Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review: Old Flames Burn Bright
Ben Sheene / Nov 12th, 2018 No Comments
In the 20 years since Spyro the Dragon released on the original PlayStation, 3D platformers have undergone drastic changes. The days of mascots are seemingly behind us as chunky polygons look ancient and loose controls feel archaic. As a kid who grew up on a diet of Nintendo, there is still an inherent joy behind collecting everything in a level attached to a hub world. It’s probably why I’ve become so obsessed with open-world games and the massive undertakings of Ubisoft titles.
On that Nintendo diet I also missed out (for a time) on Final Fantasies, Crash Bandicoots, and Spyros, regrettably only getting a few moments with such titles at a friend’s house, their charm eluding me over the years. Thankfully, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, much like last year’s Crash N. Sane Trilogy, is the one of the best ways to reconnect with the classics or dive into them for the first time.
Spyro’s evolution from console centerpiece, to awkward action star, to toys-to-life figurehead is indicative of the roller coaster gaming can be. Who would have known the humble purple dragon would one day be voiced by Elijah Wood, go dormant for years, and then reemerge as an action figure that could come to life in a game? After breathing new life into Spyro with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, developer Toys for Bob has proved itself as a studio capable of creating a diverse cast of colorful characters deserving of the magical whimsy of the first PlayStation trilogy. It helps, of course, that the team already cut its teeth with the Crash remaster.
Reignited feels like it comes from a place of utmost love and thanks. With the Spyro namesake, Toys for Bob cemented themselves into a particular gaming niche. Skylanders is packed with humor, adventure, fun, and triumph – all hallmarks of Spyro himself. It’s difficult to imagine another developer tackling the task of making a 20-year-old game shine with the detail and vibrancy of the HD-era. Spyro helped Toys for Bob flex its creative juices, so why not pay him back with a proper remaster?
Spyro the Dragon, Spyro: Ripto’s Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon are recreated here from their PlayStation beginnings and put into a sizeable package at a $40 price tag. Players have over 100 levels across three games that have been crafted in such a way to preserve their scale. The jumps Spyro made all those years ago are going to be the same distance here, they’re just a lot prettier.
At the time of their original release, I knew that Spyro’s worlds were hefty undertakings that allowed players to run around freely. Even with my faint memories, that sense of scale was very impressive at the time. Levels in Skylanders games dwarf much of what is seen in Spyro but that doesn’t take away from how impressive they are here.
Toys for Bob has taken the moderately empty reaches of Spyro’s domain and filled them with new details to make them feel even more alive. There are added touches here that the PlayStation was not capable of. Your animal companions don’t look so blocky and enemies and foes alike have brand new animations that bring them closer to the realism of action figures that could be held in the hand. The improved visuals result in the helpful trade-off of giving everything better readability. Platforms that need to be jumped on are easier to spot because they look like they should, enemies don’t stick out like a sore thumb across a field painted with two colors or a bland snowy peak.
Preserving a Classic
Purists of Spyro would be hard pressed to find any issue with Reignited. One of the only complaints I could see is that there is no option to completely filter visuals to look like the originals. But let’s be serious, this is the best way to play the Spyro trilogy. It’s strange to think that there was a period of time where the PlayStation did not support analog controls and free movement for 3D games could be incredibly clunky.
To punish my thumbs just a bit I controlled Spyro with the DualShock 4’s directional pad. It’s a testament to Spyro’s fluidity that it still serves as a viable way to complete the game. Thankfully, two responsive analog sticks can move Spyro and the camera around with little hassle.
An option for two camera controls exists with active and passive. Active follows Spyro around and requires less input from the player. During platforming and first sweeps of a level, I thought it did a great job of keeping up with the action. Considering that collectible gems can be well hidden around corners, however, I primarily kept with the passive camera to give me more control over what I was seeing at all times.
One thing I never got over was the inverted controls. I’m sorry, but my brain just does not accept inverted movement when flying or swimming. Only a few games have managed to execute them in a way that makes sense to me and it took me quite awhile to grow accustomed before I kept Spyro from bashing into something just because down is actually up.
One of the best added treats in Reignited is the work put into the the soundtrack and voice acting. Tom Kenny – who many will recognize as both Spongebob Squarepants and Spyro’s voice from Ripto’s Rage and Year of the Dragon – reprises the role for Spyro the Dragon, having recorded all the purple dragon’s dialogue. Stewart Copeland’s sweeping soundtrack that captured the bounce of every level’s environment has been remastered. Picking between the two is going to be an easy choice for some as to preserve the sound of the original.
Copeland’s soundtrack is an excellent one that has a number of classic tunes, rubbing elbows with the likes of David Wise’s work on the Donkey Kong Country games. Better yet, Copeland returns to Reignited with a new track called “Tiger Train” that incorporates themes from the three games into a new original piece.
Spryo’s gameplay and core experience has remained untouched, a necessity for an undertaking of this type. Tinkering with controls to refine them with 20 years of change in mind is one thing, altering story or gameplay is another. Spyro is still saving worlds from the evil Ripto, rescuing dragons, and helping animal friends with their problems. Unlike the Sonic-esque cool of Crash, Spyro was always a cheerful jaunt like Mario. There are engaging and cute cutscenes that never rip the player away from gameplay for too long.
The core gameplay loop of collecting gems to unlock new levels and rescuing dragons and dragon eggs is here. Challenges that span levels range from simple target practice to complex skateboarding sections that aren’t handicapped by bad controls. Players who expect anything outside of classic Spyro with a new coat of paint should perhaps check their expectations.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a gorgeous, enthralling time machine into gaming’s past. It’s my sincere hope that Activision has updated Crash and Spyro for today’s audience to test the waters for new entries. Otherwise, a great deal of time and effort has been made to create engines that make old games look and play incredible. After playing Reignited, I can see why Spyro was such a big deal for PlayStation owners and a point of pride for them.
These games are just so much fun to play and easy to get into. The joy of hopping and flying around these vibrant levels to spew fire at a unique cast of baddies is gaming at its best and shows what makes a pure classic. Toys for Bob’s painterly hand has gone over every detail to lovingly give Spyro the spotlight he deserves. And maybe, if we’re lucky, a new Spyro is soon to come.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro using a code for the game provided by the publishers for the purpose of this review.
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tags: activision , ps4 , PS4 Game Review , review , Spyro , Spyro Reignited Trilogy , Spyro Reignited Trilogy review , Toys For Bob