Following the massive financial success of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a complete "Triple-A Remaster" of the original PlayStation classics, publisher Activision set out to similarly revive another PS1-era mascot platformer icon. Spyro the Dragon never outright disappeared the way Crash did, but as a secondary character in his own Skylanders series, it's safe to say the scrappy purple fire-breather had seen better days.
Developer Toys for Bob, who previously handled the Skylanders series, returns to the original adventures which made Spyro such an icon in the first place, lovingly recreating the original trilogy of Spyro the Dragon titles by Insomniac (Ratchet & Clank, Marvel's Spider-Man), and crafting a trio of remasters which don't just live up to their progenitors; they accomplish the impossible and surpass their originals in nearly every imaginable way.
At first glance, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy looks like a typical nostalgia trip; the original games are here, with a fresh coat of HD paint and an updated visual style, complete with characters who would look right at home in a big-budget animated film. The remastering extends to the music, which features all new arrangements (just be sure to disable the "Dynamic Music" setting, which is more distracting than immersive), as well as the option to listen to Stewart Copeland's original score. Despite the obvious care taken in this department, Spyro's presentation is not the highlight of this package.
Reignited makes several major changes to the core gameplay of the original PS1 titles, but, against all odds, every change is a marked improvement over what had come before. While the core mechanics appear the same, any Spyro veteran will immediately notice how much more smoothly the plucky purple dragon can navigate the world. Camera control is now mapped to the right analog stick, a small touch which goes a long way towards modernizing the game (a similar move was made with the original Kingdom Hearts when it was ported to next-gen systems in 2013), and Spyro's turning radius has been tightened considerably, giving players improved maneuverability on top of what was already a stellar gameplay foundation, making Spyro feel like a brand new game, even when the first game in the series being a full two decades old.
Despite their age, the original games still hold up, and the improvements made to the gameplay and visuals in this collection only affirm their continued relevance; exploring the large (by 1998 standards) levels of Spyro the Dragon to find treasure and rescue captured dragons is still enjoyable, largely because of how fun it is to simply navigate the environments, a sensation which is made even better by the aforementioned improvements. The two sequels change up the core experience with friendly NPCs who give Spyro missions to complete and minigames to play; while arguably less charming than the unbridled openness of the original, they provide guidance and structure while for a more linear path through most stages.
The original game clearly received the most attention, with every single level bursting with detail and feeling significantly more "alive" than ever before; previously barren walls are now adorned with paintings, shelves, and bookcases, all without altering the core geography of the levels in any discernible way.
On the other hand, Spyro: Year of the Dragon feels like its levels more closely resemble the original art, with significantly less license taken with regards to filling the stages with visual bells and whistles. Unlike the first game, in which every single dragon has a unique design (though the last half-dozen or so are repeats, for story reasons), the 150 hatchlings of Year of the Dragon draw from a relatively small pool of designs and animations, which is somewhat disappointing by comparison. The Rhynoc enemies also more closely resemble those of the original game, unlike the Gnorcs of the first title, with whom more liberties are taken, though it will be up to each player whether or not they prefer more or less artistic interpretations with their HD remakes.
Less open to interpretation is the prevalence of bugs and glitches in the collection. Perhaps it was just bad luck during our play sessions, but we found Year of the Dragon to be more prone to minor bugs like missing animations and inconsistent AI scripting . The final game in the trilogy never feels broken, but it does feel like a comparatively lesser remake next to the first two (particularly the original).
It feels reductive to call Reignited Trilogy a mere remaster, and this release relies on more than just nostalgia to justify its existence. The level geometry is completely identical to the original, and there's no new levels or gameplay segments to be found, but the new graphics, courtesy of Unreal Engine 4, makes these decades-old games look brand new, while the subtly profound changes to the core gameplay are more than enough to encourage even the most hardened Spyro masters to return to this package. Thanks to the Reignited Trilogy, Spyro is now as modern as he is timeless.
Spyro: Reignited Trilogy is currently available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided the PS4 version for review.