Hoping to jump on the momentum of the amazing success of the Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy remakes, Activision is back with another classic trilogy that has received a full remake from the ground up, this time it’s our loveable purple dragon. The Spyro Reignited Trilogy has been faithfully recreated in Unreal Engine 4 by Toys for Bob in one of the best looking remakes I’ve seen since Shadow of the Colossus and the aforementioned Crash Bandicoot Trilogy.
For better or worse, if something wasn’t in the original game, don’t expect it to be in the remake either, which I’ll come to later. If we step back and stop ourselves from being drawn in by any nostalgia we may have and the incredibly pretty graphics, there are a few faithful design choices that are questionable in a 2018 game. So, Let’s take a look at what to expect if you pick up the Spyro Reignited Trilogy today…
As you would expect, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy contains the first three games in the Spyro saga, all of which were PlayStation only back when they originally released. The core aspect which pushed their popularity back in the day was the ‘do-what-you-want’ open-world which only got bigger and more advanced within each of the sequels, something which was unseen on Sony’s machine at the time. The stories were kept nice and simple so that gamers of all ages could jump right in and enjoy the gameplay without having to concentrate too hard on what’s going on, at least initially that was the case.
Spyro the Dragon sees our Purple Pal, along with Sparx (his dragonfly buddy), venture throughout the kingdom in order to rescue all of the other dragons who have been turned into statues by the evil Gnasty Gnorc. This initial game is much more straightforward than it’s sequels with Spyro starting the game with all of the moves and abilities you will have by the end of the game. That being said, ‘all of his moves’ simply means charge, jump, breath fire and butt-stomp. It’s a simple game but with a lot of heart and character – it’s also my favourite so far within the Spyro Reignited Trilogy.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! sees the return of our delightful dragon and dragonfly duo as they head for Dragon Shores, a faraway land that is bound to free them from the terrible weather they’ve been having over in Artisans (their homeland). However, after jumping into the portal, they end up in Avalar instead – this reminds me a bit of Doctor Who when they try and jump to a paradise land and end up being pulled into a place of danger which needs their help. As such, the local creatures let on that they have summoned the evil Ripto and his minions! Spyro, as he’s a helpful little guy, agrees to help them out as everyone stands by and offers support from the sidelines. Spyro 2 also sees the introduction of more complex levels, a more confusing hub area, and the ability to learn new abilities as the game progresses.
Spyro: Year of the Dragon once again stars our fiery friends, Spyro and Sparx, along with a number of other ‘playable’ characters this time around. The story is simple, whilst celebrating the Year of the Dragon, which is a celebration every twelve years where new dragon eggs are brought into the realm, Bianca (our antagonist) invades the event and steals all of the unborn! Oh no! The eggs are scattered throughout four realms which are made up of multiple levels in the biggest game of the three included. This game isn’t only bigger, but it’s also packed full of new abilities, mini-games, characters, and purchasable unlocks – even more than the second game.
So, even though graphically all three games look the same in their new coat of paint, the core mechanics and what’s on offer becomes more varied and vast as you progress throughout the games in sequential order. I have no nostalgia for the trilogy, as I’d not played them on the original PSOne hardware as a teenager, so from here on, I’ll be looking at the actual mechanics and how it plays in comparison to a 2018 game – just like I did with my Shenmue I and II review.
What year is it?
It seems this generation has been the generation of remasters, remakes and re-releases – not that I have anything against that. From the incredible success we’ve seen from the Crash Bandicoot Trilogy, Shadow of the Colossus, and even this Spyro Reignited Trilogy (as it’s number one in the UK charts this week), to the smaller but also noteworthy remasters of Resonance of Fate, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, and the upcoming Last Remnant. It shows that publishers are beginning to really tap into the nostalgic market and offer up superior versions of their original classic and niche titles to give them a second chance. Some games have been re-skinned, some simply had a resolution boost, and some were remade from scratch in a new engine whilst remaining faithful to the original source material – which is what we’re seeing here with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy.
