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DS Fanboy interviews The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night's Sean Epperson

Eric Caoili
10.15.07
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With the holiday season and its big-ticket games approaching like a bullet train, threatening to deafen all with its passing roar, we're not surprised that most people haven't thought to pick up The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night. The GBA version of the multiplatform release, in particular, received very little promotion or attention when it hit stores two weeks ago.

It really is a shame, as, barring any surprise localizations for Rhythm Tengoku or Mother 3, The Eternal Night could be the last great GBA game. Available at GameStop for only $15 (with Wendy's $5-off coupon), there's no excuse for any fan of polished action platformers to pass on this title. Some are calling its combat system a 2D interpretation of Devil May Cry; as you'll see in the trailer past the break, that comparison hasn't been made in jest.

We sat down with Amaze Entertainment's Sean Epperson, The Eternal Night's producer, to talk about why the game shouldn't be left ignored. Read on to learn more about this GBA gem and its features.




Different versions of The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night will hit three other platforms, one of them being the GBA's successor, the Nintendo DS. Tell our readers why you think the GBA version should be the one they pick up.

Each of the versions has their unique selling points, which offers players different experiences based on the version they're playing. The GBA and DS offerings are not simply ports of the console, so there's a lot for people to enjoy in all of them.

That said, there are some really cool and fun things we offer in the GBA version. The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night GBA displays some amazingly detailed hand-painted 2D graphics. We also have backgrounds which display some truly amazing art and color-cycling wizardry.

Exclusive to the GBA version are six special bosses, a variety of new moves for Spyro, as well as a unique combat system. All the versions of the game have very cool and impressive elemental breath attacks you gain throughout the adventure, and the GBA version takes that intense combat element one step further by adding a focus on unlocking new non-elemental moves for Spyro. Action-focused moves like wall jumping, hovering, rolling down slopes, and so on that you unlock by exploring the levels - sometimes having to revisit old stages in order to obtain upgrades that were previously out of reach.

The GBA version has an extremely deep combat system. It's designed in such a way that a player who is a novice to action games can do cool looking moves, while a player more familiar with action games would find many more layers to the depth of the combat system. A person that really invests time in the GBA version will discover how to juggle enemies while switching breath attacks mid combo for impressive feats of devastation (a video showing an example of this was released awhile back).

Granted, a lot of abilities aren't available right away as you have to find them, but that's what makes the GBA game a lot of fun to play through more than once. Finding all of the abilities and going back through the game and unleashing your wrath upon the enemies. We gave a considerable amount of thought to making the fighting in the game very fun since it's what you do most of the time besides exploring.

Who approached who to design the game? Was there a framework already built for a great action title, or was it designed as a Spyro release from day one?

Spyro was headed into a bold new direction with the "Legend of" series. Sierra visited us early in the process, and was able to see how passionate about action games the team truly was. We showed them the level of combat and action we wanted to bring to the game and they were very excited. That passion and love of action games really helped us to deliver what the team feels is a great experience that fans of Spryo and fans of action games will really appreciate.

We were really surprised to see how deep you've managed to make the combo system. Some have compared it to Treasure's Astro Boy: Omega Factor, another 2D beat-em-up for the GBA, while others have even described the game as Dragon May Cry. How far will we be able to take the combo system?

The combat system is definitely a big strength of the title. It is both easy to use and versatile. The casual player can easily perform cool-looking combos, yet the advanced player can pull off insane combos by mastering the subtleties of the system.

One thing that separates Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night GBA from typical combo-based combat systems is that most of the combos are built on-the-fly by the player, rather than "canned combos" created by the development team. We give the player a set of moves that are easy to perform and have certain results when they connect. Then it is up to the player to combine those moves in various ways to form their own unique combos.

Elemental breath attacks also have different properties that can be mixed with melee attacks to extend combos. You can switch breath weapons on the fly as well, making crazy combos by mixing the different properties of each of the breaths with the various melee attacks that Spyro has.

We found the combo system so fun that we added a special mode, exclusive to the GBA version, where you can practice combos against a training dummy. Getting high combos in this area will actually reward the player with new moves they can use in the rest of the game!

The testers and dev team spent hours upon hours in this mode alone, just coming up with interesting and diverse attack combinations. We were surprised by how many combos players could come up with, that the devs had not even thought of when making the system.

Of course, the system is very carefully designed to prevent any infinite combos, but the exact upper limit of how big of a combo you could get is not really known. There's a promotional video which shows just one iteration of that combo attack. We'd like to see if fans of the game are able to beat the number in the video (all done legitimately, by the way, not using any special "dev tricks" or hacks). And yes, that IS a challenge.

