‘Spyro: Reignited Trilogy’ Review – How To Reignite a 20-Year-Old Franchise!
To say we’ve been waiting forever for the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy is kind of overreacting. Hell, the game was only announced this past April. We’ve waited almost 10 years for… most Square-Enix games. And yet, despite being released in a week full of other highly anticipated releases, Spyro: Reignited Trilogy still came out on top in terms of hype according to a recent Gamestop poll. But does it live up to these expectations? Does this game offer something for both the child and adult in us? To answer that, I’m going to break this game down in terms of Graphics, Controls, Mechanics and Music to see if the Spyro franchise has truly been ‘Reignited’. (Spoiler Alert: It has!)
Which #NewRelease game will you be picking up next week?
— GameStop (@GameStop) November 6, 2018
Attention to the Tiniest of Details – Childhood Satisfied & Expanded
Now to be completely honest, I haven’t finished the first game yet – or even the first homeworld for that matter – but that’s precisely why I recommend this game to fans of the old series. Will new players enjoy it? Absolutely, but it’s those who grew up with the original trilogy that the Reignited Trilogy is aimed at. And whereas I used to charge through levels – only lingering to make sure I collected every gem/ dragon/ orb – I now find myself strolling through each level admiring the attention to detail. From the enemy interactions to reimagined level design, everything looks absolutely beautiful!
Take Dark Hollow for example – one of the very first levels so don’t complain about spoilers. What once was a dimly lit, albeit bland spooky area has now been reimagined as a beautiful open air library full of candlelight. It still retains the layout and feel of the original, but now has so much more context and connection to the overarching theme of the “Artisan” world. Each of the dragons here reflect this bookish theme – some even drawing upon Shakespearean inspiration. And whereas the Gnorcs stand in drastic contrast – as they should – their interactions/ reactions are hilarious! Hell, even the sky box is incredibly detailed with tall castle spires in the distance and a sky full of stars – the occasional shooting star included!
That being said, there were some parts of the game where I wasn’t 100% on board with a design – but even then, it’s more of a cautionary tale of ‘nostalgia glasses vs intent’. Take for example the CatBats from Skeletos Badlands. In the original, they looked like generic Rodan/ pteradactly monsters, but here they actually look like some weird cat-bats hybrid. Was my nostalgia discouraged? Momentarily yes, but this redesign actually taught me the name of these monsters. In retrospect, this was probably a look the original polygonal PS couldn’t fully render. So in that regard, even though my nostalgia expected something else, Toys For Bob still held true to the context of the original and expanded upon details that even I didn’t know about.
The Moves of a Dragon – Controls:
In case you don’t know, Toys For Bob built this game completely from scratch. Unlike the Crash remaster, they had none of the original source files and instead built a program that outlined the level assets. This is how this game is able to mirror the original so much – the layout, the enemy paths, etc. – and that is true even of the controls. That being said, there are some key differences though:
For starters, those who have only played on the original PS will have to get used to using the analog stick instead of the D-Pad. Though it’s not that large of a shift; and if you want, you can still use the D-Pad. I downloaded Spyro Ripto’s Rage on the PS3 years ago and still regularly play it, so this wasn’t something I had to adjust to. What did take me by surprise was how pressing TRIANGLE (for the Playstation) no longer quickly realigned the camera. TRIANGLE will give you a point of view shot like it used to, but it actually puts you in a full on ‘look around’ mode – one you have to press TRIANGLE again to exit. It’s great to admire the world with, but not helpful when it comes to navigating on the fly. Now if you want to quickly realign the camera, you have to press L2. Again, a little bit of getting used to personally, but for others it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Another change is that ‘hover’ mechanic in the second game onward feels more purposeful and powerful. In the original games, it felt just like that – ‘a hover’. It was the slightest of movements that could give the edge on long glides. In the Reignited Trilogy though, it feels much more powerful as Spyro flaps his wings down to get a big lift in altitude. I haven’t gotten to some of the later glide puzzles yet, but I feel like this will make some of those much easier.
