In the late 90’s the video game market was flooded with 3D platformers, such as Gex: Enter the Gecko, and Super Mario 64, as video games made the transition from two-dimensional side scrolling adventures to fully fleshed out 3D environments. One platformer that stood out from the rest for me was Spyro the Dragon. While I never played the original extensively, I dipped my toes in the water whenever I would visit my friend. He had a Playstation 1 while I did not. Therefore, for me, the Reignited Trilogy is a throwback to a more innocent time; nostalgia, accompanying the game through every charging dash into druids and every toasted sheep.
Spyro the Dragon in this new trilogy is the same Spyro I knew and loved in 1998. The game revolves around Spyro, a young dragon who must free his fellow dragons from Gnasty Gnorc’s magic. Following a televised broadcast wherein the dragons insulted Gnorc as being no threat to their lives, he proves this to be untrue as he petrifies every dragon in the land except for Spyro. He also turns all the dragons’ treasure into minions that Spyro must defeat throughout his journey. There really isn’t much depth to the story, but I don’t believe this to be negative. Of the 8 hours it took me to get to 120% completion, I can conclude that it is simply more gameplay oriented than story driven.
In the Reignited Trilogy, Spyro the Dragon got a much-needed aesthetic upgrade that is one of the prettiest remasters I have ever seen. The many worlds within this game are beautifully colorful and vibrant and it made exploring every nook and cranny a pleasure. From the shadows cast by Spyro, to the level of cartoonish detail in wall, grass and sky assets, there is no doubt that Toys For Bob put a lot of time into making the original Spyro game thrive in 2018.
The upgrade in graphics and console capabilities also allowed the developers to bring characters to life, making each dragon you rescue unique while also reflecting the world in which they are found. For example, in the Artisans world there are artistic dragons whereas the Dream Weavers world hosts sleepy dragons. This is a huge improvement to the original as the old dragons seemed to be the same models consistently recycled. Sound has been upgraded as well. While the same melodies bridge the gap between new and old, the depth of the music has been adjusted. The music sounds more clear, crisper and just all around more enjoyable. There is always the option to revert to the original’s musical score while playing Spyro Reignited which is a nice addition, however I never felt the need to change this in the options. The new music is far superior, albeit the choice is nice for nostalgia’s sake.
The beauty of the game does not stop at its visuals and sound. The tight controls have been perfected in this iteration. Each movement of the left thumbstick feels like it is directly connected to the movement on screen, making for an immersive experience. Newly added to the game is the ability to move the camera using the right thumbstick. While as common sense as this might be today, the original was designed to be played without thumbsticks and camera controls were mapped to the L2 and R2 buttons on the original PS1 controller. While now being able to move the camera easily and fluently, including up and down, platforming sequences have lost the difficulty of the original.
On that topic, the game is much easier than I remember all those years ago, however this may be due to my juvenile fine motor skills and reaction times that undoubtedly affected my ability to play video games. This game will not pose a significant challenge to any veteran gamer. The game was designed with children in mind, however that does not mean that others cannot enjoy what it has to offer. Even putting nostalgia aside, the game is genuinely fun. Some of the more difficult (which isn’t saying much) moments I had with Spyro were trying to figure out ways to get to platforms that appeared to be out of reach and not easily accessed. Never was I too stumped to figure things out eventually, but some sequences took much more time than others. I believe this to be a good thing. The challenge was not in facing minions, but the platforming itself which illustrated a focus point in the game’s level design. And that design is nothing short of stellar. Insomniac’s attention to platforming should be commended, as they are the ones who originally designed the worlds.
The greatest part about Spyro’s level design is that it is well structured with clear direction. I was never overwhelmed with too many options of where I had to go to progress through the levels, which cannot be said for many other games in this genre. This is not to say that the game was linear though. Insomniac used the 3rd dimension to their advantage by designing levels with elevated platforms that often stretched over lower platforms that had already been traversed. The home worlds were open-ended with various worlds to choose from which could be completed in the order the player chooses. The home worlds, while acting as a hub for other levels, were their own levels as well, offering a plethora of treasure to collect and dragons to free. There was never a shortage of things to do, and while collecting things may be a turn off for some gamers, I assure you that Spyro is not like other platformers in that way. There are only three things to collect: Gems, Eggs, and Dragons. While most platformers overwhelm gamers with too much to do and no direction of where to start, Spyro approaches the genre differently, and is a gem worth playing.
Now it seems like I’ve been ranting on about how great Spyro the Dragon is, but the flaws in the game must not be dismissed. Although the camera control has been greatly improved in this remaster, there were still moments I fell to my death in a cheap, unforgiving battle with the camera. When I did die, I was never too frustrated though because extra lives are given out too generously. I fell a lot, only to be put into a “reigniting” loading screen which was more of a minor annoyance than frustrating. I looked up at the top right of the screen and there it was, 34 lives remaining. There is no sense of pressure to play well as even a mediocre gamer can accumulate free lives without much sweat. The levels, while having impeccable design, were so small that even if you do die, there is more than likely a recent checkpoint not far. Contrasting the ease at which I completed regular worlds, the flight worlds were quite challenging, which was jarring and certainly took me out of the experience. There is nothing worse than a cake walk that is abruptly interrupted by a time constraint, turning it into a cake run. That was what the flight missions did. You are given a set amount of time to destroy/fly through objects which would give back time, but not nearly enough. Fly through that ring to get back one second, but it will take you three seconds to get there. I know I just complained about the game being both too easy and too hard, but it is this contrast that detracts from the experience.
It must also be mentioned that there have been reports online saying that the game is unplayable for a select few gamers. While it did not bother me, people have been reporting that motion blur has been giving them headaches and nausea. If you are not susceptible to motion sickness, more than likely you will be able to handle the camera movement in this game, but for those of you who tend to get sick playing video games, you may want to stay away. In the end, there is obviously more positives than negatives to be said about Spyro the Dragon.
Replay Value: 3/5
Total: 18/25 or 72/100