Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review – Xbox One

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Nothing makes me feel older than playing a 2018 remake of a game that I still have the 1998 original in its jewel case in a drawer in my garage.  It was a feeling I had just shaken off after completing Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy this summer, yet all those nostalgic emotions came flooding back as I sparked up Activision’s latest blast from the past.  Much like the Bandicoot saga, Spyro Reignited Trilogy brings everyone’s favorite purple dragon into the current gen with a glorious remastering of Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon, and much like the Bandicoot series, keeping the games faithful to their origins also means a few gameplay quirks also made the journey.

Spyro is one of a select few of iconic video game characters that share a timeless fan base, so this new trilogy was meant just as much for the 30-40 year old demographic as it is a new generation of gamer; truly a game the entire family can enjoy.  Toys for Bob has done a masterful job bridging two decades of technology while keeping the core gameplay elements familiar and fun.  Cutscenes are now on a level of feature animation quality while the in-game graphics are jaw-dropping gorgeous; something you can’t appreciate unless you see a side-by-side comparison or have a great memory.

The world of Spyro comes to life with smooth character designs, vivid colors, fantastic lighting, and plenty of special effects not possible when these games first debuted.  Lighting and shadows enhance the immersion with real-time effects; even Spyro’s flame breath acts as a light source to cast shadows while realistically scorching the earth with sizzling patches of burnt grass.  There are even these adorable idle animations if you can sit still long enough to enjoy them.

When Spyro first debuted controllers had no analog sticks; movement was done with the D-pad and you could rotate the camera with the trigger.  Reignited updates these controls for an analog world but also offers the retro control scheme for those who want to punish themselves, but even going analog offers up its own set of quirks.  The acceleration on the right stick is unusually fast, making it difficult to accurately move the camera around.  Also back is that slightly out-of-control feeling you get when Spyro is charging forward, but that was always part of the fun.

As far as game design, you can see an evolution taking place across the span of these three titles, but even taken as a whole there has been so much progress in game design that any of the games in the trilogy feels dated at its core.  Spyro is a casual game of exploration and collection with moments of combat all mixed together with simple platforming using Spyro’s limited jumping ability to reach greater heights so he can glide.  Flying levels definitely evoke a much needed feeling of freedom from this otherwise landlocked lizard.  The game lacks a driving narrative or even much guidance on how to play or where to go.  The tutorial is limited and the pop-up hints come at odd times; often after you have already figured out something you should have known much earlier.

The Spyro games are basically constructed with multiple hubs containing numerous themed levels that you can do in pretty much any order.  When the game first starts you’ll need to rescue ten dragons before you can move on to the next world, and level score screens will keep a tally of collected gems, dragon eggs, etc. so you can easily find levels you need to go back to and 100% if that’s your thing.  Each of the Spyro games in this collection are of modest length, but seem to fly by much quicker this time despite some odd balancing of difficulty where much of the game comes off as way too easy until you hit a crazy spike in challenge with some of the bosses where tactics and strategy are not always obvious or even hinted at.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a breath of flaming fresh air; a game that hearkens back to a simpler time where you didn’t need a reason to spend dozens of hours running around levels collecting stuff.  This visual remaster makes that journey all the more enjoyable with a spectacular boost in detail, textures, lighting, and effects; a world truly worthy of exploration for the sake of exploration.  But much like many other retro remakes these titles often play out better in our memories, and while I instantly fell back in love with Spyro for the first several hours, that attraction was superficially skin deep.  Once the repetitive collecting and mindless combat settled in I slowly wanted to play something more stimulating or experience some sort of gripping narrative.  Spryo suddenly became empty calories that was consuming my time but leaving me malnourished.

Spyro was always a great series of games and Spyro Reignited Trilogy is definitely the best way to experience those classics whether you are revisiting your past or taking your kids on a trip down memory lane.  Just temper your expectations with the knowledge that while these games look like a next-gen platformer they definitely play like something from a previous century.

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