Spyro the Dragon – Not a Review

“Spyro the Dragon” for the PlayStation 1 was one of the first foundational chapters in my autobiography regarding video games. As a child, I enjoyed the game, but I was also too young to understand or appreciate excellent level design. Playing the Reignited trilogy has hit me with a wave of nostalgia that made me feel something I’ve never felt before.

I’ve never played a “remade” game before. I’ve replayed old games, and I have played a few remasters, but nothing rebuilt from the ground up entirely. This experience was unique to me in a way I wasn’t able to foresee. I was brought back to my childhood with every sound and graphic contained within the game. The sound of the dragon statues shaking on their pedestal as I approach them, the feeling of satisfaction when you roast the butt of a dragon egg theif, all of these things transported me back to the ’90s. I’ve felt nostalgia before but nothing like this.  

Diving into the game, I was greeted with a very familiar set of sequences. I freed my first dragon from his crystalline prison, and he urged me to release our brethren and stop Gnasty Gnorc. Spyro obliged in his trademark spunky fashion, and then I was off. I frolicked around the open area of Artesians for a while, just enjoying the nostalgic atmosphere the game offered me. It was at this moment I decided that I wanted to 100% complete the game.  

As I came to realize and appreciate, this game required very little guidance when it came to collecting things. To achieve 100% completion, you need to collect all treasure, free all dragons, and reclaim all 12 dragon eggs. In many such “collectathons,” this feat would appear daunting, requiring the player to consult many guides, videos, and forums to ensure that they were thorough in their search. What was so refreshing to me was the fact that Spyro required nothing of the sort. Each level has a treasure counter, and with enough exploring and ingenuity, you can easily collect everything without much outside help. It felt almost therapeutic as I methodically went through each level, cleaning everything up. I’ve never experienced this feeling in gaming, most collection based games, or games that feature collection based trophies, turn into a chore over time. Even 2018’s God of War, which I loved wholly, had collection aspects that felt tasking and fatigued me near the end. Spyro has genuinely unlocked the magical formula regarding collection based gameplay. 

The character design and themes shine through in the remake. As a child playing this game, I had no idea what an “artisan” was. In the original game, each dragon had a universal design and flat voice. The ability to recreate the game with modern technology allowed the character designers to have a field day. Each dragon you free has a unique design which almost always fits the theme of the world in which they inhabit. Magic Casters is home to many warlock dragons, while Peace Keepers features ax-wielding and armor-wearing dragons. The remake stays faithful to the original in terms of what the dragons say when you unlock them, so I was surprised when I found that some of the most visually exciting dragons said, “Thank you for freeing me” before vanishing entirely. Spyro’s bare-bones story leaves a bit to the imagination when you see such fantastically designed characters used for so little. However, I recognize this is not a fault of the remake; it was just recreating a game that was a product of limited resources overall. 

No level in the game was what I would consider bad. I found that every level was full of new enemies and extremely varied design. Peace Keepers, which features a hub world that has a desert canyon theme, features a beautiful ice level. Beast Makers, a bayou, contained Treetops, which was one of my favorite levels. The original creators of this game were not afraid to change things up, and Toys For Bob handled the redesign spectacularly. Each level is full of life, unique enemies, and different platforming challenges. Treetops is a fast-paced level that requires you to perform many consecutive supercharge maneuvers to 100% complete the level. It took me many unsuccessful attempts to finally reach the last platform, where I was greeted by a dragon who told me I was a master of the supercharge mechanic. 

I played about two-thirds of this game via remote play on my PlayStation Vita. During the time I played this game, I was spending tons of time hanging out with family. It was effortless to pick up and put down due to it’s relaxed and “go at your own pace” nature. I was worried initially about the handling of the flight levels via remote play. Still, I completed them all anyway despite the tight thumbsticks of the Vita and the slight latency. This is by no means me bragging on my elite gaming ability, more a nod to my dedication to finish the game when I had the time. 

I’ve never played the other two games in the Spyro trilogy. I’m curious to see how I feel about them when the rush of nostalgia isn’t present in every single moment. 

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