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Spyro Reignited Trilogy – Review
An old flame, rekindled
20.. err, 21, years ago, Spyro The Dragon was released on the original Playstation. The 3D platformer later became an icon, alongside Crash Bandicoot, as the co-mascots of the PS1 era. Crash received a faithful remake of the trilogy of games in 2017. Thus, Spyro got its due in 2018 with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. It includes Spyro The Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage and Spyro 3: Year Of The Dragon, completely remade to look and sound like how you remembered it.
My childhood was filled with times playing Spyro. I loved discovering Spyro 1 in a PAL demo disc, playing the game in black and white. Spyro 2 is the first ever game I completed 100%. And I never got around to finishing Spyro 3 because all the bootleg versions I found are intentionally broken thanks to DRM.
So of course I have to check it out and see if it lives up to my nostalgia.
Developers Toys For Bob reversed engineered the original Spyro trilogy. The Reignited Trilogy runs on Unreal 4 engine targeting 30fps. The developers also get some leeway in adding extra details and art to them too. I love the bright pastel colours that have been preserved in the updated visuals. Spyro’s charming, cartoony aesthetic is looking better than ever.
The first Spyro game, which is filled with flat, barren landscapes by today’s standards, got the biggest of the art overhauls and it looks amazing now. The dragons you rescue are not just palette swaps, but unique realised characters. However the Gnorcs, your main goons, look less goofy but nastier- something I find personally bothered by. The rest of the casts as seen in the latter two games are okay in my book though.
There are a few more aesthetic changes that I find odd. You don’t get to see the gems you collected physically tallied during loading transitions from levels. Orbs in Spyro 2 don’t have the satisfying bouncing animation when you are awarded them. Spyro’s animations got some tweaks, his walking cycle and hover animation is different which messed a bit on my muscle memory.
But these are minor quibbles and won’t affect any new players. That’s not saying there are not any.
Some gameplay loses its clarity, obscured by the new graphics. Gems that are usually easy to spot lying on the ground can very well be hidden in the new lush grasses. Walls or surfaces that can be broken by Spyro are easy to miss. Projectile attacks that are telegraphed by use of lights and shadows are hard to see. Some of these issues are a by-product of the evolved gaming standards today, where unique textures, shadows, and lights are not as prominently used outside of making games look good.
Besides that, the use of motion blur might not be the best decision. The camera usually hangs close to the back of Spyro and you have a small, limited field of view. There are many instances where you need to navigate through tight, blind corners either while airborne during time attacks or charging after a thief. Thanks to the motion blur, you can easily lose track of what you are seeing when making sharp turns, makes for many bad screenshots or worse, can make you sick.
That’s not all, the whole subtitle debacle is unfortunate. Spyro 1 has no subtitles (just like the original) while the other two have cut-scenes without subtitles, though there are text boxes for the many character interaction. On the note of lacking accessibility, the game allows you to invert both axis options for the camera, but some mini-games do not invert the aim as you expect it should be.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy features a new dynamic soundtrack rearranged from the original soundtrack by Stewart Copeland. Don’t worry, you can switch between the new and old soundtrack in the pause menu. I kept flipping between the two scores and I’m glad to say the Reignited tracks are ever so faithful to the original with slight twists.
The original soundtrack still has this distinctive, unique sound that is lovely to hear and holds up 21 years on. And it does indeed bring a lot of nostalgia if you’ve played the original games before.
Hopping back to the first world in Spyro The Dragon left me smiling in delight. It takes some adjustments, those new animations threw me off at first, but controlling the little, nude purple dragon feels just like the original games. Or how similar to how I remember them at least.
For the uninitiated, in each game, Spyro has to defeat a villain. To progress, you have to collect enough collectibles (Dragons in Spyro 1, Talismans and Orbs for Spyro 2 and Dragons Eggs for Spyro 3). The little purple dragon has a simple move set. You can jump and glide (and starting Spyro 2, a hover) to get across chasms and platforms.
Enemies come in a ton of variety but your basic attack comes from your flame breath and charging them with your horns. Some enemies can be defeated by either attack or only either one or through powerups or stage gimmicks.