Don't think all these insane combos means the enemies are going to stand around and let you smack them about, however. The enemies in Spyro are smarter than your average platformer enemies. They will chase you down, jump from platform to platform if necessary, work together and attempt to surround you, jump and hit you from above, use projectiles when you least expect it, anticipate your moves and attempt to dodge and counter-attack, and more. Some enemies can do special tricks like block attacks, do combos of their own, and even teleport and run up walls!

Can you give us some samples on the bosses we'll encounter and environments we'll explore?

The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night GBA has six unique bosses that won't be seen in any other version of the game. We feature the bosses in the other games as well, but we wanted to take it one step further and create some special treats for the GBA players. I don't want to go too much into detail about them, as they'll be fun surprises for people, but I will drop a hint at one of the multitude of cool bosses you will come across. It's a master of agility, cunning, and trickery, trained in the darkest of martial arts ... and bananas.

As for the stunning environments in the game, they were put together by the legendary Mark Ferarri. Mark is a veteran who has worked on famous Lucas Arts adventure games like Monkey Island and Loom. It was a real pleasure working with him, designing some truly intense backgrounds with lots of special effects at a level rarely seen in a GBA game production. The backgrounds are full of life and animation, all done with special in house techniques. As for environment variety you will travel to epic forests, pirate ships in the sky and many other cool places to feast your eyes upon.

How about the soundtrack?

The soundtrack was done by Tom Miller, and the music is very top notch. The trailer video that was released actually contains one of the songs found in the game. With a game as focused on action and adventure, we really wanted the music score to be something people would actually want to listen to. The music is a great accompaniment and accentuates the intensity of the combat. Making good music for the GBA is a real challenge, but Tom did a phenomenal job, and the scores in the game are real works of art that people will hopefully enjoy.

What sort of extras will gamers be able to distract themselves with outside of the main story mode?

One of the most popular side attractions is the practice room, which players will primarily use to perfect their combos. In the practice room, Spyro takes out his aggression on a straw dummy. Players who spend a lot of time in this room may even discover some special hidden treats.

Another fun aside is the boss attack room where players can replay boss fights they have unlocked. This is a cool feature for people that want to show off a particular boss to their friends or for times that they just want to go and specifically work on a boss fight. It's not something players have to do, but it's a fun extra for those that like to do that.

There is also a super secret game mode that is extremely cool, which we think the fans of the game will get a really big kick out of. There are quite a few secret and hidden things in The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night GBA, which will keep people entertained for quite some time.

This is part two of Sierra's planned "The Legend of Spyro" trilogy. For many of our readers, this will be their first foray into the series in a long while. Could you catch them up on what they missed with the game's prequel, A New Beginning? And what should they expect to dive into with The Eternal Night's story.

Part of the challenge of doing a game that continues a story is making sure that new players are able to figure out what's going on, while keeping things interesting for those that already know the story.

We actually open the game with scenes and dialogue from the previous game. It's not very long, so that players of the previous game can get to what they're anxious for ... but it's complete enough so that brand new players will not feel lost or bewildered about what's going on.

I can't give away secrets of The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night's story, but this story is really going to shock some people with some amazing surprises. There is also something special for fans of the Spyro franchise, if they play through the entirety of the game.

With the Game Boy Advance already on its way out, the chances of the final Legend of Spyro title coming out for the GBA seem slim-to-none. With a 3D version of the series already established on the DS, will this be the last 2D Spyro game?

Well, never say never. It all really depends on what the players and audience are wanting. If The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night GBA does exceptionally well and people prefer that kind of look and design, I wouldn't rule it out. Basically all of the power is in the hands of the players! If those are the kind of games they want, they need to make it known. Write emails; bring it up on the Sierra message boards, etc. Publishers and developers DO read the forums and fan sites to keep up with the fan base. Make your voice heard, either way, whether you like 3D or 2D or whatever. You would be surprised what kind of influence the fan base has, especially when you take time to write us.

What projects will Amaze Entertainment be taking on next? You've really done wonders with the Spyro license; are there any other IPs that you'd love to have a chance to revamp?

I'm unable to give any specifics, but Amaze Entertainment has been working on some really high profile titles, which will be on the shelves at various times over the next calendar year. We're always looking at new opportunities, and ways to bring people that next level of excitement and entertainment that we're capable of.

Is there anything else that you'd like our readers to know about The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night?

Working on The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night was an incredible amount of fun. Mike Schneider, Chris Wilson, and Michael Graham from Sierra were absolutely great. They really worked with us to bring the level of quality and excitement that is in the game. They were pivotal to the new "Legend of" series, and our game wouldn't have been possible without them.

The team also had an incredibly fun time making the game, and I think it really shows in the game. When you're having fun, making fun comes naturally, and it's our hope that players enjoy playing the game as much as we do.

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