Spyro's fire doesn't burn as bright as it once did.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is out today, another title looking to capitalise on nostalgia. It didn’t light a fire under me, but then again, I’m not its target audience.
I’m not (necessarily) #TeamCrash or anything, I’m just someone who missed out on Insomniac Games’ late 90s trilogy. Minus his (drastically departed) role in Skylanders, this is my first foray into Spyro and his world of dragons, and that’s what lessens the impact. I’m not reliving my past as I play; instead, I’m slogging through a relatively boring set of early 3D games.
Fronted by Toys for Bob, the same team behind Spyro’s Skylanders adventures, Reiginited Trilogy remasters and repackages Spyro the Dragon (1998), Spryo 2: Ripto’s Rage (1999) and Spyro: Year of the Dragon (2000). In the same vein of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, audio and visuals have been given a modern day facelift, making everything look gorgeous and new. Spyro’s original voice actor, Tom Kenny, returns as the hero, and the trilogy’s original composer, Stewart Copeland, also returns to liven up its soundtrack.
While Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy took improvements made in later games and injected them into its older ones, Reignited Trilogy doesn’t – apart from modern day camera, the games play as they originally did. Because of this, Spyro’s flaws come into full view. It’s not that the original Spyro The Dragon is a bad game, it’s just a simplistic, early 3D title that’s sadly dated. Even jazzed up for today, environments are barren and boring and gameplay sadly matches. With the ability to dash, jump, glide and breathe fire, Spyro runs through open, empty levels and taking out unchallenging opponents as he collects gems, eggs and saves fellow dragons. Apart from the hilariously unique set of personalities attached to the dragons you’re tasked to rescue, things are very much a case of rinsing and repeating.
You can see how the franchise’s titles were influenced – and in turn, influenced – the likes of fellow early 3D titles like Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, but we’ve very much progressed leaps and bounds past than the gameplay that Spyro offers. There’s not a lot to do in Spyro the Dragon, and unless you’re really into collecting objects or a die-hard Spyro fan getting off on the nostalgia, you’ll want to move on rather quickly.
Spyro 2 does improve upon base gameplay, and Year of the Dragon beyond that, we’re not talking huge advancements here. The latest title is by far the best, injecting a host of colourful characters, harder enemies, puzzles and some challenging platforming into the mix. Even then, you can’t shake that it’s stuck in the past. Throughout, camera control is a bit wonky (especially underwater) and you’ll certainly have trouble charging at enemies unless they’re dead set front-and-centre. While the games themselves boast smooth-as-silk gameplay, cutscenes are strangely plagued by framerate jitters or, in some instances, outright drops.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy works because its games, 2.5D platformers filled with humour and, more importantly, a challenge, have stood the test of time. Like Super Mario Bros., the franchises have a relatively simple, yet classic, gameplay loop that works as well now as it did when first released. The Spyro trilogy, while very important to help games get where they are today, doesn’t have that same trick up its sleeve.
Contemporary titles like Yooka-Laylee have endeavoured to capture this nostalgic-style gameplay from the late 90s – and while they look and play beautifully, they nonetheless help to assert that games have moved on from simplistic collect-a-thons. Spyro Reignited Trilogy falls into the same pitfall — for most players, nostalgia won’t be enough to save it; the games are good enough, but not great. These three titles would have been better suited as straight up re-releases on the upcoming PlayStation Classic rather than as a set of remastered games.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One X, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.