Oh hi, I’m Johnny Malloy, a lifelong gamer who not only was lucky enough to have grown up in the golden era of the NES but is also old enough to remember ColecoVision and even owned and knows what an Intellivision is. I enjoy everything from JRPGs like Ni No Kuni to cutesy 3D platformers like Banjo Kazooie, to savage God of War brutality. I am deadly afraid of Time Trials and I am not good at sports games unless you count Golf Story.
Over the years, the venerable mascots of the early PS eras have gotten their adventures remastered, reimagined and rejiggered for the newer generation. Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, and Crash Bandicoot have all gone through the process of having their polygons smoothed out and their backgrounds made more dynamic. It was only a matter of time before Spyro the Dragon had his day, and late last year he got his due for the PS4, Xbox, and PC.
Now, Spyro’s trilogy of adventures are available for the first time on the Nintendo Switch, and they are the same faithful remakes we got on those consoles; with a few minor differences necessitated by hardware constraints.
Let me start by saying the animation, design and graphical style for the three games are just as beautiful as they were on the PS4 version I played last year, but with the underpowered Switch, there are some minor visual and performance downgrades.
When playing in handheld mode, my personal preference for most Switch titles, you will notice that the image sometimes has a grainy look to it. This is not so much an issue in brighter areas, but becomes noticeable in dimmer areas and sometimes involving character animation, especially Zoe.
When you are transitioning to a different level, Spyro is on the screen while the game is loading. While you wait, you can try out Spyro’s moves to kill time. The animation during these loading screens can be a bit sluggish at times. However, I own this game on the PS4 and this also occurs in that version as well, so it’s not exclusive to the Switch version. A sluggish load screen is not something I personally care about, but I noticed it. It’s nowhere near as bad as those Yooka Laylee load screens.
As far as criticism goes, those minor imperfections are more than acceptable when you discover everything else about this game is pure gaming comfort food. If you played the original games, you will not only find these levels familiar in looks; they are just as familiar in gameplay. If there was a tricky, wonky jump in the original PSX version, it’s here it too for better or worse. I personally think it’s kind of awesome they left those parts in, instead of Special Edition-ing them away. It’s our imperfections that make us beautiful.
I also found the overall experience much more engaging in handheld mode. Playing on the PS4, I sometimes found myself getting a little lost despite the game’s less than intricate pathways. On the Switch, I was more connected to Spyro’s path while following right behind him; I knew where I had been, and where I needed to explore. It was more engrossing in that way only handheld gameplay can sometimes be.
ENTER THE DRAGONFLY
Spyro has a sidekick, a dragonfly named Sparx, and I honestly forget he’s there half the time. I know he has certain functions and does try to draw your eyes to interesting things, but often I find myself just ignoring lil’ Sparky. Sparx is the anti-Navi, he’s someone I should pay more attention to but don’t.
It’s not like Spyro games are exactly punishing gauntlets. The main thing I personally love about Spyro games is that they know what they are, and at the end of the day, they never stray too far from the formula. The first game is all about collecting gems and by the time you play the third game and you’re still doing that, only with new playable characters and side quests, you are an unapologetic addict. The core gameplay is always there throughout and it’s absolutely addictive.
I wanted to briefly touch on all three games as well because they all have moments older Spyro fans will recognize and instantly remember. They might even flashback to where they were when they played it the first time. The accomplishment. The discovery. The anger. The rage. You’ll remember it all. Luckily now you’re older and less angry, one would hope.
First up with the OG Spyro the Dragon.
SPYRO: ORIGINAL RECIPE
The original Spyro is a game I remember playing on the PSX and not giving it much thought at first, and even blew the game off for a while. The problem was I saw this colorful game and dismissed it because I was in my 20s and had discovered the mature games, the Metal Gear Solids, and felt like playing this game would be some sort of regression in my maturity as a gamer. Then I realized that was stupid since I was a total Banjo Kazooie junkie and dove into the game. Immediately the collector in me was triggered and all I wanted was to see 100%s across the menus.
With that in mind, I found this remake to be incredibly faithful to that game. It’s a light action platformer where you collect gems and free dragons imprisoned by the main villain, Gnasty Gnorc. It’s simple and easy to follow but its charm and energy carries it all the way through the adventure.
One of the most impressive parts of this remake is that they took each and every dragon and gave them their own unique and highly intricate design and voice. That’s yet another place where this collection excels; the voice acting is superb throughout.
