Spyro Reignited Trilogy Developer: Toys For Bob Publisher: Activision Release Date: November 13th, 2018
Spyro the Dragon Review
By Rahat Haque
A novel trend that has manifested during the late stages of this console generation has been the art of the remake. While the Xbox 360 and PS3 were not strangers to the porting of previous console titles, a major differentiator now has been the way these assets have been handled. Previously, the existing tech was simply upgraded to accommodate the new system outputs, whether it be through increased graphical polygon count or improved digital audio delivery. Other than these minor technical upscaled features, the engine of the games were identical. The remake however, has enabled studios to now reimagine classic games with modern development technology. It is fitting then, that a former PlayStation mascot franchise has gotten the proper remake treatment.
Developer Toys For Bob has taken the original Spyro trilogy for PlayStation, and remade them with a modern technical engine. Following the success of their Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy in 2017, it is not surprising to see them tackle Insomniac Studio’s former flagship platformer franchise as well. Much like Crash Bandicoot, Toys For Bob has honoured the source material without losing the soul of what made those original PlayStation platformer franchises such resonating experiences. While Sega had Sonic the Hedgehog, and Nintendo of course had Mario, Sony countered with 2 superb platformer mascots in the 90s with Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. It is incredible to chart the progression of those original developers, Naughty Dog and Insomniac, to where they are today by reflecting on the foundational groundwork they laid with their original titles.
After Insomniac Games had moved on to the Ratchet & Clank franchise for the PlayStation 2, the Spyro license switched hands, much like Crash Bandicoot, to publisher Vivendi Universal, and both franchises went through a myriad of development studios with lukewarm results. When publisher Activision acquired the rights to both franchises in 2008, it remained to be seen if these indelible characters would ever reach the heights of their former successes. Developer Toys For Bob innovated with the Spyro franchise with the introduction of Skylanders, which spurred on a new genre altogether, dubbed “toys to life” games. It was a brilliant new way to make the Spyro character relevant again for a new audience, yet the core game design was a complete departure from what fans of the original titles were familiar with.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy finally fulfills the desire that longtime fans have yearned for: a proper modern Spyro platformer. The later Spyro games never quite reached the pinnacle of the Insomniac trilogy, so bringing back the original PS1 titles to PS4/Xbox One with current development architecture was a logical move. Immediately standing out with the first Spyro the Dragon entry in this compilation is the graphical presentation. Toys for Bob has done an outstanding job recreating each level of the first game faithfully with a breath of fresh air. And that it is exactly what it feels like. A cathartic walk down memory lane with the quality of your own memory. A major hiccup for the games industry has been the preservation of content, as early 3D titles often become antiquated, aging poorly due to rudimentary tech. PS1 games are most susceptible of this fate, and Spyro the Dragon is not immune. It is incredible to revisit these lands as the purple dragon with proper lush greenery, pure azure waters, and vibrant sunny skies. Not to be outdone by the level redesigns, all of the characters have had new life breathed into them. We finally see Spyro in proper high definition representation, with the PS4 Pro taking full advantage of the graphics engine. The textures on Spyro render him relevant in 2020, and allow him to stand toe to toe again with other platformer mascots who have stuck around. The periphery characters in the game have also been redesigned, with personality exuding from each one. Toys For Bob did not cut corners with this opportunity, justifying the remake decision as opposed to a simple remaster.
While the audio has also been redone for this rendition, the chip tunes and family friendly ambient sounds remain. That is not necessarily a negative, as it respects the original work, though it fails to stand the test of time and compete against modern platformer titles. The music is not memorable, and does not approach the iconic melodies of Mario or Sonic. The voice overs, however, represent the spirit of the game. Tom Kenny reprises his role as the titular character, with all of Spyro’s dialogue rerecorded. Kenny delivers an admirable performance with the script writing that is available. The substance of other secondary characters often falls with a slice of cheese though, an inevitability given the intended audience. There are momentary quips that even adults will appreciate, however the title will mostly appeal to a younger fanbase with its audio presentation. For those of us who grew up on the original, it is akin to playing a Saturday morning cartoon we often eagerly awoke for.
Spyro the Dragon is still a fundamentally fun game to play. The roots of the genre can be traced to this early pioneer, and the mechanics of Spyro are a treat to revisit. The controls have been revamped for this remake, with the layout accommodating for a more finely tuned scheme. This translates to smoother control of a character that could have otherwise felt awkward, given his four legged anthropomorphic nature. All of the classic Spyro techniques have returned, with fire breath, gliding, skull ramming, and barrel rolling available at the player’s disposal. The game is divided in standard platformer flare, with 6 overworlds comprised of 3-4 levels each. The expected platforming trope of having to attain collectibles is present with the majority of the game’s progression, stemming from the attempted collection of gems, freeing imprisoned dragons, finding dragon eggs, and conquering boss battles. As an innovator at its advent, Spyro is now a trip down nostalgic lane. Repetitive fatigue can set in quick if blitzing through the game, provided the tasks of the first title do not introduce a wide array of variation found in more recent iterations. Nonetheless, playing through Spyro the Dragon is best imagined as snacking on your favourite junk food: you may not really get anything substantial out of it, but you will probably enjoy it in the moment. It is a great example of a game that acts as a break from more serious and mature titles that often dominate today’s market. This is definitely one to experience with younger gamers if searching for a family experience.
Looking back at the original Spyro the Dragon, it deserves its place in the platformer hall of game. Insomniac broke through with a title that has influenced all of the studio’s titles to date. Even 2018’s seminal Spider-Man has roots which can be identifiably traced back to Spyro the Dragon’s DNA. The studio understood how to create a character that was fun to control, affable to play as throughout the entirety of an adventure, and brought life to a novel gaming setting. The lessons of Spyro the Dragon persevere to this day for contemporary game design, and this remake is a faithful offering of a legendary adventure worth experiencing again.