The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a monumental undertaking. After losing the source code, Toys for Bob developed a tool to scan assets and their exact locations/sizes from the original titles. Despite some technical missteps, along with the physical disc debacle, this release showcases an admirable level of respect for Insomniac’s purple dragon.
All three games control similarly, though subsequent releases add mechanics and expand upon the level design. This Reignited Trilogy replicates the PlayStation classics nearly exactly for better or for worse. While visuals have seen the most immediately obvious change, transforming the experience wholesale, there’s a little more to it than that. The games’ cinematics have been completely redone with re-recorded voices, animations, and different scene direction.
Some remakes fail during this process. Things are usually lost in the translation across hardware and development studios. Toys for Bob, however, dramatically transforms Spyro‘s cinematics for the better. Rather than betraying Insomniac’s intent, they add more character to each scene.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy offers an option between the original music or an expanded soundtrack. The Reignited music fills out the soundscape with more instrumentals and a dynamic component based on player actions. After switching back and forth several times, the actual difference was negligible.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy lacks subtitles, yet it offers an optional map for easier navigation? Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage already had an optional map in its original incarnation, though it was turned off by default. This new release adds the same map feature to the first and third games. They’re neat additions that may help completitionists and younger gamers, but they’re unnecessary.
The original game’s levels are so small that a map is almost redundant. The map makes more sense in the other two games, though even then, they’re directed enough that it’s practically impossible to get lost. For reference, I beat all three games without touching the maps with a sub-5 hour completion time for each title. The time that must have been spent creating new maps for the games would have been better allocated toward including subtitles.
Spyro the Dragon
The original Spyro the Dragon is a relic from a bygone era. There’s a level of comfort that comes from running around, collecting gems, and freeing dragons, but it also feels hollow. The first game saw Insomniac dipping their toes into the 3D platforming genre after releasing Disruptor, a first person shooter. It feels incredibly safe by today’s standards with tiny environments, basic obstacles, and poorly hidden collectibles. Boss fights feel out of place and the sporadically placed flying levels are unnecessarily difficult.
It’s also criminally short. I finished the game with 80% completion in 3 hours and 18 minutes. The first game is heavily flawed, but it’s also very relaxing. Spyro the Dragon doesn’t ever encroach upon a cognitive flow state, but it feels good to run around, collecting gems after a long and stressful day. Try to finish it one sitting and don’t look back.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage is the sequel the franchise needed. It features larger levels with game design that more deeply encourages exploration. As collectibles, the original’s dragon statues restricted its design. Not much could be done with them. By ditching those in favor of orbs, Spyro 2‘s significantly expanded design makes it much more playable in 2018.
Rather than just finding statues around the levels, Spyro 2‘s levels award a single orb upon completion of a level. While some orbs can be found laying around, npc’s also award orbs for completing level-specific challenges. This feeds into the game’s larger and more complex environments. If Spyro The Dragon was a prototype, Spyro 2 is the first true entry. With a heavier emphasis on storytelling, the game is more ambitious on that front, though it’s still nothing to write home about.
Each level begins and ends with a pre-rendered cinematic, though they don’t tie into the main plot. Intro and outro cinematics act as self-contained nuggets that characterize each level to some extent. It’s a missed opportunity to provide a more complex narrative, but who cares? Spyro is a collect-a-thon platformer. You’re playing it to collect things and increase that completion percentage.
Spyro 2 is the trilogy’s most well-balanced entry. It adds enough activities, scenarios, and mechanics to require a decent amount of player engagement without being so massive that the thought of exploring its segmented levels feels daunting.
Spyro: Year of the Dragon
Spyro: Year of the Dragon takes one step forward and two steps back. Its levels are the trilogy’s largest, but they’re still not big enough to intimidate. Art direction steamrolls its predecessors with some of the most visually interesting environments. Gameplay scenarios are more varied than ever, though in this case, perhaps it’s not for the better.
Spyro 3 suffers from a lack of direction. It falls into the same pitfall as many other third or fourth entries in gaming franchises. Rather than iterating upon Spyro 2, Year of the Dragon adds more without taking a step back to consider how its pieces fit together.
Players can now control multiple characters across their own levels, though as you’d expect from a PlayStation 1 era platformer, each character’s levels and controls are woefully underdeveloped. This third entry lets you control:
- Sheila – A kangaroo with a bouncy jump ability
- Sgt. James Byrd – A flying penguin
- Bentley – A yeti carrying a large club
- Agent 9 – A monkey with a blaster
There’s also Sparx and Hunter, though most people hoping to play at their own pace will only control the four characters listed above.
While each character’s levels add much needed variety in a compilation featuring such similar games, they compromise Spyro: Year of the Dragon‘s integrity. None of them control poorly, but they don’t control that well either. They have different abilities, though their overall move-sets are smaller than Spyro’s.
Sheila bounces extra high after pressing the jump button the moment she touches ground, though she can’t sprint. The yeti can smash things with his club and deflect projectiles with a wind shield, but he can’t sprint or double jump. Agent 9 uses a gun, but he can’t ground pound, sprint, or double jump. Sgt. James Byrd flies as long as the player taps the button, but he can’t do anything else aside from shooting missiles.
These characters add further insult to injury when you consider that accessing the final boss requires 100 dragon eggs, this game’s replacement for orbs. As the most complex game with the largest levels and most intricate challenges, acquiring 100 dragon eggs takes more effort than the required amount of orbs or statues from the last two games.
Because of this, you’ll spend more time with these characters than you want just to reach this arbitrary quota.
With remakes, you’d expect flawless presentation, but the Spyro Reignited Trilogy shockingly falters quite a bit. To begin with, all platforms suffer from frame-pacing issues. While the framerate rarely, if ever, dips below its 30fps target, uneven frame delivery results in stutter. This stutter occurs frequently enough to make me wish I was playing the Crash N. Sane Trilogy instead–another Activision published remake that did NOT suffer from this issue.
To be clear, it’s not unplayable, but with stutter every several seconds, it’s enough to impact what should have been a smooth gameplay experience. Beyond the frame pacing issues, Spyro Reignited‘s graphics aren’t up to snuff. It’s a massive upgrade, sure, but then it’s also been 3 console generations since their original release. If there wasn’t a massive difference, that’d be pretty depressing.
Running on Unreal Engine 4, it uses Unreal’s signature Temporal Anti-Aliasing to smooth out jagged edges. While the coverage works, the trade-off isn’t worth it. Running at 1440p on both the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, the AA method leads a lot to be desired. You may be getting clean image quality free of jagged edges, but you’re getting an incredibly blurry image too.
Part of this could have been circumvented had Toys for Bob chosen to use the Xbox One X’s additional GPU grunt to run at a higher resolution, but as it stands, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy‘s soft image quality pales in comparison to the Crash N. Sane Trilogy running on an Xbox One X or PC at higher resolutions.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a respectful remake of a beloved PlayStation 1 franchise. The original trilogy’s inconsistency can’t be understated. Even at its worst, though, there’s something oddly satisfying about collecting stuff as Spyro. It’s a shame Activision had to sully the physical release by forcing a download to make the entire trilogy playable. Absolutely disgraceful.
- Faithful redone music
- Improved cinematics
- Relaxing gameplay with few frustrating design decisions
- The first game is a little too simplistic
- Spyro 3's multiple characters are hit and miss
- Slightly disappointing visuals along with inconsistent frame pacing leading to regular stutters during gameplay
- Shady physical release