Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review
Spyro is back, and he's better than ever!
Since Vicarious Visions’ Crash Bandicoot N’ Sane Trilogy proved that borderline ancient classics could be brought gracefully into the modern age, expectations for Spyro Reignited Trilogy have been understandably high. Toys for Bob not only needed to recreate the games in a way that was mechanically identical to the originals, but they also needed to figure out where to add the modern touches that would both justify the effort and transform the game into more than just an elaborate remaster. This is exactly what they did. With the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Toys for Bob has delivered a modern version of Spyro that doesn’t just meet rose-colored expectations; it exceeds them!
For the uninitiated, the original Spyro the Dragon games first released about twenty years ago on the original PlayStation. As the titular purple dragon, players would jump, charge, fly, puzzle and of course flame their way through a multitude of themed levels featuring everything from living tiki idols to flying saucers piloted by alien sheep. It’s about exploring each stage to its fullest, collecting all its treasure, and defeating all its baddies before making it to the end. This series was the epitome 90’s adventure platformers; each stage and hub-world was filled with characters to meet, items to collect, secrets to find, and plenty of jumping to be done. Each game’s experience was filled to the brim with Insomniac Game’s trademark wit, and Spyro himself was a joy to control with a level of responsiveness comparable to Crash Bandicoot. As a result, the original Spyro trilogy enjoyed plenty of critical acclaim and a status as one of the original PlayStation’s brightest gems.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a faithful remaking of these games down to the finest details. Spyro handles just like he did way back when, and both the worlds and enemies have been reproduced exactly in terms of layout and basic behavior. With all the advancements gaming has seen over the past twenty years though, there was a chance that these games just wouldn’t measure up to their modern competition, and in some ways they don’t. The original Spyro games are very simple in comparison to a modern adventure platformer like Super Mario Odyssey. The levels are smaller, the challenges are more basic, and Spyro’s move-set is much more limited than Mario’s. Players who come to this game expecting a fully modern experience are going to be sorely disappointed; the Spyro Reignited Trilogy just isn’t that kind of game. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun; quite the opposite actually.
For newcomers, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy is going to fill a role similar to that of the Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy. It’s an opportunity to experience a type of game that just isn’t made anymore, and to see them in the best possible light. In addition to perfectly replicating and slightly improving how Spyro moves and controls, Toys for Bob has brought the games’ worlds and inhabitants to life in a way that exceeds even longtime fans’ rose-colored memories. Each stage and world has been rendered in beautiful bright colors and follows a slightly more cartoony art style. Every character and enemy has also been recreated in a way that makes them highly expressive and animated in their actions, helping to tie them to their worlds and make them feel like they’re more than just something that was plunked down into a stage for Spyro to interact with. In short, this is a beautiful game that offers newer gamers something they won’t find anywhere else; it’s absolutely worth the time of anyone who hasn’t played a Spyro game before. The same goes for fans that were around to play the originals.
Improving on nostalgia is difficult thing to accomplish. It’s incredibly subjective after all, with different people all focusing and romanticizing different aspects of the same experience. This is exactly what Toys for Bob has done though. As mentioned earlier, everything to do with playing the game has been almost perfectly recreated. Spyro controls just like he did originally; his enemies can be found in the exact same places and behave like they always have; every world and stage is exactly as it was as it relates to Spyro. They aren’t any larger or smaller, and traversing them doesn’t require any extra finesse on the part of the player. Minor improvements have been implemented of course. Spyro’s controls have been unified across all three games, Sparx’s “Gem Finder” ability is now available in each game, and the camera is tied to the right stick instead of the shoulder buttons. Additionally, the hints for the hidden “Skill Points” are now listed in the guidebook instead of being completely mysterious. Some older fans might take issue with this, but these changes feel very good overall and make for a more enjoyable and consistent experience. The level of detail Toys for Bob has gone to is quite incredible though. They’ve even implemented the goofy cheat codes from the originals! (Pro tip: When paused in Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon hit Left, Right, Left, Right, L1, R1, L1, R1, Square, Circle to turn Spyro 2D! Input to the code again to turn him back to normal)
On top of this mechanically identical base, Toys for Bob has improved the game through art style and animation. It’s a bit more cartoony in appearance to be sure, but not so much that it’s distracting. To be quite honest, it feels rather fitting. Spyro has always had a zany quality to it, so the cartoonish touches to the world design and enemy behavior come across as natural rather than forced. Speaking of enemies, the more expressive iterations seen here are quite delightful to behold. Engaging them is more satisfying thanks to their new reactions and the additional flourishes put into their designs. Enemies really look their part now, and will react to Spyro in ways that make one want to teach them a lesson. The comedic payoff is much more consistent to. Enemies don’t just disappear when defeated; they’ll bounce off walls if knocked into them, react to getting knocked off ledges and will taunt Spyro just a little bit more convincingly than they used to if an attack fails. Finally, ally characters don’t all share the same generic model; everyone has their own unique look, the dragons especially! All this comes together to give a much greater sense of character to these games, and it’s a joy to behold.
These extra touches even extend to Spyro, his friends and even the major baddies as well. Spyro moves as a quadraped should, bounding along instead of using his old walk cycle and showing eagerness in a way similar to that of a dog: getting low on his legs and wagging his tail excitedly. Gnasty Gnorc comes across a little more sympathetic than in the past, his reactions in the beginning of Spyro appearing to come more from a place of genuine hurt rather than simple rage. Interactions between side characters also have a bit more nuance to them thanks the redone voice acting. Rounding it all off is the superbly remastered soundtrack. It sounds very close to the originals most of the time, but there are noticeable changes when charging or standing still. Fans of the old music have the option of switching to it from the menu, but I’d advise giving the new music a chance. Like every other stylistic change, it works quite well if one allows themselves to get into it.
Toys for Bob has hit a home run with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Not only does it recreate the original gameplay experience in every way that’s important, but it also adds subtle improvements that make it feel just that much better. The new art direction works wonderfully for these games, and all the extra fine details put into character designs, interactions, and behavior really make everything come alive in a wonderful way. New players might not get as much out of it as fans of the originals, and they’ll be very disappointed if they go into it expecting a modern gameplay experience with all the trimmings. For old fans and those who’d like a glimpse at what the height of triple-A quality was like twenty years ago though, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy will deliver in spades!
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One
- Published By: Activision
- Developed By: Toys for Bob
- Genre: Adventure Platformer
- US Release Date: November 13, 2018
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Spyro Reignited Trilogy not only does the original games justice, but successfully expands on the original vision behind them. This is Spyro at his very best!"