The three games all look gorgeous, I can’t deny that. Toys for Bob have done a tremendous job with the visual aspect of the games, giving each one a kind of ‘Disney Animation’ feel about them. Seriously, whilst I was playing I would have to pinch myself and ensure I was actually in control of the game and not just watching a CGI animated movie! We’ve really come a long way from the polygonal originals with their ‘in-your-face’ right angles! However, one aspect that they have opted to keep 1:1, which I really don’t agree with, is the lack of subtitles within the cutscenes. I reached out to Activision regarding this and you can read their response below:
When Toys For Bob set out to make an awesome game collection, there were certain decisions that needed to be made throughout the process. The team remained committed to keep the integrity and legacy of Spyro that fans remembered intact. The game was built from the ground up using a new engine for the team (Unreal 4), and was localized in languages that had not previously been attempted by the studio. While there’s no industry standard for subtitles, the studio and Activision care about the fans’ experience especially with respect to accessibility for people with different abilities, and will evaluate going forward.
So, it seems that they aimed to keep the games as authentic to the originals as they could, this meant NOT providing subtitles within the pre-rendered cutscenes. So, if you or your child suffers from hearing disabilities, or if the room you’re playing in is noisy, you won’t actually hear or understand any of the core exposition given throughout all three games. Sure, you’ll get the in-game subs that tell you how to perform actions but you’ll miss out on the actual story segments. This is a massive issue for me and every single person who requires subtitles. With one simple design choice, Activision has alienated all of the hearing impaired gamers who want to enjoy the game in its entirety – not a good move in my opinion!
*Update – after the above quote blew up on social media and various websites, Activision went back and fully implimented subtitles within all three Spyro games.*
Spyro has the moves!
Moving on (moving, get it?), as I mentioned in my opening segments, as you progress throughout all three games, the move-set of Spyro increases and becomes much more advanced and feature-rich. Initially, you can only run, jump, dash into objects/enemies, glide and breath fire. To be honest, that’s all you really need to be able to do – this is why I love the first game more than the others. It’s pure, simple, 3D platforming at it’s best. It’s incredibly easy to pick up and play without any issues as it’s easy to learn the controls for, you don’t have to remember new abilities you learn later on and it keeps things straightforward. However, that could also be seen as a negative to people as the gameplay itself doesn’t really advance or change as you progress through the levels in the first adventure.
As we move into the second game, Spyro finally finds a use for all the gems he’s been picking up (which didn’t seem to serve a purpose in the first game), you can buy new moves from a dodgy salesman. Whereas in the first game if you touched any water then you would instantly die like the Wicked Witch of the West, in the second and third game you can actually swim should you decide to go for a paddle and even dive underwater for an infinite amount of time if you buy the ability from the guy. Other such abilities you can splash out on are things such as climbing ladders and a new head smash which bashes through almost anything!
A set of moves that is utilised in both the second and third game are obtained through ‘power gates’ – these offer temporary new abilities such as the ability to fly and become even stronger for a set time. These are mainly used in conjunction with a near-by puzzle or used to gain access to a new area that is too high to jump onto as you search for eggs and other collectables.
So yeah, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy starts off nice and simple in the first game, Spyro becomes more adept with new abilities in the second game, for a price, followed by having them all return for his adventure in the third game along with a few new surprises and mechanics which are thrown into the mix as well, the biggest new addition being…
The first two games of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy have you playing as only Spyro whilst Sparx follows you around like your shadow. However, as soon as we hit the third game, this is where it gets interesting. In total, you have seven playable characters which include our dragonfly buddy, Sheila the Kangaroo, Hunter the Cheetah, and Sgt. Bryd the penguin. What’s interesting about these is that a few of the characters are captured and you must save them in order to backtrack and then enter new areas which allows you to play as these characters and experiment with their new abilities.
