The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is not an insignificant effort. Toys for Bob deeply cares about the Spyro franchise. The lengths they went to in order to recreate the original trilogy is staggering. Without access to the source code, one of the engineers developed the Spyroscope, a tool that basically scans assets from the games down to their precise layout, location, and size.
Despite the amount of love poured into this project, The Spyro Reignited Trilogy‘s visuals fall flat, especially compared to the Crash N. Sane Trilogy–another Activision published remake of a beloved PlayStation franchise. The extra flourishes present in every scene fully realize Insomniac’s original vision. Previously barren landscapes feel lived-in in a way the original PlayStation could only dream of. From beginning to end, though, there’s a sense that this package lacks the same visual consistency that makes the Crash N. Sane Trilogy so impressive.
To be clear, Spyro Reignited does impress from time to time. Its physically based lighting and screen space reflections are no worse than you’d expect a modern high-end game to look. Character animations are lively and expressive and some of the scenery is breathtaking. Spyro: Year of the Dragon‘s art direction, in particular, stands out. Some of those environments are mesmerizing. Unfortunately, not all of it holds up to this standard.
Unreal Engine 4
Much of this comes down to the team’s standard use of the Unreal 4 Engine. Toys for Bob uses the engine’s signature Temporal Anti-Aliasing to mixed results. The TAA provides strong coverage with little to no jaggies. It’s certainly temporally stable, but I can’t get behind the trade-off in clarity.
This console generation’s obsession with post processing has nearly hit its climax with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Rather than offering the razor-sharp clarity typically associated with games, it imposes a softer film-like look. Some may say this is a deliberate artistic choice, but that disregards how blurry it is. Final Fantasy 15 has been the only game this gen to offer even worse image quality with the most obtrusive TAA I’ve ever seen in my life.
Looking a Little Soft There, Spyro
To add insult to injury, Toys for Bob lazily implemented Xbox One X support by running it at the same paltry 1440p resolution as its PlayStation 4 Pro counterpart. With no other upgrades except maybe a slight boost to shadow quality according to Digital Foundry, the end-result is softer than I expected from a 2018 video game.
This 1440p game looks blurrier than many 1080p and even some 900p games. Developers need to stop this unhealthy obsession with AA methods that soften image quality. Either use AA that increases sharpness, like MSAA, or don’t use it at all.
Stacked up to Crash, the image quality is worlds apart. Without the overly-aggressive TAA, even at 1440p on Pro, the Crash games end up looking sharper than Toys for Bob’s remake. If we take a step further, examining the Xbox One X version of the Crash N. Sane Trilogy running at a fully native 4K, it’s no contest.
It’s not entirely fair to compare the two releases because they run on different engines and different engines place different demands on hardware. That’s a fair assessment, but considering the raw GPU grunt and extra memory bandwidth, running an identical resolution on the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro is a massively missed opportunity that could have allowed the assets to shine in a way Toys for Bob would have appreciated.
Looking a Little Dicey There, Purple Buddy
If image quality was the only issue, it wouldn’t be worth an entire article. Every other facet of its presentation feels underwhelming. Too many of its cinematics are pre-rendered, introducing compression that only makes them look worse than the actual gameplay. The cinematics and gameplay seem to use nearly identical assets so why not just render them in-game? It’s nothing like the difference between gameplay and pre-rendered cutscenes you’d see in the Final Fantasy games, begging the question–What’s the point?
Texture work suffers from similar inconsistency. Some textures look fine for the stylized kind of experience it’s aiming for, whereas others are a blurry mess. Look no further than this article’s featured image, also placed near the article’s beginning, for a shining example of just how bad the games can look at their worst. This is another case whereby the Xbox One X’s increased memory pool could have afforded it more high resolution textures in places like this where the other consoles couldn’t get by.
In an attempt to make sure everyone gets the same experience, they’re undercutting the high-end users. The Crash N. Sane Trilogy routinely hands in much higher resolution textures with no instances of the soup-like messes present in the Spyro Reignited Trilogy.
Why so Plastic Looking, Hunter?
Beyond the disappointing image quality and inconsistent assets, Spyro: Reignited Trilogy misses the mark by dismissing fur rendering. The Crash N. Sane Trilogy‘s fur rendering looks magnificent. It adds an extra layer of polish to an already high quality presentation.
This is where Hunter, Sheila, and Moneybags come in. Cheetahs have fur. Bears have fur. Kangaroos have fur. Do Hunter, Sheila and Moneybags feature the high quality fur-rendering on display in Crash? No. The developers opted for a more simple approach that looks like differently colored textures applied to the skin. None of the character designs that should have fur actually have it. It’s just another example of how half-assed this presentation feels in comparison to the other PlayStation remake trilogy on the market.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a lot fun and clearly the definitive way to play the original games. They’ve never looked better. With that said, despite a two month delay, the Spyro games still feel unpolished compared to Crash. Sure, the Crash N. Sane Trilogy had more problematic gameplay with major changes to jumping physics and hit boxes to its first two games. From a completely visual perspective, though, it blows Spyro away by miles. As another blow to the purple dragon, Crash also managed to include all 3 games on the disc ;). If further PlayStation remakes continue to happen, I’d rather hand the work off to Vicarious Visions.