When Spyro made his grand return last year, many folks questioned why the purple dragon was not coming to Switch or PC, well a year later and it has happened and having sunk more time into playing the game on Switch, the simple question that needs to be asked is, is this release as good as last year?
The simple answer is yes, as the game contains everything that the other platforms got last year, but it has the added plus of being portable, which is something that is hard to ignore. The trilogy contains the three original PlayStation titles, Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage and Spyro: Year of the Dragon and all three games are complete, giving you a heck of a lot of game to enjoy. As the games are almost 20 years old, for all three of them, you might expect that they don’t really hold up in terms of overall gameplay, but it is not true, as the developers have done a solid job in making, what was old school, feel fresh again. When you start the first game, you get a nice story about saving the dragons of the world from the spell that Gnasty Gnorc has cast upon them, whilst also saving dragon eggs from being stolen and collecting the multitude of jewels that have been taken as well, the story is very basic, but gives you the impetus needed to push forward with each stage.
When you boot up Ripto’s Rage, the story telling is elevated quite a lot, which shows off how much the original developer, Insomniac Games, yes, the folks behind Spider-Man on PlayStation 4, learnt as the story is much richer. Characters are more alive and actually have things to say, they provide help and more to the point feel like they are making an impact on the world. With the third game in the collection, Year of the Dragon, the story takes place in the Forgotten Realms and tests Spyro with new levels and enemies, but also gives control over Sparx, his dragonfly companion for the first time, the story is as strong here as it was for Ripto’s Rage, so expect a lot of characters and over the top actions to dominate the screen. Overall, the three stories have survived the decades relatively well, there are times when I wanted to see a little more, but as this is more of a remake of the original content, not a remake in that they are changing them up dramatically, it make sense.
When it comes to gameplay, there are few issues to be found, the games are quite similar with some functions like Spyro’s ability to roll coming across from the first game to the others, which did not happen in the originals. Most of the moves stay the same across the games too, with a few minor adjustments, there is of course the learning ability, where Spyro dies in water in game one, but is able to swim like a fish by the third one. Generally, though, the gameplay is solid throughout, I only wish they offered a little more option on the controls, being able to change up them would make the game easier to get into, as some of the default options are a little weird. There was also nothing Switch specific in the controls that I could find, for example, being able to use gyro controls, whilst in the flying levels, would have been far more amazing then just using a stick, even if it was an option. One of the complaints I had with the initial release is that a lot of the stages felt small and that is the case here as well, except with the pickup and play nature of the Switch, it does not feel as bad.
Due to the system’s lack of power there is a caveat that you need to consider when playing the game and that is the performance. There are some long load times, when you first boot into the game, but inside of the game, they are quite short. For the most part, the game handles everything at a smooth frame rate, there are a few rare instances in gameplay, where things are a little choppy, but these times are quite infrequent. The most common time that you will see stuttering of the game, is during the level or overworld loads, when the game is actively loading new content, if you don’t press any buttons, then you will not like encounter it here, but even if you do, it does not impact the game at all.
Of course, as this is a Switch release, there are bound to be visual concessions for the game, but even going in with that, it still somehow manages to look amazing. A lot of that comes down to the overall design that was established in the early stages of the games creation, with Toys for Bob, doing some wonderful work. The characters here are bright and vibrant, they are animated well and even managed to look wonderful in both handheld and docked modes. As I said there are some concessions that have been made, the games draw distance is not as a grand as it is on the other platforms, while this is not a massive issue, it can make trying to collect everything in a level slightly harder. The other issue that I found comes when playing in handheld, while the game still looks great, I noticed a visual issue in the way the game displays the cutscenes, with a checker pattern on the characters, as the game is rending them in-engine, it is a little odd. The other issue is with shadows in handheld, they seem to have that same effect at all times, which can be a little distracting.
The audio side is something I can get behind fully, as there was nothing amiss with what I heard, the games score sounds great, there was nothing in terms of compression of the tracks that I could spot. The sound effects are without issue as well, with enemies, even that annoying laughing egg thief, coming through loud and clear and the sounds of the worlds just as impactful. The voice work is near flawless, Tom Kenny has done an amazing job as Spyro and having a consistent voice in all three titles, helps bridge them together. The other characters are also well done, outside of a few small lines that seem to be quite bland at times, these are thankfully very few and really minor in the grand scheme of things.
If you have only a Switch, then you should pick up this trilogy of titles as there is a massive amount of value in the collection, due to the wonderful work done bringing the games back to the modern day. The visuals are pretty spectacular for the Switch, but a few minor blemishes do appear when in handheld mode, if you can overlook them, you will experience a delightful series of games, I do recommend it.
Review code provided by Activision