There has always been something magical about the Spyro franchise. Hell, I’ve always preferred these titles over Crash Bandicoot. Booting up Spyro Reignited Trilogy put a huge smile on my face, especially after getting to check it out at E3 this year and knowing what was in store for me. Toys for Bob has done an incredible job of not just translating, but rebuilding from the schematics that Insomniac Games laid out in the late nineties.
The best thing about the Spyro Reignited Trilogy is how everything is rebuilt, but still feels very much like Spyro. After playing through some of the levels I checked out some videos online to see how similar they are to the original releases. All of the levels I watched were jump for jump the same, but completely rebuilt to take advantage of the modern hardware. Key locations in the level were the same, enemy locations were the same, and enemy types were the same. It’s remarkable how one to one everything felt while still feeling like a modern release.
The updated release really lends well to Spyro’s adventures as well. Sprawling cities in the clouds, glistening icy caverns, and underwater Atlantis levels look beautiful with the new visuals. Collecting gems feels much easier this time around as well. I’m sure it’s because of the upgrade, though, because the better draw distance allows for collectibles to be seen in better light. Even while searching for the last few gems in a level, the underwater ones sparkle through the surface of the water. When I played the original releases 20 years ago, collecting all the gems seemed impossible, but with the gem tracker and the enhancements here, collecting everything came much quicker.
On top of the enhanced visuals, original series composer Stewart Copeland makes a return for some of the soundtrack. It’s a testament how well Toys for Bob has rebuilt this world when just a few songs can force me to return to when I was a young kid playing these games at my grandmother’s house for the first time while waiting for my parents to get home from work. I also think it says a lot about their love for the series. A lot of the assets from the original release had been lost, so Toys for Bob literally had to rebuild almost everything, including sound effects. Making everything sound just right for this release from the jingle of the Artisan Dragons in the first title, all the way to the yelps enemies make when defeated in Year of the Dragon.
There is a ton of content for players to get through. Each Spyro title is probably around the ten-hour range for those wanting to collect every gem and respective collectible in each title. The thing that makes Spyro so unique is how much it feels built for those 100 percenters. Spyro 3 Year of the Dragon was a little worse about this, but in the two sequels, it’s almost impossible to get through an entire world getting every item the first time through. Some sort of upgrade was generally needed for a few of the levels that could be purchased from Moneybags in the next overworld. Spyro 3 was the title that mixed things up a bit more and had more playable characters and mini-games than the first two games combined.
While Spyro 3 is a great game, I felt like Spyro 2 Ripto’s Rage was where the gameplay and side activities really peaked. Sergeant Byrd in Year of the Dragon was a bear to control and generally not that fun to play. The OCD gamer in me who needed to find every gem in every stage as I progressed was driven as crazy now as I was almost twenty years ago. That being said, Year of the Dragon is still a great game, and by today’s standards has a more traditional platformer layout of having to earn new moves or help the supporting characters later in the game in order to unlock earlier objectives. Playing the third title after playing through the first two in the series back to back just felt weird from a progression standpoint.
The one thing that still bugs me to this day about the Spyro franchise is how difficult it is to control the camera and make precision turns while charging. The Reignited Trilogy feels a bit better than the initial releases, but Spyro can still be a bear to control while charging. Coupled with the frame rate issues I had in Spyro The Dragon are pretty much the only complaints I had with this remake. The second two titles didn’t have the same frame stutter I encountered in Spyro’s first outing, so I’m not sure what was causing it.
The small details that Toys for Bob have inserted into the Reignited Trilogy are really what help bring Spyro’s world to life. Blades of grass rustling in the wind, animated wind lines blowing through the clouds and mountaintops. Even the achievement and trophy design here is top notch. Instead of tying everything around collecting all the gems, or 100 percenting every level, the developers opted for each stage to have its own unique achievement. Even if it’s something small, yet challenging like beating one of the bosses in Ripto’s Rage without killing a fodder animal for health, or beating the bomb ox without getting hit by a bomb. It’s these small additional challenges that give new life to an older franchise.
There are few games that I can pick up after twenty years and have everything feel just like I remembered it. Spyro Reignited Trilogy is one of them. The world is beautiful, the sound design is great, and the passion that Toys for Bob put into rebuilding this world is something I’d like to see from other developers. The package here is a great buy at $39.99 and those that grew up with Spyro, or even those looking for a new platformer will have a ton of content to get through in a nostalgic little bow.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is available now for Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Purchases are available here.