Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer is one of my absolute favourite games of all time. It’s one of those games that truly defined my childhood and some of my earliest and most vivid gaming memories are of it. The music, the visuals, even entire levels are burned into my brain; every now and again something causes those memories to swell up and I find myself drawn inexorably back to it. That it got remade should make the entire Reignited collection worth it, but nostalgia is an awfully fickle thing.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage (Spyro Reignited Trilogy) (PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])
Released Nov 2018 | Developed: Toys for Bob | Published: Activision
Naturally, the story in Spyro 2 remains unchanged from its original release. Fresh from defeating Gnasty Gnorc in the previous game, Spyro and his erstwhile companion Sparx decide to take a vacation and hop into a portal to the theme-park world of Dragon Shores. However, in the far-off land of Avalar, a desperate trio of heroes frantically tinker with a portal and through it tumbles Spyro. Our hero is quickly informed that this new world in which he finds himself is under attack by the dastardly forces of the diminutive warlock Ripto; as the only thing he fears is dragons, the three heroes – Elora, a kindly faun, Hunter, a boisterous cheetah, and a hyper-intelligent mole known only as The Professor – hijacked Spyro’s portal and summoned him in. Without any way to get home Spyro agrees to defeat Ripto and save another world.
Like the first game, it’s all played nice and simple. Spyro 2 is, like its predecessor, a platformer with plenty to collect. Gems, the staple collectible from our previous adventure, return as the primary thing for Sparx and Spyro to hoover up; in place of freeing dragons and chasing down egg thieves, now Spyro must instead gather magical talismans and orbs from each world. Though plenty of the game’s collectibles are obtained by exploring each level, some are only obtainable by completing challenges given to Spyro by the various denizens of Avalar’s worlds, a small but distinct difference to the formula of the prior game. While plenty of the challenges are easy or well-balanced, there are a few that are fiendish and should give any completionists something to enjoy when shooting for 100% completion.
As in the Reignited Spyro the Dragon, the visuals on display here are stunning and vibrant, with lots of lively movement and animation to the world, making it feel realer than ever. I especially love the animation when a portal is summoned, as it rises smoothly out of the ground in floating rotating pieces that slam together while glowing with ethereal light. It’s awfully satisfying and adds an additional piece of character to the world which wasn’t present in the original. As with Spyro the Dragon‘s redesigned dragons, Spyro 2‘s character redesigns have also met with some controversy, and whereas I loved the new dragons in 1, with regards to 2 I’m a little more sympathetic to the reservations. It might be nostalgia talking but the angry, angular blockiness and big squishy eyes of the original contained far more expression and character between them than any of the new versions of the cast. Ripto has certainly suffered, having being turned from some sort of grumpy horned toad into a fairly generic looking sorcerer – the twisty scraggly hems of his cape and absurd pointy shoes speak to a need for overdesign rather than preserving the essence of the character. Additionally, seeing the dinosaur Gulp with huge, defined, and clearly human teeth in his mouth is incredibly distressing. My uncertainty towards the new designs regrettably also extends to the various inhabitants of each of Avalar’s worlds – many have updated visually very well, with the majority now having unique elements to their character designs to set them apart from each other in a given world. This would be and indeed is fine, but unfortunately then they go and open their mouths.
Part of the charm of the original was the excellent voice acting; right from the start, when the squeaking whine of the bouncing mice miners in Glimmer greeted Spyro, I remember being transfixed by the sheer absorbing weirdness of the voice work in Spyro 2. The main cast were all brilliant, from Hunter’s dry sardonic sneering to Ripto’s gleefully evil hamminess, but equally so were the minor, one-line characters. Regrettably, this is not the case in the remake; most of the minor NPCs are, in my opinion, given over to lacklustre voicing and flat delivery. Tragically, the cheerful croak of the prehistoric characters in Skelos Badlands and Crystal Glacier haven’t survived the transition into HD, but they aren’t alone in that. The main cast come out well, thankfully – some voice actors actually return, such as Tom Kenny as Spyro, or Gregg Berger, who gives a reasonably good reprise of his Ripto, though age seems to have dulled his growling slightly. Hunter’s voice change is perhaps the most notable; Robbie Daymond essentially plays the cheetah as Prompto from Final Fantasy XV. While that’s fine, it does change the dynamic between him and Spyro completely, with the sarcastic rivalry replaced by more friendly-feeling repartee.
The soundtrack has definitely come out well in the Reignited version of 2 at least. The arrangements tend towards being faithful but updated with a more expansive range of instruments. I will say as much as it is a well-built reimagining, my all-time favourite Spyro song – Magma Cone, with its off-beat twangy electric guitar, and bubbling oscillating wordless vocals – has been utterly butchered; it remains the only song I had to switch back to the original version from an otherwise stellar Reignited soundtrack. That one hiccup aside, the Reignited soundtrack maintains sparkling form throughout the game; not only is a marvellous remix, but the production quality is absolutely sublime. To give specific examples is difficult – this is simply Stewart Copeland’s composition at its peak, and I highly recommend you give the entire thing a listen should you be in the mood for some excellent game music.
The gripes aren’t done with yet, I’m afraid! I appreciate this might be an awfully specific problem to grumble about but I can’t help but vocalise it. Spyro 2 adds a number of abilities to our hero’s repertoire, the most useful of which has to be the ability to swim. Gone are the days of Spyro drowning upon contact with any sort of liquid! As the original showed, this ability is fantastic – it sounds simple but it gives Spyro an entirely new way to explore, and opens up the level design to include whole new dimensions to traversing the stages; some have extensive areas accessible by swimming, while a select few are entirely submerged, forcing players to use and master the ability. It’s great but in the remake going underwater is, annoyingly, an invitation for the camera to lurch in behind Spyro’s head and pin itself there in an awful uncomfortable position. Worse, swimming at speed and changing directions sends the camera swinging wildly around. The whole thing gave me horrible motion-sick headaches and left me physically wrestling with the camera in a vain attempt to get it in some useful position.
I wish I could be more complimentary about Spyro 2 Reignited. It is still, after all, Spyro 2, and therefore one of the finest 3D platformers ever made. Underneath it all, that game is still there and I would hazard a guess that anyone for whom this is their first experience of Spyro (or indeed Spyro 2) would find so much to love about this game. You can absolutely tell this is a remake that has been crafted with so much care and attention and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone who has never played the original, or isn’t consumed by nostalgia like me. If you are like me however, then you might share my thoughts and concerns. As good as it is, it just doesn’t push the buttons in the same way as the PS1 original and I honestly wouldn’t pick to play this over it. It’s been a mostly lovely time but I fear Spyro 2 Reignited is a one-time affair for me, and in the future I’ll return like an old friend to my beloved PS1 edition instead.
4/7 – GOOD. Sure, maybe something doesn’t quite work but at least it has heart, or a spark of excitement that makes it worthwhile despite the faults. Definitely worth a go if you can at least find it on sale.