Looks like I have some work to do!
I grew up with a Nintendo 64, so when it came to 3D platformers, my life was filled with the likes of Mario and Donkey Kong. On the other side of the coin, many of my friends’ childhoods existed in the realm of the PlayStation, where their 3D platformer fixes came from Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. When the bandicoot got his series of remakes, the question on everybody’s mind was whether or not Spyro was next. Of course, in 2018 the answer to that question wound up being ‘yes,’ when Spyro Reignited Trilogy was finally announced. Having never played a Spyro game, these new trips into the world of dragons piqued my interest, but I wanted to wait until a Switch release so that I could take them with me on the go. Was this a worthwhile decision? Overall, I’d say yes.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is, as one would expect, a set of full remakes from the ground up of Spyro The Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon - originally released in 1998, 1999, and 2000, respectively. These remakes are complete with re-recorded voice lines, remastered music, and a brand new, upgraded look for everybody populating Spyro’s world. Certain quality of life mechanics from later titles that were not originally present in the first game, such as your dragonfly companion pointing the way towards nearby gems, were retroactively added, as developer Toys For Bob has attempted to bring these relatively dated games into modern times.
In Spyro the Dragon, you play as the titular character, travelling the land of dragons to stop the evil plot of Gnasty G’norc, who has imprisoned all of Spyro’s fellow dragons in crystal. In Ripto’s Rage, Spyro is summoned to the land of Avalar in order to stop the evil Ripto and his goons from taking over. In Year of the Dragon, Spyro must travel the worlds to recover dragon eggs after they’re stolen by the evil Sorceress. Each game has its own unique villain, setting, and charming cast of side characters to interact with, but overall they each have roughly the same flow. Spyro enters a world hub, gathers the various collectibles in each level, and heads off into the next world hub to rinse and repeat.
The most fascinating part of playing all three games is seeing how each one handles adding new mechanics. In the first game, Spyro has a fairly basic suite of abilities: he can breath a puff of fire, he can glide, and he can charge enemies with his horns. Ripto’s Rage adds more traversal abilities, such as climbing, swimming, or a brief hop at the end of a glide that really helps the level design shine. Year of the Dragon adds a cast of new characters that the player can control, such as Sheila the Kangaroo, who has an entirely different arsenal than Spyro’s set of skills. Each game may play roughly the same, but the small additions make each game feel fresh, even when played back to back. Controlling Spyro feels tight and responsive in every single game, though every jump to the next title improves this further.
While the games are overall quite a good time, they still have periods of feeling dated. You can especially see this with the boss fights, all of which range from unmemorable to downright frustrating. From projectiles that perfectly track you, to a complete lack of checkpoints mixed with instant death pits, these fights were where the games really heavily began to show their age. None of them had me itching to fight more bosses, and instead just felt like slogs holding me back from the platforming I had previously been enjoying.
In terms of performance, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the game seems to run on Switch. Outside of the occasional texture glitch that I wouldn’t have even noticed had I not been looking for it, the only time the game seems to struggle is on the loading screens between worlds. A visible slowdown and stutter can be seen pretty consistently, usually lasting a few seconds before levelling out and running like normal. These didn’t really bother me, as I wasn’t actually playing during a loading screen. When I was once again given full control of Spyro, everything seemed to work fine. Even in handheld mode, the game runs great, and in fact a majority of my time with Ripto’s Rage was played as such.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy feels like a game straight out of the late ‘90s because, well, in most ways it is. This could be seen as a good thing, as this type of 3D collectathon has been overall absent from gaming until very recently. In addition, those who grew up with the original trilogy will likely receive a healthy pump of nostalgia from receiving nearly the exact same game they remember from their childhood. This can also be seen as a bad thing, though. Video games have grown since those days, as they have improved and fixed problems that players have since labeled as dated. Overall, these remakes of the Spyro trilogy are great, and new and old fans alike will probably have a lot of fun with them. I know I did. But that doesn’t change the fact that certain bits and pieces of dated mechanics and designs do hold these games back ever so slightly from being almost as great in 2019 as they were in 1998.