Each homeworld even has its own level purely dedicated to the character of that land – so instead of playing a level and finding a small 2-minute experience as one of the new protagonists, you’ll find a full level where you’re only able to play as the new character instead. I found this to be very interesting as I wasn’t expecting it having played through the original two games and only being given the chance to be the titular hero!
As above though, each character doesn’t only look, sound and move differently, they all have their own set of moves and variations on the standard moves as well. For example, when playing as the kangaroo, if you hit ‘jump’ as she lands from a jump, you’re thrown about twice as high into the sky!
Early 3D woes…
Okay, so I initially said there were things kept in-tact for better or worse and I’ve talked about one of them – the subtitles. So what else feels like it’s not aged very well in the beautiful Spyro Reignited Trilogy? First of all, the difficulty. I know what you’re all going to say – It’s been kept 1:1 in terms of the difficulty, in order to feed on the nostalgia of fans of the original, just like Crash was, which is fair enough. However, the games do have quite a few spikes of difficulty here and there, especially around the boss battles. Keeping games as a 1:1 representation is great, but when you look at games like Shenmue I and II, for example, it can also alienate modern younger gamers as the mechanics and difficulty spikes are based around what gamers experienced on release and not quite the same as a game released this year.
One example is the end boss of the first game. This involves you chasing down two annoying feckers who constantly run away from you in order to get a key. Once you’ve done both of these, you have to chase the boss around a course with a very thin path in order to burn him before he gets away – if you accidentally turn too early or late then you go into the water/acid. This results in you having to start again, from obtaining the two keys and then the race. If this was a modern game, and considering you have lives and continues, I would have imagined that if you ‘died’ then you would have started at the race with the boss yet a continue put you at the beginning of the stage. Other bosses are similar, one small slip up and you have to do it all again.
Another 1:1 mechanic is the lack of any guidance in the first two games. To be fair, the first game you don’t need any – it’s a well-designed game that is straightforward and easy to find your way around. The first world in the second game, however, is really confusing. Not only do you have switches to lower and raise walls to find hidden portals, but you also have to raise enough gems to pay the dodgy guy to remove walls and build bridges so you can gain access to other portals as well. I got lost a few times in the first area in the second game, however, moving into the second world it was much more open and easier to find my way around.
Finally, the first two games have a tendency to have someone in-game tell you how to perform an action AFTER you’ve had to do it. This kind of makes it pointless as you’ve already figured out how to perform it by getting to that point. The third game simply takes the piss – it’s like the MegaMan X games when they started putting text boxes every few steps – you’re constantly told how to perform the simple tasks you’ve been doing for the majority of the game – that Cheetah who tells you how to glide and jump at the end of a glide is so annoying. So, it went from no help, to help after you needed it, and then giving you too much info when you don’t care.
As stated above, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy is simply beautiful in terms of its visuals. Everything looks so colourful and ‘fun’ to play. If you care about resolutions, it’s 900p on the Xbox One S, 1080p on the PS4, and 1440p on both the X and Pro, all with a pretty much solid 30fps bar a few minor frame pacing issues which should hopefully get patched out. Toys for Bob has simply created one of the best-looking remakes I’ve seen this generation as everything has been recreated perfectly – you even scorch the grass when you breathe fire and if Spyro sneezes, he also sets the grass around him alight!
Audio-wise, you have a choice of listening to the original soundtrack, the new Reignited soundtrack, or the new one but in a dynamic setting so it adapts to what’s going on such as combat. The devs even got the voice actor who voiced Spyro in the second and third game to come back and re-record the lines for the first game (which he didn’t originally do) so that Spyro has the same voice throughout! Other than that, all the other sound effects and ambient noises have been touched up and presented in such a perfect overall package.
Also, I’m sure you’re already aware of this but the trilogy doesn’t contain all three games on the disc. You get the first game and the first world in both the second and third game. You need to perform a 30GB download in order to obtain the rest of those games as the install size ends up being over 60GB. This doesn’t bother me, but again, in places like hospitals, homes with bandwidth limits, or kids who get it as a present – they either won’t be able to play the full versions of the latter two games or they’ll have to wait for the download. I don’t see why they couldn’t have put two full games on a disc and had the third as a download, or just provided two discs, as we’ve seen with Metro, Bioshock, and Red Dead Redemption 2.
