While I loved the likes of Banjo and Mario (and I barely remember Crash, I’ve got to try the N. Sane Trilogy), Insomniac’s Spyro trilogy were the most nostalgic platformers of my childhood (that and DKC2). Less so for the bland original game, and more so for the fantastic sequels I suspect are what truly made Spyro a household name. But following Crash’s success with a prettier update, we now have Spyro come to do the same.
So it took me just under a month to finish, reaching 120%, 100%, and 117% respectively, getting all skill points, and earning a Platinum trophy for each game. And I absolutely had a blast reliving it.
Technically, these games have never looked or played better. Spyro controls like a dream, buttery smooth and precise as can be across all three games (even managing to make his floatiness in S1 a non-issue). Making it even better are the subtle little additions across all the games, such as dodge rolling coming back in the sequels, Sparx having the gem finder with the touch of L3, all the games having a map toggle (which I’m happy to have even if my pride meant I never used them), and there are a lot of little refinements peppered all throughout. However, it’s still unfortunate that the original game never made use of the hover ability of the sequels, since it really could have helped me out many times. I also miss the inclusion of the charge double jump. But judging it as a whole, the control schemes are so great (and it helps that you can actually CONTROL the camera. Hallelujah, was I happy for just this one addition).
The level designs are also top notch, although one does get the feeling that as the games keep going, that Toys for Bob got a little less inspired with their work. But let it not be said that all three games don’t look absolutely stunning, brought to life through beautiful and vivid level creation, making exploring each of the worlds a joy in and of itself. The character designs are also wonderful, especially the first game’s eclectic and unique batch of rescued dragons, each with their own signature voice and quirky accessories. And the animations used to bring them to life are so expressive, if not to the level of Pixar, then looking on par with an Illumination film. Although, it did kind of weird me out not being part of “furry” culture, given how far they lean into that particular fandom (especially with how hard they ship Spyro/Elora).
Sound is also aces. While some of the voice overs did feel a little too “film-y”, a great many of them sound really fantastic, even bringing back a number of the old voice actors - such as Tom Kenny who’s effortlessly stepped back into the role (and his others) like a pair of slippers. Stewart Copeland’s music also returns with great dynamic updates depending on what Spyro does. But if only the oldies will satisfy you, don’t worry. There’s a toggle function to let you experience the original, untouched music from the PS1 days, which is only one way in which the developers show their incredible respect to Insomniac, and to the fans playing the updated trilogy.
As far as individual games go, I wouldn’t be surprised if this collection exists solely so Toys for Bob could update the first game. While many of the original’s issues persist, they’ve gone to great lengths in adding variety to its staleness, making it genuinely fun to play through in spite of its often erratic nature.
Ripto’s Rage, one of my top ten favorite games of all time on the PS1, did see some noticeable hiccups and inferiorities, but still beautifully translated the soulful and delightfully crazy heart of the game, with some welcome touch-ups for updated play styles.
Year of the Dragon also saw some great updates and touch-ups, but also some of the more obvious inferiorities. Playing with Agent 9 has never been more satisfying, but Bentley somehow feels clunkier to control than he already did. Also, skating wasn’t always the best. But it still has more than enough great qualities for it to stand out.
Although if there’s one thing that disappointed me, it’s how closely YOTD particularly sticks so close to its source material. In spite of the visual touch-ups, these are still almost entirely the same games, and even 95% of the dialogue is verbatim to what it was originally. Given YOTD’s rushed production schedule, they could have used this opportunity to expand on it, animate additional cutscenes, especially with how restrained a note the 117% cutscene leaves us on compared to the regular ending.
But at the end of the day, that’s not what this is for. This collection exists to introduce Spyro to a brand new audience of children, and to stir the nostalgia of adults reliving those childhood memories. And for what it sets out to do, it succeeds, very well. It’s far from the best or most technically precise platformer on the market, and in fact some bits might not have aged well, but in offering both an update and a splendid introduction to players, especially at its budget pricing, it’s a great use for your money.
All I hope for is that if the game sells well enough, Spyro may finally get some decent follow-ups with brand new games (well, that’s not entirely fair, I did like A Hero’s Tail). I just hope this gives Spyro a second life he desperately needed after Insomniac’s exit, and if this is the direction we can expect, then he’s in good hands.
And did everyone really have that much trouble with the trolley, eh?