting.
Later on, you will encounter some more skilled opponents that use projectiles, teleport, dodge, counter-attack, or perform combos of their own. It is almost as if there is a full fighting game engine built into this humble Spyro game.
Even though many of them were recycled throughout the game, there were actually quite a few different types of enemies ranging from very small critters to menacing rock-men to large crab-like creatures. Each of them not only had unique ways of attacking, but they also had their own way of moving around the levels and reacting to your attacks.
One of the most impressive things about Eternal Night’s gameplay mechanics is what actually seems to be a basic physics engine. Of course, it pales to what you would find in a modern 3D game, but for a Gameboy Advance game, you can’t help but be taken back by how realistically enemies take hits, fall down stairs, or lunge at you. I’m sure it’s all pre-rendered animations, much like Vectorman on the Genesis, but it is executed so well, you can’t help but be amazed.
Since this is a late release from the talented crew over at Amaze Entertainment, it should come as no surprise that Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night makes good use of the GBA’s 2D capabilities. While it isn’t as much of an effects showboat as a Treasure game like Gunstar Super Heroes, it still is an impressive game for the all-but-dead Gameboy Advance hardware.
All the character sprites are large, detailed, and smoothly animated. There are many different enemy designs and there can be a large number of these enemies flying around on the screen at once. I was amazed how well the GBA handled the stress of all the sprite work.
The backgrounds range from bright and vivid to dark and haunting when they need to be. The scenery, in some places, is very detailed and makes excellent use of parallax scrolling and color-cycling to give the backgrounds a much more dynamic and realistic look. While not every level will take your breath away, there are a handful of levels that are possibly the best backgrounds that GBA has ever displayed.
The art style is also to be commended as some of the levels remind me of a lower-resolution version of something you would see in Astal or Princess Crown on the Saturn. (There are some of the underground areas that also remind me a bit of the caves in Aladdin on the Genesis.)
The presentation and the cutscenes are fairly nice, but nothing to get worked up about. From an overall visual standpoint, I was quite impressed and thought it was just under the very best graphical work I’ve seen on the GBA (Gunstar Super Heroes, Metroid Fusion, and some animations in Golden Sun)
The music in Eternal Night didn’t really stick with me too much, but it was far better than most GBA games. It had a bit of a Castlevania vibe to it, but the soundtrack didn’t have much of its own personality, which kept it from being especially remarkable. Overall, I did think the musical score did complement the action well and set the mood for cutscenes and such. Sound effects throughout the main game were standard platformer fare, with some deep thuds and crashes of battle being the highlights.
Story: 7 (?)
I’m under the impression that Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night has an above average story for an action platformer. The only problem for me is that this game is actually the second in the new Legend of Spyro trilogy.
There are a number of small cutscenes that seem to piece together an interesting story, but considering I don’t know the characters and don’t know any of the back-story, I’m not completely sure what is going on. However, if you a younger than me and grew up with the Spyro series, I would venture to say that you will enjoy Eternal Night’s narrative.
However, Metroid Fusion was actually my first Metroid experience (other than picking up the original a couple times) and that story drew me in even though I did not have any previous experience. I felt that Eternal Night could have catered just a little but more to new players in this regard. (Luckly, I’m not playing this for the story).
Considering how compelling and polished the attack system is in Eternal Night, I was very glad to see a couple extra features in the game. First of all, there is a practice room that will you beat the crap of some dummy enemies so you can experiment with your attacks and see how to piece together the most effective combos. It also helps you keep track of what your top hit count is.
There is also another boss attack room where you can take another stab at taking down bosses that you have unlocked. This is another great opportunity to practice, relive your favorite battles, or show off the game to a friend.
The only thing that is keeping me from giving it a higher score than a 9 is that the story story and overall polish didn’t draw me in nearly as well as Metroid Fusion (or other Metroid titles) did. While I don’t like action games that are dependant on puzzles, it would have been nice to have some elements that worked your brain a bit more, again, similar to Metroid.
However, The Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night has the most compressive and accessible combat engine I have ever seen in a portable title (including dedicated fighting games) and it’s a shame it couldn’t be expanded to its full potential in a 2D console version.
In addition, the game as a whole does an excellent job making the most of the GBA’s 2D capabilities and working well with the handheld’s limited control options.
The bottom line is that if you enjoy Astro Boy: Omega Factor, any of the Metroid or Castlevania game, or are interested in a 2D Devil May Cry-styled game, you need to check this game out. Even if you have moved onto the DS, Eternal Night is worth the investment.