The man at the booth had the gall to ask if I knew how to play Spyro. In fact, he had the nerve to ask everyone lining up if they knew/remembered the controls. Can you believe that? Us ’90s kids grew up on Spyro, man, and we know a thing or fifty about our favourite purple dragon. We know the exact height of the jump, the arc of the flames and how close you need to be for that dragonfly to pick up the gems. We know Spyro inside out, so it should mean a lot when I say it’s everything I remember the old games were.
I had five minutes in Stone Hills, and in that time, I was a child. The game feels just like the original game, right down to the awkward eccentricities. Spyro feels weighty and awkward, which is precisely how I remember him. Turning him around can be a horrific affair, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. After all, this is a title predicated on sending me back to my childhood, but it looks a lot prettier.
While Spyro feels the same, he’s made of a helluva lot more polygons. The game looks outstanding, and it’s a near perfect revisioning of the chunky models of old. Everything is a refined version of my memories, with every model in the game retaining the same aesthetic it held before but with a new sheen. I wouldn’t say I was blown away by the graphics, but hot diggity damn, this game looks fire. Hell, even the freed dragons look incredible, and you only interact with them for ten seconds at most. The game looks damn good without staying true to the original game, but faithfulness is a double-edged sword.
While the game is seemingly unchanged, we live in a very different age of gaming. Spyro’s movement, while true to the old game, is annoying to deal with compared to modern titles. It’s frustrating when Spyro walks past a chest you wanted to shoot with fire, but that’s just how you turned in the original games. Another quirk was the distance fire shot out could be difficult to judge, but it’s not like I’d want this or anything else changed. The game is a remaster, so retaining those ‘issues’ is exactly what I want!
When I was a kid, I enjoyed the game so much because Spyro wasn’t perfectly intuitive. The obstacles in the game were rarely huge bosses, they were the landscape. How Spyro traversed that landscape was half the challenge, and mastering the controls was integral to my enjoyment. As an adult, it’s a little frustrating, but there’s something relentlessly satisfying about collecting gems with a dragon that doesn’t quite do what you want.
The main takeaway from this is that the core gameplay, the stuff we grew up with and loved, hasn’t aged a day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as much of a high to pick up a gem or smash open a chest, but it’s a satisfying loop to engage with. I’d have thought after games like (wait for it) Dark Souls blended me down and reconstructed me, the simplicity of collectathons wouldn’t be enough. Turns out watching numbers go up works just as well on me now as it did two decades ago.
From a mere five minutes, Spyro Reignited took my plague-ridden, emotionless body and gave me a smile. The core loop of collecting gems mixed with the classic (perhaps cumbersome) controls still satisfy my inner urges, but the graphics are a lot nicer to look at than the old origami models. It might not have aged perfectly, but I’ll be damned if I’d have wanted the remaster any other way.