True, all three games are in the same launcher, so double discs may not work, but they could have easily have put two in one launcher and had the third on its own, again, like Bioshock.
I never had a PSOne growing up, I was a Nintendo fan so I jumped on the N64, Gamecube and a Wii before moving to the Xbox 360 and then over to Sony’s consoles. So, even though I never grew up with Spyro, I did grow up with games such as Mario 64 which was revolutionary at the time. Had I played Spyro and had not owned an N64, I believe this would have been my ‘Mario 64 moment’ based on the sheer size and addictiveness of it. The game basically doesn’t let you give up – if you get stuck on a part or on one of the mini-games (which are really annoying at times), you just don’t want to stop until you’ve beaten it – it’s like Pringles!
However, coming into it in 2018 does leave a few parts to be desired. First of all, the lack of subtitles is unforgivable and a terrible ‘design choice’ as it alienates a lot of people as well as inconvenienced me as I tend to always have them on so I can follow what’s going on easier as my home can sometimes be quite noisy. Secondly, whereas the difficulty spikes aren’t too bad, there have been no modifications to make the game more accessible to young gamers of today – no adjustment of the checkpoint save mechanic – at least Crash added the autosave between levels. Finally, I believe the in-game hint option needed readjusting to offer hints BEFORE you needed to use certain moves in the first two games and cut back on the repetitive hints in the third game – Also, maybe a guidance system for people who need help finding the portals in the hub world?
I’m not a terrible gamer, I’m just not a massive fan of games that have been given a brand new coat of paint yet had no overall changes or improvements done to the core mechanics. One example I always refer back to is Outcast: Second Contact as that was a game that was a 1999 PC only title that had been ported to consoles last year. This involved going to a new engine, receiving a bunch of new textures and lighting upgrades along with an overhaul of the mechanics. This meant people could choose to play it like it was in 1999 or with the new ‘modern’ controls.
If you have nostalgia for these games though – you’re going to love what they’ve created and for you in the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and I strongly recommend the game. For everyone else, if you have a hearing issue, please remember there are no cutscene subtitles so that could affect your enjoyment. Also, there are occasional difficulty spikes within certain boss segments.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a masterpiece in terms of its visual reconstruction of the original games, but it falls in a few other areas. Toys for Bob have created a beautiful, alive, colourful, and almost CGI animated world in which all fans of Spyro will simply adore jumping back into in order to relive their childhood. Sat on the sidelines with no modernisation support are those who require subtitles for the major exposition cutscenes as this has been rather annoyingly omitted from this almost perfect remake. All three games have a sense of progression as more and more abilities and mechanics are introduced, this makes all three games hours of fun and enjoyment for all the family in this family-friendly 3D platforming adventure.
Highly recommended if you played and loved the original games back on the PlayStation One as they’ve changed nothing in regards to the actual gameplay. If you have issues hearing and require subtitles, the game is playable but you’ll lose all exposition during the main cutscenes. However, those curious and those who want a fun old-school collect-a-thon platformer, you can’t really get much better than the Spyro Reignited Trilogy.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy£34.99
- Simply beautiful graphics and very colourful environments
- The new music (dynamic and not) is great, plus you can choose the original or new soundtrack
- The small interactions like burning the grass and sneezing really brings the games to life
- Hours upon hours of entertainment for the whole family
- Three really good games in one cheap package
- No subtitles in the main exposition cutscenes. This basically alienates a group of gamers from experiencing the game fully
- The games do have some difficulty spikes with the bosses
- Some of the mini-games are also quite difficult for novice gamers, especially in comparison to the overall difficulty of the game
- The trilogy requires a large download to play all of the second and third game
- The games are either not very helpful or shoving control info in your face, it never strikes a decent balance