Spyro Reignited Trilogy releases on Nintendo Switch and PC, but will people who have never played the series before enjoy it? Short answer: yes.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a solid reminder of some of the best gameplay the 3D platforming genre has ever offered. A memory-perfect restoration of the original three Spyro games, this remastered compendium released for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in November (read our review!) of last year but only just came out on PC and the Nintendo Switch last week. Although that extra development time has not led to any extra features or drastic gameplay changes from their mainstream console counterparts, at least Spyro cheats from Xbox and PS4 still work the same, and players who have not yet experienced these games since their original incarnations will find their return to the Dragon Kingdom to be both beautiful and challenging.
Originally created by Insomniac Games and published by Sony in 1998, Spyro was created to help Sony's PlayStation attempt to wrestle the attention of younger players away from the Nintendo 64. Compared favorably at the time to Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro was praised for its presentation and animations, although some critics reported the game had a relatively low difficulty curve due to players being able to reach the end of the game without completing all the worlds. Insomniac went on to produce two sequels in the following years, Ripto’s Rage and Year of the Dragon, both of which are featured in this remastered compilation, before beginning work on their popular Ratchet & Clank series and later moving on to the FPS genre with Resistance.
Playing all three games under one unified heads-up-display and title screen, the evolution of Spyro’s gameplay mechanics and story becomes increasingly apparent. In the very first game, Spyro the Dragon, the titular main character is tasked with rescuing dozens of his fellow dragons which have been encased in stone throughout the game’s many worlds. These worlds, which act as levels, are each filled with a certain number of collectible gems and frozen dragons for Spyro to find, and are connected to each other through larger hub areas. He is accompanied by Sparx the dragonfly, who indicates the player's health by his color. Spyro's moveset is minimal but precise, allowing a dash attack, a flame breath, and the ability to jump and glide. Certain levels allow him to properly fly for a limited amount of time, and speed decals on the ground can send Spyro into a battering ram-style rush. He cannot swim, and will drown instantly upon contact with water.
This is the most apparent change when beginning Spyro 2: Riptor’s Rage so immediately after playing the first game. The ability to dive under the water, something that would have been both unthinkable and entirely detrimental to the original’s level design, here becomes an entirely new way to traverse an area which, surprisingly, does not feel immediately sluggish and frustrating like water levels generally can. The addition of other non-playable characters is also a striking change. In Spyro the Dragon, dialog and plot progression was given to the player in the tiniest of chunks, delivered briefly by the dragons Spyro rescued before they disappeared into nothingness. The sequel, on the other hand, is much more character and story-driven, seeing Spyro being drawn into another world’s conflict with a dragon-hating villain and a ragtag group of anthropomorphic characters after attempting to go on a vacation immediately following the events of the first game.
Riptor’s Rage also changes the way in which the levels in the game are experienced. While the original Spyro gated off progression by forcing a number of gems or rescued dragons to be collected, the sequel adds in additional collectibles like Green Orbs and Artifacts, with each of them acting as different ways to progress through certain checkpoints. Gems are still distributed throughout each level, but now the game always shows the player’s total Gem count at the top of the screen instead of simply showing the number of Gems collected in that particular world. Although helpful in the situation that a player may need to pay, say, 700 Gems in order to progress past a certain point and it’s nice to know they have enough, it’s far more often that a player is wondering how many Gems are left to collect in any given world and now they must pause the game and check their total count there repeatedly, as opposed to simply pausing once and then glancing at the corner of the screen every now and then.
New moves and powerups are also introduced in Riptor’s Rage. Spyro can now climb ladders, allowing him to reach greater heights from which to glide from, and he can also pick up objects in his mouth to use as spittable projectiles. Powerups such as flight and speed are more frequently distributed and are now tied to enemy deaths, with each enemy defeated in a level adding to a certain in-game counter and powerup locations in that level only activating once a certain number of enemies have been eradicated. Another new move, the hover, allows Spyro to hop briefly after gliding in order to reach the edge of even longer distances. Combining all of these moves leads to a variety of creative puzzles Spyro must complete in order to discover all the Orbs, Artifacts, and Gems in each world.
Many of these changes are carried over into the game’s third entry, Year of the Dragon. The wacky characters introduced in Riptor’s Rage also return, now joined by newcomers who not only act as plot-delivery NPCs but instead offer their own unique forms of gameplay mechanics and challenges. While Spyro himself retains all the swimming, climbing, and hovering techniques learned in his previous adventures, in Year of the Dragon he is accompanied by playable accomplices such as a kangaroo named Sheila and a rocket-powered penguin named Sergeant Byrd, all of which are accompanied by select levels that utilize their particular skills. These segments serve to break up the usual gameplay players may have gotten used to by now and are somewhat simple in their execution but otherwise enjoyable.
Year of the Dragon ditches the Green Orb collectibles and Artifacts from its previous title and returns to the original game’s questline of rescuing named dragons, although this time they are in egg form. With no Green Orbs and no Artifacts, the third entry feels much more like classic Spyro, albeit with the thankful inclusion of not dying upon contact with water. In addition to the now-retro flying challenges, Year of the Dragon also nearly oozes nostalgia for the time it was originally created by featuring many snarky too-cool-for-school character expressions and mini-games that may be inane for a dragon but are on point for early-2000's marketing, such as skateboarding.
As far as the PC version of Spyro Reignited Trilogy goes, the game runs great most of the time. There are some ridiculously long loading screens during the first title, although they still aren’t as long as the loading screens in Wreckfest's PS4 release, and thankfully are considerably shorter in the subsequent sequels. All three games in the remaster feature some frame-rate hiccups at inconsequential sections, usually during the main title loading screens and the entering and leaving level animations, but otherwise play smoothly. Issues such as pop-up and janky animations, both popular complaints of early PlayStation games, are virtually non-existent here. The music, which can be switched between modern and retro versions at any time, is fantastic.
Replaying titles that felt good twenty years ago is an interesting experiment in the power of nostalgia. Everyone praises Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64 as one of the greatest shooters of all time, but to go back and play it now is an exercise in both patience and frustration. With a few graphical and camera control improvements, as well as an ability to make Sparx the dragonfly hunt for missing gems, developer Toys for Bob has perfectly captured the memory of what the Spyro series was without having to drastically change anything integral from the original games, a feat which speaks to the quality of those first few titles. For anyone with a Nintendo Switch or PC who only knows Spyro from Skylanders, this remastered trilogy is the perfect time to experience three of the best 3D platforming games that ever graced the PS1. Just try not to pull any hair out during the mine cart minigame in Riptor's Rage, and remember completing EVERY Orb mission isn't exactly necessary to proceed.
Spyro Reginited Trilogy is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and the Nintendo Switch. This review is based on the PC version where a code was provided.