Spyro the Dragon was a pretty good start but the feisty, purple dragon wouldn’t have the legacy he can currently claim today if it weren’t for Ripto’s Rage. The original game helped bring a lot of great things to the 3D platforming genre but it was still at the heels of fellow contemporaries such as Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64. The biggest contribution that the first Spyro the Dragon brought to the table was a new franchise for the Playstation and potential. There were some great ideas but looking back on it, it looks like a proof of concept that was rushed through production. Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, however, was a clear and decisive release that built off the ideas that were introduced just a year earlier. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the original Spyro (check out my last retro review here) but I love Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage. In fact, I’d even say it is my favorite in the series and one of my favorite 3D platformers from that era.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage opens up with Spyro and Sparx trying to head to Dragon Shores to avoid the gloomy weather and grab some rays. As Spyro is heading to the portal, we’re shown what’s happening in another realm. We see a few characters talking to a professor who’s working on a portal. They’re suffering the effects of an evil villain in their realm who happens to be terrified of dragons. The professor is working on some tweaks on a portal to pull a dragon into their world. As he finishes the final tweaks, Spyro and Sparx jump through the Dragon Shores portal only to end up in the realm of Avalar next to the professor and the other characters. He expresses his confusion on where he ended up and they begin to explain why they brought him there. Ripto then enters the scene with dinosaur minions Crush and Gulp before growing outraged that there’s a dragon with them. Ripto is terrified of dragons–which is convenient because Spyro vows to help save Avalar from Ripto and his minions.
There’s a lot more content for players to enjoy this time around. First of all, there may be only three worlds but they’re massive by comparison. There’s plenty more to do within the worlds this time around. They don’t just feel like an alternative to a Super Mario Bros 3 world map. I actually enjoy just dashing around the worlds exploring and looking for secrets. There are 18 standard levels in addition to some speedway levels. The speedway levels are hit or miss. They’re the same concept as the flight levels in the first game albeit a bit more polished and more fleshed out. I personally never really enjoyed these levels but can admit they’re a nice distraction. For those who haven’t played them or the game yet, these levels give the ability of actual flight and you fly around the level destroying objects within a time limit. The real action lies in the standard levels.
In the 18 standard levels, you’ll be gliding, dashing, and setting enemies ablaze while saving the areas from Ripto’s minions. Characters matter more this time around so the levels are much more interesting. NPC’s will talk to you and share their struggle with you. You’ll actually feel like you’re making a difference and saving someone. You’re greeted towards the beginning of the levels and someone will explain what’s happening in their home. When you finish the main objective and reach the end of the levels, you’ll receive praise from the characters. You’ll also get a talisman for the trouble. Talismans are needed to progress in the game and stop Ripto. When you finish these main objectives, there’s still plenty to do. There are side objectives within many of the levels where you can help characters out and receive orbs for the trouble. Orbs can be used within levels (in some cases) and in the hub worlds to unlock additional things. It’s rather addicting and you’ll look forward to seeing a character in need of assistance.
Another great feature in Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage are the new abilities that Spyro gets to add to his arsenal of moves. This time around you won’t be falling in the water and dying. Nope, now Spyro can swim and it’s a marvelous thing. Not only is it nice to be able to maneuver through and around water instead of just dying constantly when near it but it’s also a delight to explore underwater. I have so many memories of jumping from high heights and slamming down the square button to dive straight into the depths. I used to swim around for hours. It was just so much fun and it felt so carefree. Spyro can also climb and use a headbash ability. Climbing opens up new places to explore, including places previously inaccessible in earlier levels. Once you get new abilities, there’s incentive to go back to earlier levels and see what you missed out on. Characters will usually mention it at the time as well so you’ll already be looking forward to getting the new ability and heading back later.
Moneybags is an enduring character and I always got excited when I’d catch sight of him. Moneybags is a bear that loves collecting gems. He seems to be a good guy and is always happy to help Spyro–for a price. Some players may not have liked him but I don’t know, for me it was always exciting to get spend a bunch of gems. I mean, it’s not like it’s real world currency. After spending hours collecting gems it was always cool getting to hand them over to open a bridge or unlock an area. He’s scattered throughout the worlds and within the levels and when you see him, you better be prepared to pay up. It’s not all bad though. If anything, it just encourages players to explore levels more thoroughly to get as many gems as possible. Plus, it’s always exciting gaining access to new areas and abilities.
The boss fights felt like they were tossed in at the last stage of development in the original Spyro but that’s not the case at all this time around. The villain makes more appearances and gives you plenty of reasons to want to kick his ass. They’re a lot more fun and just feel more rewarding. Ripto is much more fleshed out, especially compared to Gnasty Gnorc. The NPC’s that you work with are pretty interesting as well.
Zoe is the fairy that’s implied to be from the first game. She zaps you when you dash by her in levels which initiates an autosave. There’s the professor who does all he can to help Spyro in his quest to save his world. He’s pretty silly at times and it’s always fun getting to interact with him. Elora the faun also aides you when she can in the worlds. The best NPC character is Hunter the cheetah. He’s got some great dialogue and helps add some humor whenever he’s around. It’s nice being around NPC’s that stick around. It makes the game feel less lonely and the worlds feel more lifelike.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage may not look longer on paper but with more detailed levels and worlds, it feels much more compelling to play. Characters and villains have motivations and there’s much more of a story this time around. It’s still a 3D platformer so there’s not a lot of story but it’s got it where it’s needed. This world is not only more fun to explore but it’s also a world that’s worth saving. I wouldn’t skip out on Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie to play through Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage but I’d definitely add it to your list if you like the genre or era that it hails from. It’s also available on the Playstation for a $5.99 USD and I can recommend it to almost everyone at that price!
I enjoy all three of Insomniac’s Spyro games but Ripto’s Rage is definitely my personal favorite. The first game was a good start and had a lot of potential that this sequel built off of. The third game is still a great game but there are a few gimmicks that I feel hold it back from being as good as this game. If you’re going to play a Spyro game, check this one out. If you do, let me know what you think in the comments or by reaching out to me on Twitter at @Mrjoshnichols. Thanks again for reading and don’t forget to come back next week for another great retro review!
- Levels and worlds have much more detail and in all the right places
- NPC's surround you to make the game less loney--and the world worth saving
- Fun abilities that help add to navigation and exploration
- Some truly great examples of good level design throughout the game
- Fantastic soundtrack from Stewart Copeland (of The Police)
- A few levels feel lackluster
- Dragon's Shores endgame content isn't too enthralling