The game’s one glaring black mark in my personal opinion is the final boss battle. I won’t spoil the final level, but there is a jump or two that requires pinpoint accuracy and causes you to replay the entire level should you fall to your death, which you will, several times. This is not new for fans of the original Spyro. The final level is exactly as it was back in 1998. It still sours my experience playing it all the way through only to give up and move on to Ripto’s Rage without beating the game proper. That’s right; I’ve never completed Spyro the Dragon. The “last” level got me sprung. Someday I’ll return to it and beat it. It will just gnaw at me for some extremely odd reason otherwise.
Spyro’s second game kept the formula mostly intact while adding in some new characters to interact with. This allows for some moments of levity, such as when you encounter the monks that meditate and can move things with their minds. They act very calmly and zen-like, but if you talk to them after they’ve moved a platform for you, they amusingly turn cranky and annoyed by you, almost as if they’ve done their bit, and now you should leave them alone.
Although the original was guilty of this as well, I found that the NPCs in Ripto were a little too helpful at times. Often, before I encountered a new enemy, one of my newfound friends would stop me and explain, sometimes in great detail, what I needed to do. When you have a limited move set to begin with, it seems silly to flat out tell the player what to do, instead of allowing them to discover it on their own. However, this was the beginning of the era where games began leaning into hand-holding territory too much.
Ripto’s Rage will often pause to make sure you never find yourself in a situation where you may have to think for yourself.
Also, Spyro games aren’t exactly high up on the difficulty scale. They’re scavenger hunts with Banjo Kazooie quality enemies that usually fall after a quick charge or burst of fire. These games are not all that concerned with the combat aspect. Even boss fights are shockingly brief encounters.
Overall, the middle entry in the trilogy gives us a healthy dose of the familiar, mixed with some new additions that prove to not be too jarring for fans of the original.
SPYRO: YEAR OF THE DRAGON
Spyro ends the trilogy with Year Of The Dragon and they manage to give fans more of the same and a couple of new twists that almost never overstay their welcome. Almost never.
LIZARD SKATING II
I realize it was the year 2000 and every video game character since Master Higgins has to ride a skateboard at some point, but I was still initially irked knowing I was being flung into a mini-game that not only tried to cash in on Tony Hawk’s pro-skating, but also Balloon Fight, a little, if you tried hard enough to make that connection.
In actuality, the Lizard Skating egg isn’t that bad. Sure, you wipe out a lot because the rules of the skating are never made clear, but you do eventually get all those bug creatures on the ground, and the balloon fighting ones too, and it’s a fun enough little diversion.
And then Hunter, who is supposed to be your friend, busts out that now it’s time for the real challenge. Do it again, on a timer, and without wiping out once! They call it Lizard Skating II, and it’s unnecessary.
It’s skippable in the grand scheme of things but something about it offends me, and I feel compelled to conquer it. This egg has brought out the fire in me. I will have to actually learn how to land without the skateboard cracking in half on impact. I never did learn how to play those skateboard games despite playing them for years. It’s my oddly specific weak point as a gamer.
So here’s the thing about all the changes in YOTD, they’re always brief. You can complain all you want that this is Spyro‘s game and making Hunter a playable character is unnecessary, and maybe it is, but I found the little diversions to be like fun breaks in the main action. In this game, you get to play as other characters, like Sheila, who can jump to such great heights but also lumbers around slowly. She wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t have to worry about it for long either way. Before I knew it, I was back controlling Spyro.
LIVING HIS BEST LIFE
As I played the third entry in the trilogy, I kept wondering when my favorite of the three would become obvious, but it never did. Each game has its own special quality. The first one is wonderfully simple, mindless fun. The second one added sidekicks, sidequests, and other diversions to break up the usual Spyro action of collecting gems. The third one dares to be different and love it or hate it, it succeeds. I don’t really have a favorite, but even though I have gripes—some legitimate and some downright petty – I genuinely love them all.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy doesn’t add anything new for the Switch release except for the ability to take the game on the go, and honestly, if I had to choose which version to buy, I’d choose this one for that exact reason. Yes, the load times are a bit longer, and the graphics are ever-so-slightly less polished, but it’s still a beautiful game with tight controls and gameplay that is a total blast to pick up and play anytime. If you don’t own it on another console, I’d say pick it up.
Spyro’s Reignited Trilogy was played on Nintendo Switch in both docked and handheld mode, but mostly in handheld mode.