As the little purple dragon prepares to return, we took a closer look at his revitalised adventures.
If you can believe it, the original Spyro the Dragon for the PlayStation is 20 years old this year, so what better time than now to offer up a remastered collection of the PlayStation trilogy in the same vein as the Crash Bandicoot Nsane Trilogy from last year. At E3 this year Activision invited us to a presentation and go hands-on with the game, so of course, we jumped at the opportunity to become the little purple hero once again.
During our private presentation before the hands-on session, the team told us that art is one of their biggest priorities in the game; maintaining and building upon the visual style of the original. The last part - 'building upon' - is perhaps the most alarming to hear for a fan who wants their classic game unchanged and untainted by modern fingers, but rest assured that everything tweaked has been done so with good reason.
On the audio side of things, for instance, the recognisable tracks from the originals have been modified in subtle ways, like making them quieter and louder at certain points, and adding little hints to the high and low ends. Character animations and models have also been completely remade as well, so you'll find small additions like dog enemies yawning when they're lying down on the grass.
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It's not just about changes though, but about polish. There's reactive grass, for example, which gets burned as you flame your foes and it sways in the wind, and there's also far more detail in the buildings and backgrounds. We also heard the very impressive fact that Spyro himself has 100 times more geometry than he did in the originals, and a lot of that goes into his expressions, facial or otherwise.
This may all sound very scary but while they showed off the changes, the team also reassured us about accuracy once more, as they wanted fans to be able to pick it up and play the game from muscle memory, feeling no change in how the games handle. They've used something called the Spyroscope to do this, which is basically a tool they used to analyse the entirety of the first three games since they didn't have the original source code.
What does this mean in practice though? Well, it means that all the objects, enemies, gems, and environments are exactly as they appear in the originals, meaning that the only changes made after that don't dramatically alter what you know and love. This counts across all three games, all of which can be chosen from the main menu, again in a very similar fashion to the remastered Crash Bandicoot trilogy.
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All of this is well and good, but the proof is in the pudding as they say, and as dedicated Spyro fans from day one we can say that the point about muscle memory is true. Sure, it feels weird having the flying look a little different, and the worlds you know and love look so vastly different, but it's the same game underneath, just in a prettier shell.
It sounds blindingly obvious, but the starkest changes apply to the visuals, with everything looking smoother, the colours looking deeper, and the whole thing almost unrecognisable from the sharp angles of the original. It's great to witness, and will possibly rub fans of the original up the wrong way, but the changes made have been carefully considered, such as giving the Dragons of the first game artisan designs and personalities, like one we saw who was a painter.
Considering it's less arcade than Crash Bandicoot, we noticed very few leaps in terms of the difficulty, which was nice, and in fact, there's plenty for new fans to get on board and see. There are gems in every level to collect for completionists, for example, but there's also a brand new lick of paint that makes it feel like a modern platformer, since the handling itself holds up even after all these years; a testament to the quality of the games this package is remastering.
We came away from our time with this trilogy finding our passion for the game reignited. It's admittedly difficult for fans to see the beloved games look so different, but the changes made are carefully considered and aren't to the detriment of the experience in any way. When September 21 rolls around and PS4 and Xbox One fans get the game, then, we can imagine it'll garner just as much popularity as Naughty Dog's Bandicoot did last year.