In 1996, Nintendo dropped a quite literal game-changer in Super Mario 64, which was ground zero for the stunning, big budget 3D adventure platformer. Subsequently, we saw other companies inspired by that in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000… Sony’s Spyro the Dragon was the king of ’98, and when it comes to platformers, the feisty little dragon may just reclaim his crown 20 years later.
As Nintendo fully know with their Mario and f(r)iends arsenal, you need more than a strong game, you also need strong characters that resonate with players. Spyro fit the bill back then for Sony and their original PlayStation, and he fronts up remarkably well in 2018. That developers Toys for Bob have lavished so much love upon the little purple dude definitely helps matters.
You see, rather than just taking old code and regurgitating it with the odd lick of updated graphics, they’ve rebuilt the game from scratch. This shows instantly as you pile on into the first of the three games featured, that original Spyro the Dragon. It delivers a fully realised, gorgeous-looking world that wouldn’t look out of place in a new release platformer. The same goes for the other two titles given fresh lovin’ here – 1999’s Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! and 2000’s Spyro: Year of the Dragon.
Yet to be honest the games needed more than just visual improvements to properly scratch that nostalgic itch long enough to make purchase worthwhile. Games have come a long way in 20 years, and some of what flew back then isn’t acceptable by today’s standard. Toys for Bob were onto this, and have carefully tweaked the controls without breaking them. This is mostly for the better, although Spyro is still a bugger to control when charging (although less of a bugger), and flying levels still often make us want to hurl a controller through our screen – which thankfully we didn’t do, as we’re paying the TV off for another 18 months.
Ah, controller rage memories.
Sound, too, has undergone a fab metamorphosis. Original tunes get orchestrated updates, but if you’re pining for the more plinky-plonky originals, you can opt in via one of the game’s menus. Sweet!
As for the game, it strikes us that other than knowing the cartoon or maybe encountering him in the Skylanders games, many won’t know much about Spyro’s games. So, to sum up: dragon, 3D platform adventure, gem collecting, statue breaking, exploration, flame breath, gliding, charging, fairy helper, bonus levels, completion lust, boss battles. Ripto’s Rage! (which we knew locally as Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer) changes the formula slightly, by adding swimming, climbing and headbanging, and tinkering with the story in that Spyro and fairy helper Sparx go looking for a holiday in the sun, but are hijacked by dragon-requiring fantasy types in order to defeat big bad Ripto. Spyro: Year of the Dragon has our little friend rescuing stolen dragon eggs, along with the addition of minigames and mildly annoying locked levels (until you grind away for the requisite entry points).
As you’d hope, controls are basically the same through each game, presenting players with a coherent path through the trilogy that’s well worth taking. Some may not find the charging and flying as niggly as we did and, rest assured, they didn’t stop us from wanting to keep playing long into the night(s).
Spyro Reignited Trilogy manages to successfully scratch our nostalgic itch while also delivering three games that have all the airs of being shiny, new and very desirable. That’s a pretty impressive feat.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.