Genre: 3D Platformer
Publisher: Universal Interactive
Developer: Digital Eclipse
Release Date: 9/25/2002
Fans of the first Spyro game on the GBA, Season of Ice, may go into this latest installment of the series thinking it will be more of the same, and, for the most part, that would be an accurate assumption. But what those people may not expect is that this title substantially improves upon nearly every facet of the previous game. It may take a little while to really appreciate any of the improvements that Season of Fire brings to the table, after all, it uses the same isometric perspective and simple collection-based progression-system, not to mention the inclusion of Spyro’s arch-nemesis: Ripto. But it won’t be long before you realize that the game is considerably polished and beneficially tweaked when compared to the previous game.
Spyro 2: Season of Fire starts off with Spyro returning from a well-deserved vacation after his scorching encounter with Grendor and the Season of Ice only to discover that someone has stolen all the fireflies, which were the source of all fiery Dragon Power. Neither Spyro nor any of the Dragon Elders are able to breath fire, instead Spyro is only able to breath ice. So now it will be up to Spyro, Hunter, Bianca, and Sparx to get to the bottom of this mystery and hopefully recover the flame-inducing fireflies in the process. It is only after rescuing all 100 fireflies that the Dragon Realm will be returned to its normal state.
These fireflies, which are necessary to progress through the game, can be gathered in a few different ways. Sometimes they’ll be buzzing around aimlessly in levels, but more often than not you’ll need to complete various objectives or mini-games in order to catch’em all. Certain areas of the game will only become available once you’ve collected a specific number of fireflies, so exploration is certainly a key factor in making your way through the game. There is also plenty of reason to revisit particular stages since you’ll obtain abilities later in the game that will allow you to reach areas that were previously off-limits. This method of progression is pulled off flawlessly and the action never seems redundant despite the fact that backtracking is necessary.
The ability to breath both ice and fire in Spyro 2 adds a heaping amount of elementally-flavored puzzles and strategy into the mix. For instance, some enemies are only susceptible to fire and others ice. The fireflies that you need to collect must first be frozen before you can pick them up. Various, sometimes bizarre, objects will be lying around stages, like a huge glass of O.J. that can be deliciously chilled by breathing some ice on it. Some areas can only be reached by way of freezing shallow water spots and using them as platforms. The list goes on and on. Suffice to say it adds an excellent element of strategy into an already-solid style of gameplay.
But one of the coolest additions to Season of Fire has got to be the introduction of two new playable characters: Sheila (a kangaroo) and Agent 9 (a furry-footed space-monkey). They each have their own distinctive set of stages, and both characters control very uniquely in relation to each other. Sheila can hop around diagonally (think Q*Bert), pounce on certain objects, and perform kangaroo kicks. While Agent 9’s stages take a more traditional side-scrolling approach wherein blasting caps in the baddies behinds is the order of the day.
Digital Eclipse seems to have listened to many fan’s complaints about the first game and have included an ever-helpful map function that can be brought up by holding the L-shoulder button and hitting select. This map is simple in nature but incorporates the different slants and inclines in the level’s geometry, making it easy to figure out what you need to do in order to reach the location that you want to go to. Areas that you have been to will be visible but unexplored areas will be blacked out. Fair enough. You can also scope out a large portion of the land around you by holding the L-shoulder button and moving the screen location around with the D-pad. These are both very helpful functions that making exploration easy and fun.
Visually, Spyro 2 has received a fair amount of enhancement in terms of detailed environments and backgrounds. It doesn’t look drastically different from the first game but since Season of Ice was already pretty graphically impressive any amount of improvement is simply icing on the cake. The audio presentation is definitely a notch or two higher than what was found in the first Spyro title, however. Voice-actors were actually contracted to concoct the various sounds of yelps and grunts that the characters emit throughout the experience. The soundtrack runs the gamut of thematic-style Irish tunes to up-tempo and light-hearted beats, all of which complement the experience surprisingly well.
All said, Spyro 2: Season of Flame is an excellent platforming adventure title with loads of entertaining extras thrown in for good measure. The gameplay, like the first title in the series, can be a little floaty, sometimes causing needless deaths, but it is noticeably tighter than Season of Ice in this regard. The extra playable characters add a whole new style of play to the game, and the non-linear progression makes gaming in short bursts very much a viable option. Collecting all the gems and fireflies in Spyro 2 will take even a seasoned gamer quite a while, but if you do manage to achieve a 100% completion rating you’ll be rewarded with a cool little mini-game to keep you occupied. If you are a fan of Season of Ice, or even 3D platforming games in general, you’d do well to pick this game up. You won’t be disappointed.