Same Games, New Challenges – Responsiveness, Hitboxes, Etc
Upon starting the first game, it took me a moment to get used to the screen. Maybe Spyro seemed larger than I remembered – or the world seemed smaller – but there were times where I felt the game couldn’t keep up with my charging. Though again, I am far more used to Ripto’s Rage, so I moved on to that game and can confirm that everything plays exactly how I remember it. So if – like me – you haven’t played the original since the 90s and are far more used to the later games, it might take a hot second to adjust. But that just means you walk more than speed run charge through everything and (again) considering how beautiful everything is, I don’t mind that one bit!
What did stick out to me was how some hit boxes/ collision detection seems to be different than the original. It’s never anything big. Maybe you missed a landing you thought you could easily hit or you thought you hit an enemy but didn’t – and vice versa. It’s nothing game breaking and barely deserves mentioning. After all, we Spyro fans have been through FAR worse – *cough* Enter the Dragonfly *cough cough* The best example of this I saw was during the ‘Shot the Lizard’ minigame in Glimmer. Much of it played out like I remember, but on the final lizard, it took me several tries to finally hit it with the projectile. Whereas in the past near-hits usually got the job done, this time around I needed to actually focus and wait for a clear shot. Though if anything, this just increases the difficulty of a game that otherwise might be too easy as we re-tackle it as adults.
Speaking of difficulty, the game does have purposeful moments where it spikes. The one that I’ve encountered already is the egg thieves – one of the hardest of the series. Maybe I’m out of practice, but it seems as though the egg thieves have become much more responsive and even faster. Short cuts/ cheeses that I once was able to use no longer work as the thieves are either a slight bit faster and/ or smarter. I’m curious to see how noticeable the difference is for harder thief encounters (ie: Gnasty Gnorc boss battle, Icy Peak in Year of the Dragon, etc), but for the moment nothing has seemed impossible.
The Sound of Childhood – Music:
Whereas most game reviews don’t really take into account music, Spyro is one we must. After all, the original music composed by Stewart Copeland was iconic, and to not talk about it would be to overlook one of the major points of the original series. Every track I have heard thus far is incredible and either sounds precisely like the original – only cleaned up – or keeps the beats but changes them up a bit (ie: more base, etc). Though for whatever reason, if you don’t enjoy a newer version of a song, you can go to the Options menu and toggle the music back to the Original versions.
Though it’s not just the music that’s impressive, but the responsiveness of these new “dynamic” tracks. What do I mean by this? Well say you’re standing still/ set your controller down for a bit. The music will actually become softer and more ambient. Conversely, when you are charging, the music picks up pace ever so slightly. It’s subtle touches like this – or how music and enemy sounds will echo in tunnels and caves – that really make me love the musicality of these games just as much as the originals.
Verdict – Faith Restored In Spyro Series:
In many ways, Spyro: Reignited Trilogy is a treat. It’s the first game in a long time I feel like I can sit down and enjoy at my own pace instead of feeling like I need to grind to catch up. Whether playing for hour-long spans or just a few minutes, I genuinely leave each time with a huge smile on my face. And whereas this game is by no means perfect, it brings back everything I loved about the original while also adding its own flare. In the end, the best way I can sum up my feelings is this:
Since Spyro left Insomniac’s hands, I haven’t felt connected to a single Spyro game. At best, they veered off track. At worst, they made Spyro into something he wasn’t. This game has changed all of that. And even though it’s a remake/ remaster of existing games, the new additions and touches Toys For Bob put into it show how much they love, respect and – best of all – KNOW the original spirit of the series. If Toys For Bob has any plans of releasing their own completely original level or – better yet – full game, I completely trust them to get it right and move Spyro’s story forward. And if they don’t have plans to do so, well… then maybe they should 😉
The Spyro coverage isn’t over. In the weeks to come, I’ll be sharing some Tips & Tricks as well as some Easter Eggs you might have missed. There’s so much to dissect about this game, and we’ve barely scratched the surface! So stay tuned!