by Blake Chapman
Disclaimer: This review is of the Xbox One version. This copy of the game was provided by the developer for review purposes.
Spyro the Dragon was a Playstation exclusive title released on the original Playstation all the way back in September of 1998. Upon release, developer Insomniac Games received a fair amount of praise for the new platformer and would go on to create two sequels to round out the original trilogy. Following their third Spyro game, Spyro: Year of the Dragon, Insomniac and Sony would hand the property over to a multitude of other developers for a number of future handheld and multiplatform releases. Unfortunately, none of these would ever shine as brightly as the original three back on the Playstation 1, and after the release of Shadow Legacy in 2005, some thought they would never get to see their favorite purple and gold dragon buddy ever again.
In 2018 however, the games that sparked such a loyal fanbase some twenty years ago see a remaster of epic proportions in Spyro Reignited Trilogy. The main gameplay may have become dated, but Spyro and the rest of his pals still seem to take the player on a beautiful trip through the sky no matter if you are a veteran or newcomer to the series.
Design that rages like a bonfire
As per usual with re-releases of old retro games, the visuals are updated in a new graphical style, oftentimes in high definition. Spyro Reignited Trilogy does not deviate from this model, and the graphics of the entire game are redesigned. From the very moment you step into the first world, the animations and colors are vibrant and enticing to the eyes. The frame rate keeps up fairly well for an experience that all feels buttery smooth and looks gorgeous.
Not only that but the style the developers used for each dragon specifically is fantastic. The whimsical feeling you get when spotting a new statue and imagining what personality the dragon has is nothing short of magical. No matter who you end up unlocking, you can tell the artists at Toys For Bob took their time to make them special and fully realized. Unlike the original, Reignited Trilogy makes the creatures that exist in the world of the game mythical instead of simply recreating their likenesses. That touch adds enough personality to the point where you almost want to pull everything out of the screen and place it on your shelf.
User interfaces, music and sound effects are also designed with simplicity and uniqueness in mind. The menus and navigation of options captures the charm of Spyro in an unexpected way. Both the music and effects feel creative and seemingly endless. Whether it be Spyro’s toes tapping on a stone wall or charging into an enemy’s flame resistant armor, each effect is set apart from the other.
With all of that positivity you may think that Spyro Reignited Trilogy is without fault when it comes to its design. However, there seems to be one essential piece of the puzzle missing that may surprise you: subtitles. Activision has left out any option to enable subtitles in the launch version of the game and at the time of writing this review, the studio has not definitively stated if a future patch including the accessibility will be released later on. It just seems off that in the same year the excellent Xbox One Adaptive Controller was released, the industry still doesn’t feature the inclusion of subtitles as a standard. Even though this did not affect my ability to review the game in full, it is a larger issue that should not go unnoticed and definitely factors in as a detriment to the development cycle and represents a problem still to be solved.
The time just seems to drag onward
If you are looking to create a successful platformer that will engage fans for hours on end you really need to focus on one major factor: gameplay. Unfortunately, it seems that over the last 20 years Spyro and his original adventures have not aged well when it comes to this category.
To start, there appears to be no exact introduction or tutorial when it comes to controls or navigation between different levels when you begin your new save. The game sort of moves you straight into it all which seems only best for returning players. It does not do much for newcomers, and when you go into a new world or level you become confused about what to do or where to go unless you look at the menu which causes a decent amount of confusion in what seem to be rather simple situations.
The glaring issues that seems to rear its ugly head no matter where you travel throughout the game are the levels and platforming themselves. There happens to be a large amount of open space in each world that allows for great movement, but the game does not seem to fill the emptiness all that well. After only ten minutes the stages become boring and lose their original appeal. The game also works on a system where if you have already collected enough items, you can just skip to the next area without participating in any of the activities in the world you are already in. The lack of motivation from the game causes a lack of motivation in the player. Sure you can go at your own pace, and the game is not forcing you to do anything, but what more is there to do than collect?
This era of platformers which included Banjo-Tooie worked on the same principle of going to separate worlds, collecting tokens and progressing forward. It was great for the time, but by today’s standards I think it falls more into a casual style of play than something you get fully invested in. It is relaxing of course, but I could never find myself constantly wanting to go for one more world after the introduction. Combine that with gliding controls that feel unfair at times with portions of the game requiring what seem to be pixel perfect jumps, and you have a mixture that feels completely out of place with everything else the title has to offer.
Spyro will remain an icon
Even with the lackluster gameplay by today’s standards, Reignited Trilogy is a blast to just sit down and play whenever you have the time. While exploring this universe of nostalgia, you truly feel like a kid again, no matter your age. The sense of joy you get every time the menu pops up displaying the newly designed logo is a thrill in and of itself.
The future’s a mystery for our purple and gold friend but if he can keep sending us on these whimsical journeys that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside, then I’m sure many more will be itching to reignite the saga themselves. Spyro has obviously not been seen in the limelight as of late, recently only being featured as a character in the now defunct Skylanders series of games. However, what Reignited Trilogy proves most of all is that there is still room for this adorable beast in our hearts.
The team at Toys for Bob created an experience that feels warm and inviting to whoever picks up the controller. It has been such a long amount of time since players have gotten to see Spyro as the title character of his own game, and hopefully this is not the last time we see him in this role.
Images provided by Activision
Featured Image provided by Activision
Spyro: Reignited Trilogy
No matter if you are looking for a trip down nostalgia lane or introducing a younger generation to the world of Spyro, 'Reignited Trilogy' is a solid remaster of the classics. Even though lackluster gameplay and rushed design choices plague the experience from the start, it still comes off as enjoyable for both veterans and novices. Hopefully this eternal flame can find space to roar once again.
Blake is a Journalism major who loves everything Byte covers: video games, music, movies and animation. He hopes to gain real-world experience writing for Byte and all the other news organizations at Ball State. Blake is also an honors student and has a passion for learning new and interesting aspects of the world around him.