It’s been almost a year since our favorite sassy purple dragon returned to gaming with Spyro Reignited Trilogy – and I’m still going for those 3 Platinum Trophies! It’s not because the game is particularly hard or because I don’t have any free time – actually, I might be on to something with #2 there – but rather because I constantly find myself replaying the same levels/ games over and over again. They say ‘you never know what you have until it’s gone’. Well, the Reignited Trilogy proves that ‘you never know what you have until it returns!’
From gameplay to level design, this game proves time and time again that nostalgia doesn’t need to stand alone. With enough creativity and the right team behind it, a 20+ year old property can not only feel just as good as it did two decades – and three systems – ago; but even better! Now with the original Spyro trilogy coming to a handheld/ portable console for the first time, it’s as good a time as any to discuss how the Reignited Trilogy continues to ‘reignite’ our love for Spyro the Dragon!
Re-imagining Existing Spaces – Level Design:
One of the things that still dumbfounds me about the Reignited Trilogy is how unlike the Crash remake, Toys For Bob had almost NONE of the original source material. And yet, when you jump into a level, everything feels exactly like it did in the original. This is thanks to a device they built called SpyroScope, which actually traced over each of the levels in the original games to account for layout, enemy paths and much more! Though whereas most remakes/ remasters could have stopped there and just put in higher quality objects, the Reignited Trilogy goes so much further.
This can be seen in every level regardless of the game; but it’s most apparent in the original since it’s the oldest in terms of graphics. My favorite examples of this are ‘Dark Hollow’ and ‘Icy Cavern’, two relatively early levels. What once was a plain outdoorsy space with one stone corridor is now a sprawling open air library! As for ‘Icy Cavern’, due to graphical constraints, the original felt like a simple ice cave with the occasional platform. The Reignited version is quite possibly the best sense of scale this game provides as you find yourself in a massive chain of caverns winding in and out of a mountain range. From the starry skybox to the twinkling gems WAY off in the distance, this is a level I’ve replayed far too much! And yet it never gets old! Spyro has always been a pretty self-contained/ linear game; and yet the presentation of this level – and other levels like it – actually give the sense of open-world exploration.
A Living World – Creatures & Enemies:
If you truly want to present a beautiful world, then the creatures/characters that inhabit it are just as important as the world itself. The creatures/ characters of the later two games had some personality due to improved graphics and cutscenes – which we’ll get to – but the majority of characters in the original game (the dragons) were mostly recolors of other dragons. The Reignited Trilogy not only made each Dragon unique in terms of design, but also in voice and mannerisms as well. For example, Dragons from the Artisan World are all some kind of artisan (painters, writers, chefs, etc); but sometimes even a subworld has it’s own specific theme. As I mentioned in the last section, ‘Dark Hallow’ was re-imagined as an outdoor library. Well each Dragon in it is literary/ writer themed!
Though attention to character detail doesn’t only apply to the NPCs, but also the assorted creatures you find in the world too. For example, in the ‘Idol Springs’ level of Ripto’s Rage, the Short Idols had metal shields. The original presented these as a simple metal tower shield; but the Reignited version considered how a lot of enemies in that level all wield kebab sticks. So this time around, their shields look like the lids of a barbecue to fit with the whole ‘griller’ theme. Though again, it’s not just the look but also the feel of these characters. Take the Fodder enemies for example. There’s rarely anything special about them besides being basic animals (rabbits, clams, rats, bats, etc). Though in Reignited, if you stand still near them for long enough, they’ll actually come up to you and make cute faces. It’s as if they’re trying to show off for you; and it almost makes you feel bad when you have to flame them…. almost.
Expanded Scenes – Cinematics & Intro/ Outro Scenes:
With so much work making the world itself come to life, Toys For Bob didn’t have to flush out the cutscenes as well. But they did! Much like their world/ creature designs, the cutscenes mirror the originals; but they do so with an added flair that seems much more realistic – and adds context. This is especially prominent in the Ripto’s Rage portion of the game as each level has its own Intro/ Outro scenes. They’re the same scenes as the original; but the little additions make all the difference. For example, in the original ‘Colossus’ opening, child-me didn’t realize that the monks were bringing the goat to the yeti as food. (Maybe child-me was an idiot) Either way, the Reignited version by comparison leaves nothing to the imagination!
These moments of added-detail truly make the game feel more flushed out by either making things more apparent – like the Yeti clip above – or by adding things we didn’t get before. Take Gnasty Gnorc for example. Unlike Ripto and the Sorceress, we don’t really get any cutscenes for him besides the opening one. As such, by comparison he has almost no personality. The Reignited version though makes use of the same single cutscene, but adds a ton! For starters, the original is just Gnasty gesturing on his pedestal – the same one you fight him on. The Reignited version places him inside a man-cave of sorts, which later turns out to be the final room of the ‘Gnasty’s Loot’ level. Add in Gnasty learning about what’s being said about him via a News Broadcast and him getting teary-eyed over being called “ugly”, and this scene is just a gem!
A Classical, Dynamic and Reignited Soundtrack – Music:
Let’s face it! It’s not a Spyro game without incredible music. Stewart Copeland really outdid himself with the original games – and set the bar very high! Thankfully – much like other aspects of this game – the Reignited Trilogy found the perfect way to keep things authentic while also adding something new. Each track has a new ‘Reignited’ version and many are just as good as the originals! Additionally, you can enable ‘Dynamic Music’ which will slow the music down when you’re stationary as well as make it echo when you’re inside a confined space.
Though if you’re not a fan of all these new tracks, you can always swap to ‘Classic’ mode. Just make sure you linger for a little bit on the title screen. Stewart Copeland actually returned to record a brand new title track for the trilogy! And needless to say, he hasn’t lost that magic touch when it comes to making Spyro music!
A Portable Adventure – Reignited Coming to Switch:
Growing up, Spyro was my favorite series to come home to on a Friday. As an adult, that’s a little harder between working odd hours, traveling and basically everything else that pops up. It’s not as easy to sit down in front of a stationary console anymore now that we’re… adults. *shiver* When the Reignited Trilogy first came out last year, it did add some helpful UI/ Quality of Life updates like Fast Travel between worlds; but there’s still the problem of actually sitting down in front of a console. That is why I’m SO excited that this game is finally getting a port for the Nintendo Switch!
Unlike most games today that have massive hour-long cutscenes/ boss battles – I’m looking at you Kingdom Hearts – Spyro has always been a very low investment series. You can pop on, complete a level or two, try for a few Skill Points and just enjoy yourself. It’s a game that’s much easier to pick up and put down at ‘normal’ intervals, which makes it PERFECT for the portability of the Switch! Maybe you’re away for the weekend or on an hour-long bus commute home. That is now time you can spend saving the Dragon Realms and collecting treasure! In this way, the Reignited Trilogy doesn’t just show how Spyro can ‘grow’ graphically; but also how it can meet the needs of a fanbase that has literally and figuratively ‘grown’ over the years! Spyro: Reignited Trilogy lands on the Nintendo Switch September 3rd.