Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon were almost inseparable during the PS1 era. And since Crash had his nostalgia-ridden remastered trilogy, that means Spyro is basically entitled to one as well. The SPYRO REIGNITED TRILOGY is that remastered trilogy, delicately stepping around the dragon’s sluggish post-PS1 years and faithfully reimagining his greatest hits in a value-savvy three-in-one package. It upholds the test of time in many ways while being a little simplistic in others, but it rarely stops being an easygoing, joyous blast from the past.
Insomniac Games, while currently known for Spider-Man, became a more common name in the industry because of Spyro and, after barreling through its entries, it’s easy to see why. There’s a wholesome core here that served as the fundamental building blocks of the games Insomniac made after that. Most of its games had a distinct colorful look, sense of humor, and bevy of inventive worlds, which was, and still is, different from the output of other developers. And those timeless elements are a big reason why the Reignited Trilogy works so well decades later.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review – An Audiovisual Overhaul
The DNA of Insomniac’s signature brand is immediately apparent in the visuals even in this updated iteration. But, thankfully, it’s not a one-to-one remaster. While rose-tinted glasses make for a fond memory of how the Spyro games looked, reality is not so kind. Levels in the original titles are more sparse than you remember, decorated with vague, blocky shapes in between the vast spaces of empty landscape. The Reignited Trilogy fills in many of those gaps by taking the vibe of the level as inspiration to give them more depth and personality.
Developer Toys for Bob has recreated the imaginative worlds and oddball characters with even more detail that help better realize what Insomniac couldn’t all those years ago. It’s not to say Insomniac wasn’t creative; far from it. But Toys for Bob has the technology now to actualize Insomniac’s vision—or at least a comparable amalgamation of it. As a result, it’s a beautiful game in its own right that pays homage to its source by looking better and having more visual flair.
The Reignited Trilogy also has a deep respect for the incredible soundtrack. Remixed tunes don’t mess with the memorable melodies and downright funky basslines of the original trilogy too overtly. Although it doesn’t stray too far from its source material and the new subtle dynamic instrumentation is novel, it’s not quite as catchy, which makes the option to switch to the original version a welcome addition. Regardless of which composition you choose, it’s still a great score with fitting, level-specific tracks that hang up there with the genre’s best even after all these years.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review – Gliding Into the Modern Day
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy does more than update some of the visuals and songs; it touches up the gameplay as well. It inherits the knowledge Insomniac gained over multiple years and compiles it all in one package by including the dodge roll from the original and the invaluable ability to point at the nearest gem along with some modernized camera controls.
All of these standardized aspects, along with a faster, more fluid moveset, allows for a consistent experience that avoids feeling like a stubborn, dated relic. Similar to the visuals, it may not feel like a huge advancement until you compare it to its source and see the 20 years of discrepancy. It’s ludicrous to think the camera controls were once on the shoulder buttons, how frustrating it was to find the last few gems, and how stiff the animation was but, with a few changes, it has very little of the residual jank that the originals currently have.
If anything, these updates show how oddly modern Spyro still is in many regards and how ahead of its time Insomniac was. Its forgiving checkpoint system and general lack of unfair challenges fit right into 2018, showing its age better than, say, a certain orange bandicoot.
And rather than having brutal gauntlets like that orange bandicoot, Spyro is more of a relaxing exploration game with light platforming, puzzle solving, and an intense focus on collectibles. Like many franchises, the original game is the purest of the trilogy. Levels are short with simple themes and the easygoing nature of running around and snatching every gem and dragon in sight makes it easy to jump into and forgive its lack of challenge. Enemies hardly put up much of a fight since their weaknesses are thoroughly telegraphed and their attacks are easily avoidable. Gliding around and going through each level is a fun way to burn through an afternoon or two since it’s pretty to look at, not too demanding, and full of charm.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review – A Supreme Spyro Sequel
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, however, is the zenith of the entire series and thoughtfully builds upon the first game’s foundation. It’s still relatively simplistic with a similar moveset but it’s a meatier game with more variety that makes its simplicity more tolerable. Levels are a bit bigger this time around and each stage’s side missions give you something more to do outside of collecting the story-dependent Talismans.
You’ll feed fish to a picky tiki idol, collect bones for a caveman’s pet skeleton (who also, of course, does the “flossing” dance), and any of the other oddball tasks littered in each stage. Absurd side missions force you to interact with the locals and, along with the hilarious sketches that bookend each level, set up a more lively world. All this extra dialogue makes each stage more memorable than the barren levels from the first game.
Harsh failstates do put a damper on a few of these objectives since their strict parameters often force you to restart at the slightest mistake. It’s incredibly video gamey in some instances—like the infamous alchemist escort mission—and becomes frustrating when those nonsensical reasons combine with narrow, punishing design. It’s still a better, more expansive game though and its plethora of extra tasks fill it out nicely, even if some of those tasks and a tad lackluster.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review – Draggin’ Along
Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon takes those extra tasks too far. If variety is the spice of life, then Spyro 3 dumped the whole darn contain of spice in and ruined the broth. Almost every level is inundated with an exhaustive amount of new characters, vehicles, and minigames to the point where it more closely resembles a spinoff bearing the Spyro name over a mainline entry.
Piloting tanks and other characters is rarely as enjoyable as piloting a purple dragon since they often lack the precision or staying power necessary to deserve center stage. A barrage of minigames accentuates the failstate issue from Spyro 2 since there are simply more of them. The other four main characters have all received splendid visual redesigns and a few control improvements but still pale in comparison to Spyro’s versatility. Bentley, the yeti, is still the worst of the lot as his clunky, sluggish movement and horrible camera angles make him a chore to play as.
Instead of serving as diversions that change up the pace, almost everything that isn’t Spyro or Spyro on a skateboard hijacks the game and does little to hide how similar the game is to the previous one. During the brief respites of traditional Spyro gameplay, it’s painfully obvious how limited Insomniac was in churning out yet another entry in just 10 months. After all, there are only so many ways you can glide, shoot fire, and charge into things. The purple dragon has almost the exact same moveset in similar yet more forgettable worlds. It’s a catch-22: you either play an uninspired rehash of the prior game or you slog through yet another tank segment. Spyro 3 is still a decent game in its own right and it’s still a valuable bundle overall, but placing it next to its two superior predecessors doesn’t do it any favors.
From the moment the first dragon, Nestor, tells you how to find the balloonist until the end of the Super Bonus World in Spyro 3, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy is an utter delight. Toys for Bob’s recreation honors Spyro’s roots by using Insomniac’s style as a template and naturally expanding upon it without losing sight of the franchise’s soul. The result is a trio of titles that have brighter visuals, smoother controls, and more expressive animations while retaining the easygoing platformer nature that surprisingly fits quite well in the modern day. They might lack the nuance of other platformers and Spyro 3 might still be a bit of a bummer but the package proves that the fire still burns bright; it just needed a bit of a rekindling.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy was reviewed on PS4 via a digital code provided by the publisher.