When I heard Activision was remastering the original Spyro trilogy, I was skeptical — and a little afraid the game that got me through middle school wouldn’t be quite so appealing as an adult.
Nostalgia can be blinding. Aspects of the Crash N. Sane Trilogy and Banjo Kazooie-inspired Yooka Laylee have proven that some classics and styles don’t age as gracefully as others. Luckily, that’s not the case with the Spyro franchise. Formerly an Insomniac Games property, the beloved PlayStation platformer has been revived by developer Toys For Bob with all the familiar songs, sound effects and characters intact. And the rough edges of the PlayStation 1 era visuals have been smoothed to match my polished, rose-tinted memories.
When I think back to my memories of the Artisans’ World or Spyro 2’s Summer Forest, I don’t think of rough, uneven polygonal edges or characters that had mittens for hands. All I remember are sounds of running water and rays of light spilling into white hallways. Toys For Bob joyfully recreates what makes the series so captivating: the feel of being in this universe.
Take, for example, the many dragons that appear in the first entry. Main villain Gnasty Gnorc, furious that he was called ugly on a TV interview, uses his powers to petrify every dragon in existence (except for Spyro, obviously). In addition to reclaiming their treasures, Spyro flies from kingdom to kingdom torching bosses and saving his fellow dragons. In the original, the dragons were relatively characterless, existing to deliver in-game tips or say “thank you.” But the Reignited Trilogy goes the extra mile in assigning all 80 dragons a distinct personality through their clothes, accessories and speech. Some hold scepters and dusty tomes, others roar into existence with burly shoulders and expressive faces. Toys for Bob adds a polished variety to the game without changing its core.
And the core of Spyro is a delight; Spyro remains a treasure hunter’s dream. Glittering trails of gems litter the paths and platforms of each level, effectively replacing the need for a map. Movement is fluid, easy to grasp and rarely ever confusing. Even with straightforward level design and navigation, you’re still rewarded for extra curiosity. Hidden nooks, blind glides, there’s always something extra for the completionists. Although the games rarely punish the player for not completing enough, they also offer more seasoned players a chance to flex their gliding or treasure hunting skills. Some of these extra challenges, like the notoriously difficult Tree Tops, are as difficult as I remember. The reimagination of a 2018 Spyro doesn’t make the tough aspects of the game any easier; timing and precision of a glide or supercharge is still key.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy retains the magic of what made the franchise such a hit in the late 90s and early 2000s. There’s a timelessness that lives in the core of the Spyro games, proving that the franchise can easily contend with other big names in the nostalgia wave. 20 years later, I’m delighted I can still experience the same feeling of wonder and awe in the games that defined my childhood.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a final “retail” download code provided by Activision. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.