Video Game Review: Spyro the Purple Dragon — Delightfully Reignited

By Lianna Tedesco

For once, an exceptional reboot of a classic game.

A scene from the “Spyro Reignited Trilogy.”

A reboot of a classic game can have an easy time of it. Game developers might not deserve accolades but they will receive a free pass from critics who are grateful for any refresh in retro gaming. Sometimes, in an even rarer twist of fate, a re-born game garners rave reviews that it fully earns. The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is an example of the past beautifully re-vamped.

First, a recounting of some history. Spyro was born in 1998. The game was originally intended for play on the Sony PlayStation before being ported to various handheld consoles, including the Game Boy Advance. The eponymous quirky character, a tiny purple dragon who exuded an attitude that was far too big for his size, proved to be surprisingly popular. Why? The game kicked off an era in nostalgic gaming for what was called the ’90s generation. Toys for Bob, the developer who took on the Spyro Reignited Trilogy knew that meant there was a lot that they couldn’t touch in a re-do; there was laundry list of Spyro trademarks that could not be deleted.

That said, the initial startup of the game feels new. It takes some time to load up. This is probably a nod to the ten-year transition between the original PlayStation and the advancements of the PlayStation 4. Perhaps we have been spoiled by the lightning-fast technology of Sony’s processors. Or it should be acknowledged that, in this instance, the load time between screens is just painfully slow. The wait may also be credited to the fact that the game’s graphics are streamed through Unreal Engine, an engine designed by Epic Games that, appropriately enough, started up in 1998.

Still, it is worth the wait. Unreal Engine is responsible for some of the most fluid, eye-pleasing graphics that the gaming community has ever produced and the company does no let fans down with Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Perhaps knowing that contemporary gamers would be impatient, Toys for Bob threw gamers a bone by giving them the power to move Spyro around the load screen, letting the mini-dragon perform flips and even breathe fire. This is a winning strategy: it’s a cute way of acknowledging “hey, we know you’ll be waiting a while, so have some fun while you’re at it.”

A brief intro serves up the simple and uncomplicated storyline the Spyro platform games are known for. This set-up is common with platform-ers; the narrative is often secondary to the pure bliss of active gameplay and the various tasks posed throughout the game. The reboot excels at these first steps; after the few minutes reserved for the opening scene, the gamer is free to explore the game’s world at will. The best way to describe ‘being’ Spyro — it is absurdly real. You feel as if you have been pulled into another dimension as  you sprint around outrageously green fields or fly over crystal blue waters.

Spyro’s motions are flawless and precise; the controls are so easy to handle that even a beginner will be able to speed-run without too much trouble. This is a rarity; a truly age-friendly, skill-friendly game. Multiple buttons control the same commands, and you quickly become comfortable with the buttons and hand positions. There is one control issue: the “glide” command. Each of the dragons you’ll rescue in the game give players the lowdown. In order to glide, simply tap the “square” button once and then hold it down at the peak of the dragon’s jump. Sounds simple, no? In reality, the command takes considerable time getting used to.  Mastering the glide will take up significant time if you haven’t timed it right: both tapping at the right time as well as controlling the direction of the jump.

Each world here is more visually stunning than the next. Unreal Engine should be thanked for this but so should Activision. Were it not for the success of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro would not have been made available to PlayStations everywhere. Both games are filled with rich detail, multilayered environments, and sprightly stories.

Another positive that gamers will notice is the addition of voice acting. This might seem silly, even a bit of overkill, for a platform game that features such a mild storyline. But it is a brilliant decision on the part of Toys for Bob. Voice acting adds the merits of personalization to a game that became famous without it. Each character is given a well-developed personality that fits with its trademark flair. The sound of Spyro himself is poised perfectly between a stubborn, attitudinal dragon and a confident, feisty young lad – which is exactly what we had imagined in our heads ten years prior.

The game’s boss fights are exciting and thrilling. They aren’t revolutionary, but they provide an adequate nod to the tussles of the original. These newly designed fights are much more of a challenge than in the past and will take some getting used, given the game’s sensitive controls and contemporary graphics. However, they’re a blast to play through.With the right combination of aversion and offense, you’ll likely become a pro at this modernized platformer in no time at all.

Some experience a feeling of dread when they hear the word “reboot,” while others are excited at the promise of an old friend being brought up to date. The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is an example of amping up nostalgia in style. Old-school gamers who grew up soaring in the skies as a purple dragon will adore it; newbies will be entranced. The game brought a smile to my face as I played it. In these increasingly complicated time (in the game world and elsewhere) it was a real pleasure to turn purple — and soar back  to simpler days.

The Spyro Reignited Trilogy is available in retail and digital stores now, for $39.99. The game is rated E for everyone.

Lianna Tedesco studied under poet Robert Plath, a former student of Allen Ginsberg, before finding her passion in English Literature and Political Science at St. Joseph’s College. She currently writes for several international online publications. When she’s not writing, she’s advocating for positive change, seeking out the next iconic video game, and charming strangers with her extraordinary sarcasm.

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