It may have missed the Year of the Dragon, but a return to Insomniac’s Spyro the Dragon is another welcome addition to the age-old trend of making the old feel new again. Following in the recent footsteps of action platforming classic Crash Bandicoot and Yooka Laylee, the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, the past year or so marks an interesting shift in gaming nostalgia as the once defunct collect-a-thon platformer has suddenly become en vogue all over again. Time to update that list of exciting 2018 releases before it’s too late.
Spyro, Skylanders and the end of an era
Maybe it’s not entirely fair to say the action platformer genre suffered a popularity dip in the public eye. Steam is full of indie platformers being released on what feels like a daily basis, for better or worse, but the slow decline in popularity the Spyro series received heralded in the natural course of any game series: Innovation. Or, at the very least, an attempt to branch between genres while offering new gameplay gimmicks.
Near the end of Spyro’s original run as a company mascot, he became the tagline for the very first Skylanders game, which has since moved away from the purple dragon that helped bring it to popularity in the first place. In a way, it wouldn’t be surprising if leaving Spyro out had done nothing to diminish the popularity of a video game where kids are able to transport their toys to the digital world — granted, not as literally as we might have dreamt — to interact with them in ways that most games hadn’t explored up to that point.
It isn’t as if 2011 was totally devoid of a variety of platformers, but Spyro’s early PlayStation era pull of the mid-90s had clearly come and gone. As the Skylanders series continued to pull away from its roots, signs pointed to a final bow for Spyro until the next wave of platforming nostalgia came about.
Knock knock, it’s more platforming nostalgia
There’s something undeniably appealing about returning to the basics of a game that lives and dies on the strength of its controls. Super Mario Odyssey and A Hat in Time are just a few of many recent games that stand as evidence that the realm of the platformer is not just for indie developers getting their first taste of game development, but rather a genre that is easy to get started in yet requires endless refinement to produce something worth playing.
This seems to be the goal for the upcoming Spyro trilogy remaster which is slated to reach digital storefronts in September 2018. Like many modern remasters it’s not simply a case of a fresh coat of paint thrown over the decades-old code, but rather a completely revamped experience designed to take better advantage of modern hardware. Spyro was an undoubtedly fun romp when it first launched but going back to play it these days shows just how awkward platforming controls were during the shift to 3D movement, and the remastered edition aims to fix that.
The game’s visuals, soundtrack and cinematics have been re-imagined, so while fans of the older games will certainly find similar themes to enjoy, you likely shouldn’t hop in if you wanted a direct one-to-one recreation of a venerable PlayStation platformer. Waiting this long for a clone would feel almost disingenuous and our current gaming hardware can handle much more than the age of early 3D gaming could have ever hoped to produce, which works out perfectly for a series that could benefit greatly from shedding its attachments to the last few years while still returning to form.