Friday, 18 January 2019

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy ★★★★☆

Nothing works better than reselling nostalgia. Nintendo has been coasting off this method since they released a follow-up console to the NES and resold everyone the same Mario games they already owned. It makes sense that this would still be happening in today's market, only now it's not just Nintendo reselling childhood memories (and Wii U ports on the Switch). After Crash N.sane Trilogy sold n'sanely well, rumours flew about that Insomniac's beloved 90's mascot was also in the reworks and it didn't take long for this to be confirmed.

Toys for Bob have done an amazing job rebuilding Insomniac's twenty year old game, from scratch, and painstakingly paid attention to the way Spyro controls and feels as he runs and glides his way around the graphically updated and reimagined World of Dragons, whilst still sticking extremely close to the games original design aesthetics. A few of the "improvements" have also hindered a few of the gameplay elements. Fields are no longer simply large, flat green areas. The power of today's consoles allows for foliage to cover just about everything, grass makes up for a large part of all of the game's level design and can inconveniently obstruct gems. In the OG Spyro, this was compensated for by allowing the player to see a gem sparkle, no matter how far away it was on the map. This hint has been toned down making it easy to pass one by without knowing.

A couple other things haven't carried over quite so well, in the rebuild, such as gems that would have been automatically collected as you dashed through enemies are now being randomly scattered and Sparx’s smaller area of detection for these things can be mildly annoying. You'll often find yourself combing back through a level to find the last couple of gems that you've passed unknowingly. Loading times are also far slower than they were 20 years ago, on the PlayStation. Presumably because of the larger amount of data needed. Throughout all three games, enemy types don't really vary all that much, other than by physical design. Once you've sussed out which enemies need to be rushed and which are to set on fire the only real threat to dying is going to be if (and when) you take a jump at the wrong height. This *is* a game aimed at kids, though... not a remake of Contra.

During the first game, Spyro is lumped with the task of saving all the adult dragons, all of whom have been turned to crystalline statues, by Gnasty Gnorc. Might just be me but for some reason, they all seem secretive about what's going down like they all know they actually deserved it but don't want to tell you why. Each completely redesigned dragon you rescue will give you a gameplay hint. Most of which you will have already worked out already, either by experimentation or just because it was already painfully obvious. This becomes worse during the sequels when side characters are explaining very simple gameplay mechanics to you for the fifth time.

Spyro 2, previously known as "Gateway to Glimmer" in the UK, finally gets its international title, Ripto's Rage. Generally considered to be the better of the trilogy, Ripto starts with a massively convenient coincidence which brings Spyro to save the land of Avalar, when all he really wanted was a holiday in Dragon Shores. Ripto's Rage has far more cutscenes than the first game. Including one for each time you first enter a new level and another for when you leave. These felt like they broke the flow of gameplay a lot more than during the first game and Spyro 3 fairs no better in this regard.

Collecting Orbs replaces saving the dragons, which never feels quite as important but I guess saving all the dragon's again would be kind of stupid. Spyro can learn a few new moves and has also learnt how to not drown in water. This also (sadly) means underwater levels with questionable controls. Unlike the first game, most levels aren't 100% finishable on a first-time visit. Areas of stages are often hidden away by certain moves that you will need to learn before gaining access. This adds a reason to revisit earlier levels, for that 100%. The third game takes this a step further and segregates more sections of levels for all manner of reasons, adding to the number of times you'll revisit a level.

The third game in the trilogy, Year of the Dragon, has Spyro once again saving Dragons. Only this time its baby ones that were kidnapped by a Rabbit mage with Stockholm syndrome. Unlike the first game where each Dragon was individually designed, the baby dragons are lazy duplicates. This game was originally thrown together in under a year and it sort of shows. Most of the annoying side characters from Ripto make a return / get reused. Plus a few new friends with their own levels that are initially locked away until you save them. Insomniac threw every idea they had into this one with more mini-games than ever, including terrible skateboarding sections.

I wouldn't normally mention day one patch sizes, in a review, as they're now just to be expected. In this case, it's rather unique and relevant if you're buying the Spyro Trilogy for someone with slow, limited or no Internet access. On the disc, Spyro comes in at 31gb, plus a mandatory 19gb download if you want to play the other two of the three, games you've just "bought"; plus an additional 16gb of mystery data (35gb download total). Only one full game is on the disc and the remainder were incomplete before the disc's were pressed. This is a practice I hope not to see very often. In years to come, when PSN is offline, no-one will have access to them and only shows a company trying to get a product out the door before it's fully complete and hoping no one will question them.

I think personally the first Spyro is still my favourite of the trilogy. There's something calming about it's simple and very methodically worked out game design that still makes it fun to play, regardless of polygon count.

Bry Wyatt

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