For many PlayStation gamers, Spyro is an iconic staple of the platform. Much like Crash Bandicoot, the purple dragon defined an era when games were switching from pixels to polygons. In fact, Insomniac was one of the first developers to really begin toying around with the idea of immersive 3D open-world games, setting the stage for PlayStation exclusives like Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, and Ratchet and Clank to follow. Even Insomniac’s most recent work, Marvel’s Spider-Man, can be traced back to the studio’s roots in developing Spyro the Dragon 20 years earlier.
Toys for Bob is no stranger to Spyro either, and while the PlayStation icon may have shifted hands to Activision (and subsequently been used as a base for the toys-to-life series Skylanders), this studio of passionate developers and fans was eventually able to reignite the flames of nostalgia in a big way. Spyro Reignited Trilogy collects the original three PlayStation games—Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon—into one massive package. Not content with simply remastering those games, Toys for Bob took special care, rebuilding each one from the ground up. They did so with a zeal for accuracy, not only for the content, but also for memories.
Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. Memory is often tied to many things, most of which aren’t the actual thing we are remembering. Memory is a state of being in the moment, and while it plays well in our head, memories of something like the original Spyro the Dragon may come from a number of places. I recall my very first memory of the game. It was on a demo disc. I was 10-years old, had just moved to a new place, and didn’t have any friends except this little gray box. I replayed the opening couple areas of Spyro countless times, and when I finally got my hands on the full game, I knew how to complete the introductory moments instinctively.
Not only was Spyro the Dragon cutting edge at the time it came out, but it played a special role in my own life, which is why I look back so fondly on the series. Toys for Bob may not be able to recreate those specific memories, but they tuned each Spyro game to feel completely modern and right at home on the current generation of consoles. Levels are updated to account for our imaginations that filled in the gaps created by limited technology. Where relatively simple environments once housed each level’s wealth of collectibles, Toys for Bob reimagined the aesthetics of every corner of Spyro’s universe.
In that way, Toys for Bob perfectly captured the intent of a game two decades old, and crafted it as if Insomniac had made it with today’s hardware. I had to go back and check old videos just to make sure I wasn’t going crazy. Original Spyro, while once a herald of his time, was looking pretty dated. Not only does the Spyro Reignited Trilogy look amazing, it feels great to play. I haven’t played the original in over 10 years now, but I can’t imagine that my nostalgia is letting me clearly see the flaws they had in how they played. Fortunately, Toys for Bob smoothed everything over, making the games play just like I remember them, even if it’s not a one-to-one recreation of exactly how they played on the PS1. I’ve had two decades of gaming between then and now. I’ll take modern updates over clumsy authenticity any day.
The moment I spawned into that opening level of Spyro the Dragon, a flood of feelings came rushing back. I remembered that grassy little arena that housed the portals to other levels. I remembered that crystal dragon that became Nestor. I remembered my little purple buddy who had been my friend through a pretty lonely time. I’m playing Spyro in a very different place now, 20 years later, and it reminded me of just how far I had come. And at the same time, it allowed me to begin creating new memories. I’m in the middle of selling my first house to move to another one, and this time I had Spyro for those moments in between cleaning and packing. I’m sure another 20 years on, I’ll look back fondly on this period, now having multiple distinct Spyro memories.
Striving to unify a series that was once three separate games, Toys for Bob reimagined the UI, giving things like the pause menu the same appearance across all three games. In this way, the entire trilogy does feel like a complete and whole experience, but it does serve to highlight the differences in them too. The first game, for example, barely has any real story or character development, which was remedied in the follow ups. In the first game, Spyro can barely touch water without having Sparx lose his sparkle, but the latter games suddenly have him swimming underwater. The first game is also missing some other moves that Spyro gets access to in later games.
It didn’t matter which of the three games I was playing though, my collector’s brain went into overdrive. I had to neurotically collect every single collectible and 100% each level before moving on to the next. I had to get every skill point and explore every single corner of the map. If that gem counter read 398/400. I would spend however long it took scouring the environment for those final two single red gems tucked in some obscure location. Long before trophies came and took over my life, I was already collecting everything there was in Spyro, and I was more than happy to do it all over again.
Sounds Like Dragons
Of particular note is the soundtrack, an ever-changing series of songs individualized to each level. Sound is drilled into memory in a bigger way then visuals, but nostalgia still takes over and fills in those gaps. The Reignited soundtrack. brings a whole new life to each and every level, and I never come across one that I was disappointed with. The game gives you the ability to switch between the original songs and the Reignited soundtrack, which is fun to play around with even if it’s cumbersome to access.
Swapping the soundtrack means pausing the game, going to Options, then Audio, down one, then X to switch between the two. Then you have to back completely out of the pause screen to hear the results and follow the same steps to change it back again. I would have loved for an on-the-fly swap to be mapped to something like the touchpad, allowing the soundtrack to be switched at any time. While the option is entertaining at first, it stands as more of a gimmick than a tool players can use to compare the two audio samples. At some point, most players will just decide on either the original Stewart Copeland soundtrack or the new Reignited soundtrack and stick with it. I settled on the new Reignited soundtrack with Dynamic audio, which makes each level feel all the more alive and immersive.
Toys for Bob also went through and recorded all of the dialogue again, using Spyro 2 and 3’s Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants) for Spyro’s voice in all three games this time. Each character was voiced by their original actor where possible, providing an authenticity that would have diminished had they settled on reusing audio assets or redoing voices with different actors. In the original games, that voice acting was the foundation of these blocky characters, allowing them to emote and have personality. While graphics and animation might be a lot better now, it was still important to get those voice lines right.
It’s not just the voices or those newly detailed environments that bring the worlds to life though. At the heart of it all is the redesigned characters, from the lowly fodder that Spyro fries up with his fire breath, to Spyro and Sparx themselves. In some cases, Toys for Bob had to use quite a bit of imagination to extract a character, but they always nailed it. Each dragon in the first game tells a story just in their appearance, even if they only show up for a few brief moments. Sparx—Spyro’s dragonfly buddy and health meter—is now a lot more than just a stick with wings. In most cases, I felt like the studio somehow got right into my head and plucked from my imagination.
Many video games don’t age well, but Spyro Reignited Trilogy feels like the game didn’t age at all. Toys for Bob applied the fountain of youth to a 20-year old series, and the little purple dragon is just as perky and fired up as ever. Two decades is enough time for even a beloved classic to lose its magic. Toys for Bob took that into account every step of the way, reigniting nostalgia and memory while making the series feel right at home for new players today. Whether you’re hopping back in with fond memories of Spyro or taking flight for the first time, Spyro Reignited Trilogy has a charm that will allow everyone to create new memories with this gaming icon.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.