You have a companion, Sparx the Dragonfly, that helps you collect gems and also your health indicator. You heal up by defeating small fodder creatures which will produce butterflies that Sparx can eat. It’s a cool thing to see back in 1998 because, for the most part, the HUD is non-existent during gameplay. And it’s still cool today.
Each game is structured where you begin in a hub world, which holds a few levels. Gain enough collectibles and you can progress to the next level or hub world or boss fight.
If you are turned off from playing a collect-a-thon after playing too many modern AAA open world games, don’t worry. These Spyro games know how to make collect collectibles enjoyable. Grabbing those gems, either by your own or Sparx picking them up, will give you a good ding, a nice number pop-up and a slight rumble on the controller. The gems encourage you to scour every bit of geometry as every bit of traversable land is filled with secrets.
It’s interesting to see how the original developers Insomniac Games managed to iterate their design for each subsequent game. Spyro The Dragon has very simple level layouts but requires your utmost confidence in your platforming abilities to pull off. To the point that some hard section will have a collectible for this game, a Dragon, congratulating you for doing so. It can be difficult, but rewarding.
For Spyro 2, the game is easier in the first few levels and has a better tutorial to help you master the platforming. Levels are more linear, each with a unique objective that technically still is just reach the end of the level. The world is more fleshed out with more characters other than just dragons or Gnorcs.
Additionally, Spyro gets a ton of new moves and there is now some level gating Metroidvania style to finish 100% in some levels. Spyro 2 also introduces elaborate mini-games. From playing hockey to escort mission (sigh) and also some simple puzzles, each is unique and fun for a few minutes you have to play it.
Spyro 3 is peak Spyro, amalgamating the interesting new ideas in Spyro 2 with the difficulty ramp of Spyro 1, which does not take long to ramp up. The side content gets even more elaborate, some homages to other games of the era like Doom, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and Time Crisis. Instead of Spyro getting new moves, you get to play as more characters in certain sections of the levels.
The new moves and additions add more variety of the usual collect-a-thon main loop. And as ever, exploration in the latter two games are highly rewarded with these fun mini-games. Though I have to warn you, that some of them are infuriatingly annoying. It’s not hard because it’s easy to understand and do. But infuriating, because some of them require trial-and-error (the whack-a-mole in Spyro 3), some will have you fight against the small field of view and motion blur (the double dragon fight in Spyro 3) and some have oddly bad controls just like the original (the minecarts in Spyro 2).
I also like to point out that I feel like Spyro 2 and Spyro 3 feels a bit less polished in some of its later levels. There are some collision issues I found. And there is one skateboard race in Spyro 3 that don’t seem to register the boost gained from doing tricks until I repeatedly retry the event. There are even bad audio and video stutters while loading in the two latter games. The game got delayed for two months as it was near release, I can’t imagine what state it was before that.
Content & Longevity
Each of the games is not that long compared to what you expect of games today. As a trilogy, it’s of okay length if you are going for full completion.
I completed 120% of Spyro 1 in 5 hours, 100% of Spyro 2 in 8 and 117% of Spyro 3 in 12. That’s at most 25 hours, or shorter if you plow through the critical path.
The latter two games have plenty of mini-games, some requiring you to backtrack to past levels. But it’s okay, the level layouts are short- you can reach the end of each level in a minute or two.
It certainly rewards the completionist. So I encourage you to collect all the collectibles for some cool bonuses at the end of each game. Though some of the side content can be annoying, it won’t take that long to complete them all.
Personally, playing through Spyro Reignited Trilogy rekindled my love for the series. The three Spyro games were standout 3D platformers back in its day and this remake does them justice.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy faithfully recreated the three games and smartly updated it with thoughtful quality of life changes. But it stumbles in providing expected accessibility options. The new art for the world and characters are all welcome additions. Though some of the choices negatively affect the core gameplay.
The gameplay has aged well, except for some optional content which is annoyingly tricky, even back then.
Should you have any nostalgia of the first three Spyro games, Spyro Reignited Trilogy will rekindle that old flame again. If not, it’s still a solid 3D platformer in 2019 that should spark new interest and love for this genre.
Review based on the PS4 version played on a base PS4. Review copy purchased by the reviewer